While San Francisco’s battle to implement its Bicycle Plan has generated national press attention, cities like Richmond in the East Bay have been quietly developing bicycle and pedestrian plans, hoping to reduce high rates of injury collisions between pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles.
In Richmond this week and next, the city is hosting meetings and workshops with transportation and health officials, consultant teams, non-profits, community groups, and walkability luminaries like Dan Burden to get feedback from the community on how to shape the city’s plan for greater safety and mobility.
Burden kicked off the planning effort last Wednesday, discussing best practice examples from around the world where communities have improved safety conditions for pedestrians and made neighborhoods more livable.
According to experts in public health, Richmond sorely needs these improvements.
"Richmond has a past history of a high rate of collisions involving pedestrians and automobiles," said Nancy Baer, Injury Prevention Manager for Contra Costa Health Services. "There has been law enforcement education and now we’re really looking at the walking environment."
Baer said health professionals were keenly aware of the injuries and fatalities because they show up in emergency rooms, but she wasn’t sure the public knew how significant changes in the built environment can be toward mitigating the problem.
"The whole field for making communities safer for walking and biking has been advancing," she said. "There has been a lot of information for what communities can do to enhance safety for pedestrians."
Baer said in addition to injury prevention, the county is concerned about the environmental and health impacts of traffic.
Several of the public health impacts that result from an over-reliance on driving are obesity and asthma, she said. "In Richmond, we have high rates for hospitalization among children with asthma, four times the rate of other children in Contra Costa County."
Baer hopes the pedestrian and bicycle plans will encourage less driving and reduce the negative health impacts facing children in Richmond.
The funding for the pedestrian plan comes from a $250,000 Caltrans Environmental Justice: Context-sensitive Design Planning Grant, which requires the city to contribute 5 percent additional in-kind work and matching funds.
The Local Government Commission (LGC), a non-profit based out of Sacramento, was hired to coordinate the pedestrian plan with the communities and secured Burden’s participation.
LGC’s Josh Meyer said his group had worked with Burden for over a decade and his involvement was a "logical choice."
In order to get as much community involvement in the planning project, Meyer said LGC and the city partnered with the Saint Marks’ Catholic Church and numerous community groups to do outreach in several languages to as many constituents as possible.
Funding for the bicycle plan came from the state through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and totaled $100,000. The city of Richmond hired Fehr and Peers to coordinate the public process and write the plan.
According to Brooke Dubose, Project Manager at Fehr and Peers, the company expects to have a completed bike plan by July. As for how quickly the city will act to adopt the plan and implement its recommendations, Dubose was optimistic the city was motivated to improve existing conditions.
Echoing sentiment from both Meyer and Baer, Dubose said Richmond would be well-situated to get money from Caltrans in no small part because the city had yet to seek much bicycle funding.
"Caltans will prioritize for areas that haven’t applied before," said Dubose. "A lot of these transportation planning and capital grants have criteria for how a project would represent under-served communities and for that Richmond would score well."
Check the City of Richmond website for more details. Fehr and Peers will cordinate an All Day Bicycle Workshop tomorrow, Saturday, May 15: 9a.m.-12:30pm: Welcome & Bike Tour; 12:30p.m. -5 p.m.: Open House & Workshop. Richmond Redevelopment Agency 440 Civic Center Plaza
Three pedestrian planning workshops will be held next week. A bilingual (Spanish) Walkable Design Workshop will be Thursday, May 20, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. St. Mark’s Church. 159 Harbour Way