BPAC applications now open

The City of Concord is now accepting applications from residents who would like to serve on the City’s first permanent Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). The deadline to apply is Friday, Feb 17 at 5pm.

The BPAC will review the City’s transportation capital improvement projects (CIPs) and advise staff on how projects could better serve bicycle and pedestrian traffic. There will be a lot to comment on. Initial CIP designs have so far tended to put a lower priority on the safety of non-motor traffic than on the expeditious movement of motor traffic, in spite of the City’s explicit policy commitment to the contrary.

Reversing the City’s transportation priorities

sint-annastraat-nijmegen-netherlands

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.

sint-annastraat-nijmegen-netherlands-intersection

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.

First CNWS Community Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday, Jan 17

The first meeting (PDF) of the nascent Community Advisory Committee for the Concord Naval Weapons Station Reuse Project is Tuesday, January 17, at 6:00 pm in the City Council Chamber at 1950 Parkside Drive.

The CAC is a group of 11 Concord residents (plus 3 alternates) selected by City Council to give resident input on the Reuse Project progress and plans, and to assist in drafting the Specific Plan which will serve as the guide for Phase 1 development.  They will meet regularly on the third Tuesday of every month.  All meetings are open to the public.

Bike Concord’s position is that all streets in the project should fully reflect Complete Streets principles.  To that end, we support streets which include full separation of modes (pedestrian, bicycle, and motor) not only along roadways but also at intersections.  This means separate travel space for each mode, demarcated not just by painted lines but by vertical separation elements such as posts, landscaped planting strips, and/or grade separation (e.g., raised bikeways).  Another key element is the provision for protected movements (e.g., left turns) through intersections for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, separated from each other and from motor vehicle traffic.

Given the blank slate, for all intents and purposes, presented by the Reuse Area property, there is no practical reason for the City not to commit fully to the transformation of the former CNWS into a sustainable, vibrant addition to our existing community, and, in doing so, foster a haven for walkers and bicyclists.

Advocacy update

Here is a general update on Bike Concord’s advocacy work.

City Council

Edi Birsan (video interview with Bike Concord and transcript) and Carlyn Obringer (video interview with Bike Concord  and transcript) were the winners out of the seven candidates for Concord City Council this November. Both of them have demonstrated an understanding of how much bicycle transportation can contribute to health, safety, and reduction of public costs. We hope to be able to count on them to continue demonstrating that understanding as transportation and planning decisions come before Council over the next four years.

A fifth seat on Council is now vacant, due to the election of Tim Grayson to the Assembly. It will be filled by majority vote of Council (i.e. at least three out of the four members currently sitting) from those who choose to apply. Any Concord voter is eligible to apply. Here is the link to do so. The deadline is Friday, January 13 at 5pm.

Measure X

Unfortunately, Measure X received only 63.45% approval from Contra Costa voters, a decisive majority but short of the required two-thirds for passage. Measure X was a proposed countywide sales tax of 0.5% to fund transportation projects in a specified set of categories. A few of those categories included bicycle infrastructure projects. These projects would have been held to a Complete Streets policy which was fairly robust by Contra Costa standards.

Bike Concord put in significant volunteer time to help persuade our neighbors, friends, and family members to vote yes on Measure X in the weeks leading up to the election. It is possible the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) will revise the measure and resubmit it to voters in 2018. If so, we will be ready to mobilize for advocacy and, if the new measure sufficiently addresses bicycle safety, we will volunteer for the campaign again.

Infrastructure projects

Small but steady progress continues to be made in improving Concord’s bicycle infrastructure. Staff have not brought forward any plans for the Class IV protected bikeways or protected intersections which Bike Concord is aiming for on the major streets where most destinations are, but there are projects planned, and a few completed, for paint-only Class II lanes on some low-traffic streets.

Buffering routinely in projects

One significant point of progress is that City of Concord staff are now routinely designing new bike lanes with paint-marked buffer space whenever possible. This is both subjectively and substantively safer than a single paint stripe separating bicycle traffic from adjacent motor traffic, which used to be the default. And if the buffer is at least three feet wide – which it is in some of the projects planned so far – it can be filled later with vertical separation elements, such as posts or planters, to create a protected Class IV facility.

This shift was not inevitable; it is a result of persistent advocacy by this organized community of Concord residents, which has motivated staff to educate themselves about bicycle infrastructure and push further in the direction of safety than they otherwise would have. Your emails of support, attendance at meetings and events, and even your online participation in Bike Concord give weight to our advocacy and help drive shifts in the right direction like this one.

A note about small infrastructure projects

You may notice that the projects completed and planned so far are small. They comprise only a few blocks each, and do not solve bicycle safety issues on major streets. This  means it is not reasonable to expect these first few projects to be heavily used, until they become part of a wider network which reaches most or all major destinations and provides continuous safe facilities, including safe movement through intersections.

Staff has targeted these small projects first because they are relatively easy, both in their design challenges and in their funding requirements. This is reasonable. But it is important to bear in mind that our major streets and major intersections remain to be addressed for bicycle safety; until we deal with them, we will not have a bicycle network that a lot of people will use.

These small projects are still worthwhile and will play a role in our future bicycle network. Bike Concord has assisted the City in bringing them forward by offering detailed input and by writing letters of support to go with applications for grant funding to implement them. This matters, as most infrastructure grant programs require evidence of community support for a project.

Completed – Salvio St from Port Chicago Hwy to Parkside Dr

Part of the route from Todos Santos to the public library and the City complex at 1950 Parkside Dr now has buffered bicycle lanes in both directions. A couple of blocks of Salvio on that trip remain without bicycle space: Grant St to Port Chicago Hwy.

Planned – Grant St from BART to Todos Santos

These lanes will connect our downtown BART station to Todos Santos. Thanks to strong, persistent advocacy by BC and our partner Bike East Bay, the project (PJ 2277 in the City’s Capital Improvement Project list) was upgraded from unbuffered bike lanes (i.e. single-stripe) to buffered ones. It also includes upgrades to the traffic signal detection loops along Grant St in both directions, so that bicycles will be detected and can get a green light even if there are no cars along in the same direction. As anyone who rides at times of low traffic knows, this is a frequent problem when bicycling on the road as the law prescribes (CA Vehicle Code and Concord Municipal Code), so staff’s attention to this point is very welcome.

Planned – Concord Blvd and Clayton Rd from Sutter St to downtown

These lanes are also part of PJ 2277, along with the Grant St lanes above. They will comprise part of the much-needed bicycle connection between downtown Concord and the Monument Corridor Trail (MCT). Unfortunately, there are no specific plans yet to resolve the remaining bicycle safety gap from Sutter St to the MCT via Clayton Rd and Market St. Bike Concord has made this need very clear to staff, and we will continue advocating for a solution.

Planned – Willow Way from Diamond Blvd to Iron Horse Trail (IHT)

This single block of buffered bicycle lanes will connect the IHT to the Veranda shopping center currently under construction on Diamond Blvd, as well as to the adjacent existing Willows shopping center. The Willow Way lanes are part of the permitting conditions set by the City for CenterCal, the development company on the Veranda project. This was a response to specific advocacy by Bike Concord; the Veranda project included no connection to the IHT at all in its original concept. Willow Way will complete a bicycle route of continuous dedicated space to both shopping centers from any point of origin along the IHT or the Contra Costa Canal Trail.

Photos from Tamale Fest 2016 by Ford Tivakul

Ford is a Bike Concord member and photographer.