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.

Advanced street ride Saturday, Aug 20, 11am from Todos Santos

Bike Concord will lead a group ride along busy streets on Saturday, August 20 at 11am from Todos Santos Plaza.

This ride is for somewhat experienced bicyclists who would like to build their confidence riding on busy streets. It is not recommended for children or beginning riders. There will be a ride lead and sweep and no one will be left behind, but there will be no crossing guards, and participants will be expected to exercise their own judgment and skill to follow the lead’s movements in busy car traffic.

A rearview mirror on your bicycle or helmet is highly recommended.

Meet at Todos Santos Plaza. We’ll start by heading west on Willow Pass Rd. We will take the full rightmost lane instead of staying to the right edge, because it’s too narrow for a car and bicycle to safely travel side by side. (This is explicitly allowed by the California Vehicle Code: Section 21202, paragraph (a)(3), and riding on the sidewalk in this location is prohibited by Concord Municipal Code Section 10.45.240.)

We’ll continue straight under Hwy 242, then merge left across the road for a left turn onto Franquette Ave. (This is explicitly allowed by the California Vehicle Code: Section 21202, paragraph (a)(2).) This will allow us to use the small tunnel under 242 to reach Meadow Lane on the other side. (Improvements to this tunnel and its surroundings are planned in the City’s Capital Improvement Project #2307.)

A right turn after the tunnel will put us on Meadow Lane. We’ll follow it south all the way to Monument Blvd, where we will merge left for a left turn.

On Monument Blvd we’ll stay to the right in the rightmost lane, as it is wide enough to allow cars to pass within the lane somewhat safely. Straight on until Oak St, where we’ll turn right to pass by Concord BART.

From there it’s a few blocks north along Grant St, where buffered bike lanes are planned soon in the City’s Capital Improvement Project #2277. That will take us back to Todos Santos, where our ride will end and we can patronize local businesses.

Ride route:

Letter to Planning Commission for Wednesday, August 3 meeting

Bike Concord is asking the City’s Planning Commission to adopt a proposed resolution at its meeting this Wednesday evening. Your attendance in support would be much appreciated.

The meeting is this Wednesday, August 3 at 6:30pm in the City Council chamber.

The resolution we are proposing and an argument for it are given in a letter which we submitted to staff for distribution to Planning Commissioners early this morning. The resolution is an advisory finding that the use of motor vehicle level-of-service (LOS) as a reason to rule out road project elements that are necessary for bicycle, pedestrian, or automobile safety is inconsistent with the General Plan’s Policy T-1.9.5: Prioritize pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile safety over vehicle speed and level-of-service at intersections and along roadways. Our letter also responds to some counter-arguments that have been raised to our position on this point.

The advisory finding we are seeking from Planning Commission will not compel any particular decisions, but it will be of great help in moving the City towards compliance with T-1.9.5 and safety for all modes on all streets, no longer to be conditional on minimal impact to motor traffic flow.

The Commission can reject our proposed resolution, adopt it as written, or adopt it with any changes they wish. Please attend the meeting if you possibly can. Your presence in the room will show support for this important step forward for Bike Concord’s mission of safe, convenient bicycling in our community.

ALL HANDS ON DECK – Please attend Planning Commission on Wednesday, August 3

ALL HANDS ON DECK for next week’s Planning Commission meeting.  It’s on Wednesday, August 3 at 6:30pm in the City Council chamber.

For the past year in conversations with staff, at Planning Commission, and in front of City Council, Bike Concord has been asking for one crucial change in the Master Plan draft:  the addition of an explicit statement in the Master Plan that General Plan Policy T-1.9.5 (Prioritize pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile safety over vehicle speed and level-of-service at intersections and along roadways) means the recommended studies in the Master Plan cannot use possible impacts to motor traffic as a basis to rule out bicycle or pedestrian facilities that are necessary for safety.

