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.

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Input given on 2277, but outcome still needs scrutiny

Thanks to all the Bike Concord members who set aside their Wednesday evening to come to the public meeting tonight on the Downtown Corridors plan and Project 2277 (Downtown Bike Lanes). We turned out at least 18 people. At the previous meeting for the Downtown Corridors plan there were about 3 or 4.

The outcome is still unclear. Project staff presented Project 2277 to attendees without acknowledging that Bike East Bay and Bike Concord had met with them weeks ago to go over a detailed proposal for changes. In order to get any response to our proposal, we had to speak to staff in separate conversations after attendees were dispersed to look at displays around the room.

Attendees were reconvened at the end of the meeting to hear reports from staff on what they had heard from attendees in the separate conversations. But our detailed proposal was still not acknowledged, and no mention was made of several of its proposed features. We were given an opportunity for a few very brief comments after the staff reports, and asked to restrict our comments to things we had not talked about yet with staff, even in the separate conversations.

I (Kenji) got up to inform the group about our earlier meeting with staff and detailed proposal, gave a brief summary of the features in our proposal, and said we are expecting a detailed public response. This was contrary to the request from the facilitator, but I felt it was important to make that proposal a public matter, since staff had not chosen to do so in their own presentation.

We were told in our separate conversations with staff that our proposal is being looked at, that there will be another public workshop on Project 2277, and that we will receive some kind of response to our proposal at that workshop. Cynthia Armour of Bike East Bay and I will be following up with staff in a couple of weeks to ensure that this is on track to happen, that the response will be in detail, and that we will have an opportunity to make a second-round proposal to try to address any objections to what we’ve already proposed.

Thanks again, everybody, for turning out. In spite of the vague assurances we were given, I think it’s important to keep the pressure on, and turning out a lot of people at the meetings is a big part of that. It makes it harder for nice-sounding words to simply evaporate without accountability, when a lot of people hear them. That is also why it’s worth insisting that staff hear and respond to our input in a public forum, and not just in private conversations.

Please turn out tomorrow, Feb 10 – NOT tonight, Feb 9

Thanks to the direction of City Council at last Tuesday’s meeting in response to Bike Concord and Bike East Bay’s request, senior transportation staff will now consider and respond to our proposal for buffered bike lanes on Grant St instead of the unbuffered ones currently planned in Project 2277. So there is no need to turn out to tonight’s City Council meeting.  Instead, please try to make it to tomorrow evening’s public meeting on the Downtown Corridors Plan and Project 2277. Wednesday, Feb 10, 6pm at Concord Senior Center, 2727 Parkside Circle, Concord.

In addition to the Downtown Corridors Streetscape Plan (a general long-term vision), this public meeting will include the first public presentation of PJ 2277, a project for bike lanes on Grant St from BART to Todos Santos, as well as on a few blocks of Concord Blvd and Clayton Rd between Ellis Lake Park and downtown.

Unbuffered bike lanes, the bare minimum, are the Engineering Division’s current intention for the Grant St portion of PJ 2277. Bike Concord and Bike East Bay are proposing an alternative design with the following features.
– Continuity of bike lanes at all points.
– Buffers in some places, parking protection in others. The buffers will not only add safety and comfort for bicycle traffic, but will save space where physical barriers can be added later for further protection.
– Squared-off intersection corners to increase driver caution and decrease speed
– Green paint treatments at car-bicycle conflict zones.

Bike East Bay has posted a detailed description of the proposal.

What you can do: Show up to the meeting, make a comment to the effect that you want bicycle infrastructure on Grant that is safe and inviting enough to attract new and hesitant bicyclists, and that you want a detailed response by staff to Bike East Bay and Bike Concord’s proposal to make this a reality. It will be important for a strong number of residents to show up to this public meeting and convey support for making Grant St a good contemporary bikeway instead of a mediocre one.

If able to attend, please RSVP to joan.ryan@cityofconcord.org.

Please save the evening of Tuesday, Feb 9 to turn out for a good bikeway on Grant St

Please keep the evening of Tuesday, Feb 9 available to come out and support Bike Concord’s efforts to get a good bikeway instead of a mediocre one on Grant St from BART to Todos Santos Plaza.

Bike Concord and Bike East Bay met on Dec 11 with City of Concord project staff to propose detailed improvements to an existing project (PJ 2277) for basic bike lanes on Grant St.

Our alternative design was favorably received by project staff. But senior transportation staff have rejected it – not for any specific design reasons, but because they do not want to make any significant changes to the project no matter what those changes are. Staff are planning to make their first public presentation of the existing project design at the Feb 10 public meeting on the Downtown Corridors Plan, and their direction from senior staff is to show the project as originally designed, with no possibility of meaningful public input.

The existing design is for unbuffered, unprotected bike lanes on Grant St, the showcase corridor for our city from our transit station to downtown. We can do much better.

  • The stretch of Grant St between Todos Santos and BART is a representation of our city’s plans for active transportation to visitors arriving on BART, and for residents trying to reach BART from downtown. With the existing design, the project would indicate that our target is mediocrity. With the alternative design it would be a showcase project, demonstrating Concord’s serious intention of making active transportation a practical choice here.
  • We need to get Grant St right the first time.  It would be a waste of limited funds to build a mediocre bikeway in the hope of improving it later. The Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Safe Routes to Transit Master Plan, which the City is currently drafting with community input including that of Bike Concord, will commit the City to creating a comprehensive bicycle network, built to contemporary standards rather than the faulty designs of past decades. The existing project design of unbuffered bike lanes does not meet those contemporary standards.
  • Grant St needs to be an inviting entryway from BART to downtown in order to entice risk-averse bicyclists, especially families with children on their way to a family-oriented event in our downtown such as the Music and Market Series, or KidFest.  The existing design creates no such entryway.
  • A great bikeway will bring more business to our downtown. Comparative data from many communities shows that people on foot and on bicycles tend to visit businesses more often and spend more money overall.  An inviting bikeway is a path to a more prosperous Todos Santos Plaza.

Bike Concord’s Advocacy Committee and Bike East Bay are working to persuade our elected officials that a good, inviting bikeway on Grant St is preferable to mediocrity. If you support Bike Concord’s mission, please join us at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb 9 to make that message as strong as possible.  Council meetings are held in the Council Chamber at 1950 Parkside Dr, usually starting at 6:30pm. We will post again here on the blog when a detailed agenda is available for the Feb 9 Council meeting.

If you’ve never gone to a public meeting before, your participation will be even more valuable because you will be a new face to our officials.

We hope to see you the evening of February 9!