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.

Advertisements

Please vote yes on Measure X tomorrow, and come to Tamale Fest!

Bike Concord members handed out a total of 140 each of Measure X and Tamale Fest flyers at Pleasant Hill and Concord BART stations today. Quite a few people showed interest in coming to Tamale Fest to support our future community bike shop.

We spoke today with a lot of people who we believe will vote yes on Measure X tomorrow. We explained to several who had further questions that what we can expect from Measure X is protected bike lanes and protected intersections, not just more paint-only treatments. That’s thanks to the Complete Streets Policy in the measure which was won by the hard work by Dave Campbell of Bike East Bay, backed by a lot of showing up and speaking up by Bike Concord members.

BC members have also been phonebanking for Measure X, turning out seven volunteers to make a few hundred calls over several sessions. If the measure passes tomorrow, we will be watching closely to make sure the street projects it funds will deliver on the promise of protected bicycle facilities, and not just more of the cursory and inadequate treatments we’ve seen on most of Contra Costa’s streets so far.

 

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.

Concord City Council signs on for new CCC transportation sales tax

City Council voted unanimously tonight (with the exception of Tim Grayson, who was absent) to adopt a resolution giving Concord’s approval to the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to put the proposed new half-cent sales tax for transportation on November’s ballot. CCTA needs approval from at least 10 out of the 19 cities of Contra Costa County in order to levy the tax, in addition to two-thirds’ approval from Contra Costa voters in November.
 
Bike Concord has been heavily involved in the Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP) for the new tax: by attending meetings to follow the process, submitting letters and making comments in support of significant apportionments for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and a strong Complete Street Policy, and by participating in the Expenditure Plan Advisory Committee (EPAC) in support of Bike East Bay.  This new revenue will be a great help in funding many badly-needed bicycle infrastructure projects across Contra Costa and in Concord in particular.  We hope to be able to commit significant time and energy as volunteers in a few months to help persuade our neighbors to approve the tax in November.

All hands on deck – Fill the CCTA meeting again to support strong complete streets requirements in major road projects

Please turn out to the next meeting of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority on Wednesday next week, March 9, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.  The meeting room is 2999 Oak Rd #110 (CCTA office, across from Pleasant Hill BART and next to Embassy Suites).

This meeting is important because it’s the first time the Authority Board will consider an actual draft of the Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP).  The TEP is a plan for how the money will be spent from the half-cent sales tax for transportation which CCTA is planning to put on the November ballot.

Background

There have been months of meetings and discussions about what should be in the TEP.  They have involved the Authority Board, its staff and consultants, and a committee called the Expenditure Plan Advisory Committee (EPAC).  The EPAC is a committee of representatives of groups with an interest in the outcome of the TEP.  CCTA convened them to help shape the TEP, with the hope of securing their political support to pass the measure in November.

One of those interest groups is people who care about active transportation such as bicycling and walking.  Bike East Bay, Bike Concord’s partner at the county level, represents this interest on the EPAC.  Bike Concord has been supporting Bike East Bay in getting a significant amount of money planned for serious bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, by working with BEB’s Advocacy Director Dave Campbell to write proposed edits to the measure language, and by sending one of our advocacy organizers to participate in meetings with CCTA staff and consultants and to sit as an alternate for Dave on the EPAC when needed.

Ten Bike Concord members (maybe including you) turned out along with Bike Walnut Creek and Greenbelt Alliance at the Oct 21 meeting of the CCTA board (a.k.a. the “Authority Board”) to support Bike East Bay’s call for 15% of the revenue to go to complete streets projects. CCTA Board and staff have not honored this request.

However, thanks to good collaboration with staff and consultants (and probably in some part thanks to our demonstration of support on Oct 21), we have managed to get decent standards for complete streets infrastructure into the funding category for major roads.  In the current draft this category totals 8.6% of the measure for an estimated yield of $200 million.  This is for major road projects which merely include elements for non-motor users; a large part of this money will still go for motor traffic infrastructure.  For projects aimed exclusively to serve non-motor traffic, there is a separate category called “Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Trail Facilities” with 2.6% of the measure for an estimated yield of $60 million.  Project needs which we are already aware of, without considering future needs, alone justify doubling this amount.

There is still considerable room for improvement in the standards for complete streets, as well as the funding amount for non-motor projects, and Bike East Bay and Bike Concord are working with staff and consultants to make those improvements.

Please turn out on March 9

At this upcoming meeting on March 9, the Authority Board will make its first comments and directions to staff on the draft TEP.  We will urge the Board members to support strong complete streets standards in the Major Roads funding category, and to support a doubling of the Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Trail Facilities category.

Please attend this meeting and submit a comment card expressing support for Bike East Bay’s proposals.  Blank comment cards will be available on the table to your right as you enter the room.  It’s the glass door on the right immediately when you enter the building. Please write your name, put Bike Concord as your organization (if you wish to identify as one of our members) and in the comment space, write “I support Bike East Bay’s proposals for strong complete streets standards and funding in the TEP.”  Submit your comment card to the clerk, and take a seat.

Your comment card will also allow you to indicate whether you want to get up and speak during the appropriate comment period.  It is not necessary to speak, but you may wish to do so if you have a personal perspective to add. In any case, you may be asked by Dave Campbell of Bike East Bay or Kenji Yamada of Bike Concord, while they are making their comments, to raise your hand to show your presence.

Please share this blog post, or our Facebook event for the meeting, with anyone you know who cares about a healthier, safer transportation future for Contra Costa.