Without such a commitment, we can be sure most of the studies recommended in the Master Plan will end just as most street projects have in this city so far: a conclusion that safe bicycle infrastructure is “infeasible” because it could cause motor traffic backup.  Minimizing motor traffic backup (“level-of-service”) has been and remains a higher priority in practice for the City than bicycle safety, in spite of its official General Plan policy to the contrary in T-1.9.5.

No commitment to break with the City’s history of ignoring Policy T-1.9.5 has been added to this final draft. We will be sending an official policy letter to Planning Commission in advance of the meeting, calling on them to adopt a resolution recommending to City Council that the commitment be added. Bike Concord will not endorse this Master Plan without that commitment. If you support Bike Concord’s work for safe, convenient bicycle travel in our city, please help us pack the room on August 3 (Wednesday next week).  Your presence is crucial.

After the Planning Commission meeting, our focus shifts to City Council itself, for their final Master Plan meeting on September 27.  We will provide details on that meeting, our preparation for it, and what you can do to help as the date approaches.

Report on City Council study session on the Master Plan

Ten Bike Concord members turned out for tonight’s City Council study session on the draft of the Master Plan. Bike Concord organizer Smitty Ardrey made an announcement (video) before the Master Plan agenda item about our upcoming Bike to Work Day celebration, and some of the other services we have scheduled. It was a great segue into the Master Plan presentation by Alta Planning + Design.

Bike Concord had submitted a letter ahead of time asking Council to support us in asking staff to add commitments in the Master Plan for the recommended Complete Street Studies to be conducted consistent with General Plan Policy T-1.9.5 by prioritizing safety for all modes above motor speed and level-of-service.

In the absence of such a commitment, we can be sure the Complete Street Studies will be conducted with the opposite order of priorities, as every other “feasibility” study for bicycle infrastructure has been so far in this city. The result will be infrastructure choices which are inadequate for bicycle and pedestrian safety, and high cost estimates (due to expensive street widening as a substitute for conversion of a motor traffic lane or street parking into adequate bike lanes) that will delay important safety projects by years. Bike Concord therefore insists on a commitment to abide by Policy T-1.9.5.

Before any of us got up to make comments during the meeting, Councilmembers Helix and Birsan spoke up in support of adding that commitment to the Master Plan.

Councilmember Helix’s comment (video) to staff and consultants:

“On your next steps, your June 2016 Revised Draft Recommendation, I would like to see some specific language in there consistent with steps this Council has taken in its amendments to the General Plan. Specifically, reference to ‘Prioritize pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile safety over vehicle speed and level-of-service at intersections and along roadways.’ Every day you see examples where some car is in a hurry to get somewhere and bicycles, even in the bicycle lanes, are at risk. And that’s not what we’re striving for. And that’s the whole purpose of, really, great studies like this. And to me, you can have the greatest study in the world, but you’ll negate its significance if you do not emphasize the things that this Council has as far as where our priorities should be. And I hope that will be reflected in the language as you develop.”

Councilmember Birsan (video) echoed Helix’s comments, and added that he specifically supports Class IV protected bike lanes down the whole length of Monument Blvd. This would be a change from the conceptual plan in the current Master Plan draft, which proposes a 12-foot sidewalk shared between bicycle and pedestrian traffic in both directions on one side of the street, and no bike lanes.

Mayor Hoffmeister commented (video) that Council had been working with technical staff to find ways to “balance” motor traffic flow with safety. The implication is that these are equally important priorities.

I (Kenji) amended my pre-written comment (video) to thank Councilmembers Helix and Birsan for their support, and to note that Policy T-1.9.5 does not call for level-of-service to be “balanced” with safety for all modes, but rather for safety to be prioritized above level-of-service.

Bike Concord members Laura Nakamura (video), Yelena Myakisheva (video), and Amy Ma also gave comments.

We’ll see in our conversations with staff over the next couple of weeks whether they are still hesitating to put in the language we’ve called for. We will also continue seeking support on this crucial point from the remaining three members of City Council – Mayor Hoffmeister, Vice-Mayor Leone, and Councilmember Grayson.