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Salt Lake City Cuts Car Parking, Adds Bike Lanes, Sees Retail Boost

The new 300 South, a.k.a. Broadway. Photos: Salt Lake City.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Protected bike lanes require space on the street, and removing curbside auto parking is one of several ways to find it. But whenever cities propose parking removal, retailers understandably worry.

A growing body of evidence suggests that if bike lanes and parking removal contribute to a street with calmer traffic and a better pedestrian environment, everybody can win.

In an in-house study of its new protected bike lane, Salt Lake City found that when parking removal was done as part of a wide-ranging investment in the streetscape — including street planters, better crosswalks, public art, and colored pavement — converting parking spaces to high-quality bike lanes coincided with a jump in retail sales.

On 300 South, a street that’s also known as Broadway, SLC converted six blocks of diagonal parking to parallel parking and also shifted parallel parking away from the curb on three blocks to create nine blocks of protected bike lanes on its historic downtown business corridor.

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Peninsula Advocates Push For Vision Zero

Safe streets advocates and local government officials met at the Silicon Valley Bike Summit in Palo Alto. Photo: Andrew Boone

A coalition of advocacy groups, local government agencies, and cycling clubs called on cities across Santa Clara and San Mateo counties to adopt Vision Zero goals to eliminate traffic fatalities at the recent Silicon Valley Bike Summit in Palo Alto.

In the ten years from 2004 through 2013, 1,236 people lost their lives in car crashes in the two counties, according to the California Highway Patrol. Every year, more than 1,800 people are injured by drivers while walking or biking. In San Jose, the region’s largest city, 44 people were killed in car crashes in 2014, and another 30 people were killed in the first eight months of 2015 – with pedestrians accounting for more than half the victims.

“No fatality and no major life-altering injury on our roadways is acceptable,” said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) Deputy Director Colin Heyne.

SVBC and California Walks released their Vision Zero Toolkit [PDF] at the summit, a how-to guide for advocates and city officials based on the “Five E’s” – Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Encouragement, and Evaluation. The guide describes how cities can prevent serious traffic injuries and deaths resulting from car crashes, based on current best practices in other cities and US Department of Transportation recommendations.

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San Mateo County to Appoint Five-Member Bike/Ped Advisory Committee

Bike commuters heading south along San Mateo County's popular SF Bay Trail route. The new bike/ped committee will be tasked with improving such regional bike routes. Photo: Andrew Boone

Bike commuters head south along San Mateo County’s popular SF Bay Trail route on Bike to Work Day, May 8, 2014. The new County BPAC will be tasked with improving such regional bike routes. Photo: Andrew Boone

Last week, San Mateo County established a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). Its stated mission: to improve public health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and extend mobility for children, seniors, people with disabilities, and those who live in disadvantaged communities.

The committee’s five volunteer members will be charged with providing recommendations not only to the county’s Board of Supervisors, but also to “committees, commissions, and departments on issues related to bicycling, walking, and complete streets,” including funding priorities.

“We applaud the County for taking this positive step in ensuring that the needs of all roadway users are considered when determining projects and priorities,” wrote Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) Policy Manager Emma Shlaes in an e-mail to the Board. “This committee will contribute to transparency and accountability in policy decisions, ease the decision making process and ensure community support.”

San Mateo County’s 2011 bike/ped plan [PDF] points out that major roadways such as El Camino Real, Highway 92, Highway 1, and Woodside Road “prioritize motor vehicle traffic flow with minimal consideration of impacts on bicyclists and pedestrians,” and that Highways 101, 280, and 380 also create barriers to active transportation, with most interchanges remaining hazardous for people walking and bicycling.

The new committee is expected to help guide investments and recommend infrastructure projects that address these barriers and “increase rates of active transportation and to improve the quality of facilities that serve people making daily trips by walking and bicycling,” according to last week’s resolution establishing the advisory group [PDF].

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Menlo Park Fire District Opposes Protected Bike Lanes on El Camino Real

Menlo Park’s Fire District is fighting a trial project to install protected or buffered bike lanes on El Camino Real. Image: City of Menlo Park

Menlo Park’s proposal for protected bike lanes on El Camino Real is meeting resistance from the top brass at the city’s Fire Protection District, who would rather see the road become wider and more dangerous.

In a recent letter to the Menlo Park City Council, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman completely missed the point of installing protected bike lanes — to make making bicycling safer and more attractive. “I cannot recommend the use of El Camino Real in Menlo Park to bicyclists because it is a fairly dangerous route,” he wrote. “In my 35-year career, bicyclists almost always ‘lose’ when they are involved with an accident involving a vehicle, no matter who is at fault or to blame.”

