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