The image above is a randomly chosen street in a randomly chosen town in the Netherlands. It shows bicycle traffic in a protected space, separate from the space for pedestrian traffic, and including riders of various ages, including a senior who evidently feels safe and confident in carrying a considerable amount of cargo with her bicycle.
This is possible in Concord if we set the right priorities in our street designs.
Currently the City’s effective priorities for street design and performance, which render difficult or impossible a vision like the one you see in this image, are:
1. Maintain level-of-service (LOS) D or better for motor traffic. This means no more than 35–55 sec of delay at signalized intersections, or 25–35 sec at unsignalized intersections.
2. Provide safe movement for all modes, including bicycle traffic and pedestrian traffic.
Bike Concord’s major advocacy goal, for which we hope for support from recently-elected Councilmembers, is to reverse the order of these priorities. This ordering is harmful to our quality of life in numerous ways. It is also contrary to the City’s commitment in General Plan Policy T-1.9.5, as well as many other commitments and promises the City has made.
And here is the intersection just behind the point of view in the first image. This is not some headline cutting-edge project in the Netherlands. It’s an ordinary intersection, representative of many others. It provides ways for pedestrian and bicycle traffic to move through without conflict with motor traffic, including left turns.
A key thing to understand about Dutch intersections like this is that motor traffic is not permitted to turn right during the same phase when bicycle and pedestrian traffic are proceeding straight through the intersection to the right of motor traffic. In other words, right hooks at intersections, one of the biggest causes of car-bicycle and car-pedestrian collisions, are eliminated.
The obstacle to eliminating the dangerous practice of permissive right turns by motorists which is standard practice here in California and in Concord is that permissive right turns reduce motor vehicle queuing and delay, although at a major cost in safety for non-motor traffic. They are therefore consistent with the current effective priorities of both the City of Concord and Caltrans.
It’s that ordering of priorities that we have to change.