Instead, Schapelhouman said it would be “interesting” to expand the street-level highway to six lanes and synchronize traffic signals to let drivers speed through downtown Menlo Park.

Three city advisory commissions have endorsed the conceptual plan to install bike lanes, either physically protected from motor traffic by curbs and landscaped traffic islands, or an alternative with just a painted buffer zone.

At an August 25 meeting, Menlo Park City Council members refrained from voting on those proposals but did say they favor a trial version of the protected bike lanes, which would replace 156 parking spaces along all 1.3 miles of El Camino Real within the city.

“Until we as a city envision transportation differently and implement actually very simple infrastructure… it’s just going to always be easier to jump in your car,” said Cindy Walton, vice chair of the Menlo Park Bicycle Commission, told the City Council. “We have to do things that are transformative in order to enable people to ride their bikes, or take buses, or walk.”

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Menlo Park Gets One Step Closer to Protected Bike Lanes on El Camino Real

A report from Menlo Park planners recommends a Dutch-inspired “protected intersection” design at three El Camino Real intersections. Image: City of Menlo Park

A report released by Menlo Park’s Public Works Department last week [PDF] recommends protected bike lanes and Dutch-style “protected intersections” on El Camino Real.

The two-year El Camino Real Corridor Study, led by transportation consulting firm W-Trans, said building bike lanes protected from car traffic by a curb would provide “the most optimum safety conditions for bicycling” and walking while reducing car traffic on the city’s 1.3-mile section of the highway.

The study looked at three bike lane options on El Camino Real, any of which would replace the 156 on-street car parking spaces that currently line the curb on the segment. Only one-third of those parking spaces are used, at most, according to a counts taken last September.

Menlo Park joins San Mateo as the second city in San Mateo County to envision physically protected bike lanes on El Camino Real, the deadly street-level highway owned by Caltrans that runs up the Peninsula.

Menlo Park’s Public Works Department would take it a step further with a “protected intersection” design at three intersections: Santa Cruz, Valparaiso/Glenwood, and Oak Grove Avenues. That design, common in the Netherlands, minimizes potential conflicts between people biking, driving, and walking and makes cyclists more visible to motorists.

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Should Caltrain Add Bathrooms On-Board or at Its Stations?

The great controversy roils on. Photo: Yelp/Michael W.

On-board restrooms could be cut from Caltrain’s electric trains after the agency’s Board of Directors rejected a proposal to include one bathroom on every six-car train last month. The agency is exploring the costs of adding bathrooms, and while some riders say they’re crucial, there’s little support from board members or disability advocates.

The Americans with Disabilities Act “is a very important part of this,” said Tom Nolan, a Caltrain board member and chair of the SFMTA Board, at the July meeting. “If somebody’s in a wheelchair in the back of the train and they have to go through five cars, that’s not really equal access.”

Malia Cohen, also a Caltrain board member and San Francisco supervisor, agreed with Nolan, noting that Carla Johnson, director of the SF Mayor’s Office on Disability, favors adding bathrooms at stations — which are currently scarce — rather than on trains.

“If there are bathrooms on the train, then we want the passengers with mobility issues to have the convenience of using those bathrooms just like everybody else,” Johnson told Streetsblog. “If some passengers can only travel between train cars with a lift, then it actually makes more sense to have the bathrooms at the stations so that everyone has equal access.”

“I think that it’s not uncommon for trains of this kind that are doing relatively short regional trips to not have bathrooms, because it is a rather dramatic loss of seats,” said Ash Karla, a Caltrain board member who sits on the San Jose City Council.

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Millbrae’s Transit Hub Plans: Lots of Parking, Same Car-Dominated Streets

Housing for about 850 new residents and offices for 868 workers are slated to rise where these Millbrae Station parking lots currently stand — but so are more than 2,000 new parking spaces. Photo: City of Millbrae

BART and the City of Millbrae are moving ahead with plans for two major mixed-use developments on the Millbrae BART/Caltrain Station’s surface parking lots and along El Camino Real just west of the station.

The projects are expected to bring over 2,000 new residents and 2,000 jobs within walking distance of San Mateo County’s busiest transit hub. The developer in the running for one of the sites promises it would become an urban center friendly for walking and biking.

But without a bolder vision from Millbrae officials, the plan has fundamental flaws that could undermine the purpose of transit-oriented development: to make it easier for people to get around without cars. The development, as proposed, would add about 2,200 car parking spots and make no substantial changes to the surrounding car-dominated streets to allow people to safely get around the area by foot and bike.

