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.

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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.

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.