Please attend or email: Final adoption of Concord’s bike/ped plan this Tuesday

This coming Tuesday, September 27, City Council will officially adopt the Bicycle Pedestrian, and Safe Routes to Transit Plan which has been under development for the past two years. The meeting starts at 6:30pm, but this agenda item (6b) will probably not come up before 7:30pm at the earliest, as there are several items before it.

Bike Concord has spent hundreds of volunteer hours on participation and advocacy in this Plan process. We are not completely satisfied with the Plan. It fails to make any commitment to address the greatest barrier to safe, convenient bicycle transportation in Concord: the lack of protected space for bicycle travel on streets with heavy motor traffic, and the lack of protected movements through intersections. We have called persistently for such a commitment, as we believe it follows from the City’s existing General Plan policy, as well as being necessary for the Plan’s stated goals.

However, the Plan is a significant step forward. It contains many good recommendations for City transportation policy – and most importantly, it targets important streets and corridors for study within five years.

But the issue is the priorities and constraints under which the studies will be conducted. Without the policy commitment we have been asking for, it is possible – even likely – that studies on some important streets will conclude that inadequate bicycle facilities are the best possible, because limiting motor traffic congestion is a higher priority than facilitating safe, convenient bicycle transportation.

The City, both key officials and key staff members, have so far resisted our call to reverse these priorities. If you support an end to the policy of making bicycle safety conditional on motor traffic flow, this Tuesday night is an excellent time to attend in person and say as much to our elected officials.

If you are unable to attend, please send an email to Mayor Laura Hoffmeister in support of our position. Below is a suggested text. If you are able, restating the same points in your own words would be even better. Your personal experience is also relevant.

Mayor Hoffmeister:

I support Bike Concord’s position that safe, convenient bicycle travel in Concord should not be conditional on motor traffic flow. Please support publicly, and urge your fellow Councilmembers to support, a reversal of these priorities. The City of Concord should not plan to leave any street or intersection dangerous for bicycle traffic.

Your emails needed for bicycle safety on Clayton Rd, Willow Pass Rd, and Concord Ave at SR-242

The public open house yesterday on the Caltrans project to add ramps to SR-242 in Concord went reasonably well. Details follow.

But first, a request to Bike Concord members and supporters: Please send an email to  sr242claytonramps@gmail.com in support of high priority for bicycle safety in this project. (Note: The address we were given at the meeting and posted here earlier, sr242@claytonramps.com, seems to have been incorrect. Please use the gmail.com address instead.)

We were told at the open house that the quantity of comments from the public makes a difference in internal Caltrans decisions, by strengthening the position of those staff members whose view is supported by the comments received. There are staff who would prefer to relegate bicycles to the sidewalk, and others who take bicycle transportation seriously. Please add your email in support of the latter by the deadline of October 10. It will make a difference.

Here is a brief suggested text which you can simply paste into your email and send. Or if you have the time, please express the same substantive points in your own words. Relevant personal experience is worth including.

I am a resident near the proposed Caltrans project to add ramps to Highway 242 in Concord. It is important to me that the project provide for safe bicycle movements through the intersections in its scope, in space separated from pedestrians and protected from cars.

sr242claytonramps@gmail.com is the address. Deadline is October 10.

Now about the meeting.

There were six people in the room from Bike Concord, and about six other members of the public, as well as Mayor Laura Hoffmeister and Vice-Mayor Ron Leone. Staff present were Susan Miller of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA), and a couple of Caltrans staff.

We were told the following:

  1. The plan for bicycle safety in the project so far is to widen some sidewalks to 10-12 feet, with the expectation that these will serve both bicycle and pedestrian traffic in both directions. We expressed the view that 12′ is the bare minimum for this purpose, and that mixing bicycle and pedestrian traffic is best avoided; the project should involve full mode separation wherever possible.
  2. Low-level design decisions are not being made at this point; the only decision being made now is the choice between Alternatives 1 and 2, the difference between which is mainly which streets will receive the new on- and off-ramps of 242. (Bike Concord has not taken a position on this question yet.)
  3. We emphasized that regardless of design details, we wanted a commitment to the functional goal of making these intersections safe for average bicyclists, including families with children. Staff responded that they could not promise any particular functional outcomes on this point, and that safe bicycle movements through the intersections will be provided for to the extent “feasible”. We pressed the point that “feasibility” in bicycle infrastructure typically means motor level-of-service (LOS) is to be prioritized over bicycle safety, and that we expect Caltrans to reverse this order of priorities in its evaluation of feasibility. We discussed some specific movements and motor-bicycle conflicts at the intersections, and proposed some design options to address them. Staff were not dismissive, but they again deferred these questions to a later time.
  4. The project is far from implementation, and will certainly not be implemented before the relevant corridor projects pursuant to Concord’s Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Safe Routes to Transit Plan, which will be adopted next Tuesday. This is welcome news to us, as it means we have time to influence the project, and that the functional goals of our future local project for this corridor will be able to shape this Caltrans project.

We were told there won’t be a second public input meeting. Instead, staff will follow up directly with parties who submit input, and further versions of the design will be publicly posted.

Bike Concord has requested digital copies of the updated concept drawings for Alternatives 1 and 2. We will post them on this blog when we receive them.

Please attend: New ramps for 242 at Clayton Rd without bicycle facilities through the intersection

Caltrans and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority are planning a project to add ramps for Hwy 242 at Clayton Rd. This is a key point for bicycle transportation in Concord, as it lies along the route from downtown Concord to the Monument Corridor Trail.

The intersection is currently difficult and unsafe to navigate by bicycle, and there are no plans to improve this in the project so far, in spite of the additional motor traffic which the new ramps will generate.

Caltrans has publicly set a goal of tripling bicycling in California by 2020. Continuing the harmful mentality of the past which treats bicycling as recreational, or at best as a marginal transportation mode, is incompatible with that goal. The shift must happen in specific projects like this one. Please turn out to help Bike Concord hold Caltrans to its word.

A public input workshop will be held in the Concord City Council chamber at 1950 Parkside Dr on Tuesday, Sept 20 from 6pm to 8pm.

This is a high attendance priority for Bike Concord’s mission of safe, convenient bicycling in our community. Please do your best to make time to come. The number of people giving input will make a difference in how seriously it is addressed.

The project’s environmental review (which does not include design drawings) can be accessed here. Click on Contra Costa and scroll down to 242/Clayton Road Ramp Project. The document has been broken into a number of pdfs by section.

Bike Concord endorses Measure X – please volunteer with us to help it pass

The Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s half-cent sales tax for transportation projects has been certified for the November 2016 ballot as Measure X. This is the same measure known up to this point as “Measure J reauthorization“. Bike Concord, in support of our partner Bike East Bay, has participated extensively in the development of the Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP) for this measure, advocating for a significant portion of the funding to go to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and for policy commitments in the TEP to ensure that such projects are serious and not meaningless window-dressing such as Class III facilities.

Although we did not obtain quite the level of bicycle and pedestrian funding we had hoped for, the amount in the final plan is significant – certainly more than it would have been without our advocacy – and will help a great deal with resolving some of the major safety barriers to bicycling and walking in Contra Costa, with particular allotments for Central Contra Costa specifically. The TEP includes a strong Complete Streets Policy governing all projects funded by it, which will be very useful when the time comes to push local jurisdictions to design their projects to serve bicycle and pedestrian traffic as a primary concern. Thanks to all the Bike Concord members who turned out in force at two different CCTA Board meetings to demonstrate support for these elements in the plan.

The TEP also addresses numerous other transportation needs, including those related to driving and transit.

The TEP process, while frustrating at times, was transparent and thorough; it was possible to see the plan change at each stage in response to public input. And input was diverse and at times conflicting. The final plan has the characteristics of a good compromise. It is not ideal to many interests (including ours), but it is acceptable to almost all of them.

Bike Concord is endorsing the measure, and will be contributing volunteers to help campaign for its passage. If you are willing to be one of those volunteers, please email us or comment here. We plan to lead some group bicycle rides to the soon-to-open Walnut Creek campaign headquarters. Your participation would be greatly appreciated.

Measure X will require two-thirds’ support from Contra Costa voters to pass.