New residents and workers are expected to drive for 69 percent of trips, according to the environmental review for a proposed update to the Millbrae Station Area Precise Plan, which must be approved by the City Council.

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SMCTA: East Palo Alto Can’t Use Highway Money for Safe Crossing at Less Cost

East Palo Alto wants to save money and build a ped/bike bridge over Highway 101 at the University Avenue interchange, but the SMCTA says it can’t use its highway grant for that. Image: AECOM

East Palo Alto is the latest city to be prohibited by the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (TA) from using highway funds to build a bike and pedestrian bridge across a highway.

In this case, city planners actually found a way to cut costs on a planned ramp expansion at the Highway 101 interchange at University Avenue and use the savings to build an overcrossing for people on foot and bike. But according to East Palo Alto officials, the TA insists that its $5 million Highway Program grant must be spent primarily on highway lanes — not safe highway crossings.

Rather than build a new off-ramp, the city wants to add a second right turn lane to its existing off-ramp, which would move cars at least as quickly, according to a 2014 traffic study. (A note of clarification: This project is separate from the bike/ped bridge planned to the south of the University interchange, at Newell Road and Clarke Avenue.)

“The TA feels that the funding for Measure A highway operations is not flexible and cannot be used towards ped/bike improvements,” East Palo Alto Senior Engineer Maziar Bozorginia wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “The City believes that by providing a safer ped/bike route through this section, it would help to reduce conflicts and congestion on the highway system.”

With the money saved from forgoing construction of a new highway ramp, East Palo Alto could build a new bike/ped bridge. The rest of the funds for the interchange project would come from a $1.8 million federal grant awarded to the city in 2003.

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New York City Now Has Permanently Car-Free Roads in Two Major Parks

Photo: Ben Fried

Photo: Ben Fried

A week after New York City’s Central Park went mostly car-free, today marked the beginning of the permanent car-free zone on the west side of Prospect Park [PDF].

Leading up to today, the traffic shortcuts through Prospect Park had been gradually winnowed down to one lane on the west side during the evening rush and one lane on the east side during the morning rush, thanks to persistent advocacy. Campaigns in 2008 and 2002 each collected 10,000 signatures in support of a car-free park.

Before Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration made the West Drive car-free, the most recent victory was a 2012 road diet that expanded space for pedestrians and cyclists on the park loop. Before that, the city closed the 3rd Street entrance to cars in 2009.

The job’s still not done as long as the park’s East Drive, which is closer to the less affluent neighborhoods on the east side of the park, continues to be a shortcut for car commuters on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. DOT says it is concerned that higher traffic volumes on the East Drive would lead to congestion in nearby neighborhoods if the park were made completely car-free.

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, who marked the occasion this morning by walking her two beagles to a press conference in the park, said a permanently car-free East Drive could happen “at some point in the coming years.”

“Car traffic has continued to go down,” she told WNYC. “So we’ve done it in stages and we may be back again for the final phase.”


Looking to Curb Traffic, Palo Alto Rebuffs County’s Plans for Wider Roads

Santa Clara County planners want to widen Page Mill Road in Palo Alto. Palo Alto wants to reduce driving instead. Photo: Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County’s plans to widen expressways are out of step with cities like Palo Alto that are striving to curb traffic by reducing car commuting. Last week, Palo Alto City Council members balked at the county’s $98 million plan to expand Page Mill Road near Highway 280, which would only encourage more driving. If any expansion of the road should be studied, the council said, it should only be to add carpool lanes.

Last year, Palo Alto created a Transportation Management Association (TMA) aimed at reducing solo driving by 30 percent in three years through commuter benefits like free Caltrain passes or employee shuttles, which would be provided by employers. Such programs, including one at Stanford Universityhave proven effective at alleviating traffic and are far cheaper than building more roads and parking.

But when crafting the $3 billion Expressway Plan 2040, Santa Clara County didn’t account for local transportation demand management programs like Palo Alto’s because the county doesn’t fund or operate those services, county planner Dawn Cameron recently told the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission.

“The county’s responsibility is to operate the expressways,” said Cameron. “The kind of TDM programs that you’re discussing are typically implemented locally, by employers… We can’t require them to operate shuttles, or to provide passes to their employees.”

But the county’s prescription for wider roads will only result in more driving, Council Member Greg Schmid noted. “With your improvements, the [traffic] numbers actually go up.”

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