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.

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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.

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.

Report on August 3 Planning Commission meeting

Thanks to everyone who set aside their evening to come to yesterday’s Planning Commission meeting on the final draft of the Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Safe Routes to Transit Master Plan.

Unfortunately, the Commission chose not to adopt the resolution we were proposing. It would have clarified that the use of motor level-of-service (LOS) as a reason to rule out project design elements that are necessary for bicycle or pedestrian safety is inconsistent with the General Plan. The General Plan in its current form already commits the City to prioritize safety for all three modes above LOS.

Staff’s opinion was that this resolution would constitute an amendment to the General Plan. Bike Concord disagrees, but Planning Commissioners understandably chose to be cautious and defer to staff’s view on this point.

However, most of the Planning Commissioners were sympathetic to the issue we were raising: that the high priority given to LOS has been a persistent barrier to bicycle safety and is likely to continue to be so until the City changes its priorities. Planning Commission Vice-Chair Jason Laub in particular committed to help overcome this issue when it arises in specific projects before Planning Commission in the near future. Although we did not get the formal resolution we were seeking, we have succeeded in putting the issue of LOS vs safety on the agenda of Commissioners, staff, and to some extent, City Council. It will take sustained pressure, dialogue, and attention to every relevant future project to bring our work to fruition, but we are nearer to success than we have ever been.

Great comments from everybody – Brian Cory, Dave Pitman, Amy Ma, and Barbara Brunell, as well as kind words for Bike Concord from Coire Reilly of Contra Costa Health Services. Our turnout was important; this was reflected in the comments of Planning Commissioners and those of Transportation Manager Ray Kuzbari, who acknowledged that Bike Concord has become a strong community worth listening to.

If you have seldom or never been able to attend a public meeting with Bike Concord but support our mission, please consider choosing a meeting in the near future to come make a supportive comment. Your public support will be even more valuable if one meeting is all you can do, because you will be a new voice and face.

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.