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Posts from the "Complete Streets" Category

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Redwood City Approves Farm Hill Road Diet, Complete Streets Committee

Photo: Andrew Boone

On Monday, the Redwood City Council unanimously approved a two-mile road diet with bike lanes for Farm Hill Boulevard. The City Council also approved the formation of a Complete Streets Committee, which will consist of volunteers (“daily users of the streets”) who will advise city staff and the council on street design issues.

The approvals are a sign of progress at the City Council, which had previously rejected both the committee (in 2009) and road diet (in 2012).

The five-member Complete Streets Committee “is the next step in ensuring the city considers the needs of all roadway users,” said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Policy Manager Emma Shlaes.

Redwood City Management Analyst Susan Wheeler wrote in a report [PDF] that a Complete Streets Committee “will strengthen the city’s position when applying for bike/ped project grants, leading to potential financial savings and enabling bike/ped project opportunities and enhancements that would not otherwise be financially feasible.”

Back in 2009, the council decided that getting informed feedback about walking and biking accommodations in street design projects wasn’t worth an estimated 20 hours per month in additional staff time. Redwood City has 13 other advisory committees that weigh in on public policy ranging from housing to mosquito control.

In recent years, the SVBC had organized quarterly meetings with city staff in lieu of an official advisory committee. Participants agreed the meetings have helped the city implement safer street designs as roads are resurfaced. But the meetings have been focused primarily on bicycling issues, and advocates worry that more diverse opinions aren’t being voiced.

“It’s really much better to have publicly-noticed meetings so that people can find out about it — it’s very helpful for public participation,” said Friends of Caltrain Director Adina Levin at Monday’s City Council meeting.

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Redwood City Interchange Could Get More Dangerous for Walking and Biking

Redwood City’s Woodside Road interchange at Highway 101 has no infrastructure for people to cross by bike or on foot. Photo: Google Maps

Redwood City has begun environmental review on a planned reconstruction of the Highway 101 interchange at Woodside Road, as well as two major intersections on either side of the highway — projects designed to move more cars. Some of the proposed designs would retain existing traffic ramps that are hazardous to people walking and bicycling, and Woodside and Broadway Street would both be widened.

“That’s where the fatalities are, especially with truck drivers,” said Redwood City resident Matthew Self. “These are the high-risk points where cars are speeding up to freeway speeds.”

Alternatively, a design favored by bicycle and pedestrian safety advocates would replace all the on-ramps and off-ramps with large signalized intersections. All of the proposed designs include two multi-use paths, one sidewalk, and bike lanes.

City and county transportation officials say the $60 to $90 million highway expansion project is needed to “alleviate existing and projected peak hour traffic congestion” in the area. If the project is approved, the interchange would carry more cars with new traffic lanes, intersections, bridges, and possibly a tunnel on Woodside.

“The project purpose is to alleviate existing and projected peak hour traffic congestion in the area, and to enhance mobility and safety,” said Scott Kelsey, Senior Transportation Manager for URS, the consulting firm hired by Redwood City to guide the project through the required environmental reviews. “There’s also the lack of adequate bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, we are going to fix that too.”

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Another Death on El Camino, While Atherton Bike/Ped Plan Stays Tabled

The “enhanced crosswalk signing and striping” installed last year on El Camino Real at Almendral Avenue, where resident Shahriar Rahimzadeh was killed while crossing the street two weeks ago. Image: Google Maps

32-year-old Shahriar Rahimzadeh was struck and killed by the driver of a red 2000 Volvo S40 sedan while walking across El Camino Real at Almendral Avenue near his home in Atherton two weeks ago. It was exactly the type of high-speed, fatal collision that could have been prevented either by crosswalk improvements that Caltrans is dragging its feet on, or by the comprehensive redesign of El Camino proposed by the town’s draft bicycle and pedestrian plan. That plan still awaits approval from the Town Council, more than four months after its review in April.

“Mr. Rahimzadeh was struck hard enough to be thrown some distance from the site of the collision,” Atherton Police Sergeant Sherman Hall told The Almanac. Hall also noted that “we’re not able to place him in the crosswalk,” despite one eyewitness who described seeing both a puddle of blood in the crosswalk, and the Volvo stopped just a few feet past the crosswalk. Shahriar Rahimzadeh survived five hours before dying at Stanford Hospital at 8:40 p.m.

Shahriar Rahimzadeh (left) died on July 23, five hours after being struck by a car driver while walking across El Camino Real in Atherton. Photo: Reza Iranmanesh, via The Almanac

The 1.6-mile stretch of El Camino Real that cuts through the low-density residential town presents an ongoing hazard to residents walking or bicycling — especially for anyone crossing the six-lane arterial street anywhere other than at the sole traffic signal, at Atherton Avenue and Fair Oaks Lane. In October 2012, two women were seriously injured by an SUV driver while walking together across El Camino, in the crosswalk at Isabella Avenue. Two years earlier, 55-year-old Honofre Mendoza and 62-year-old Christopher Chandler were killed by drivers in separate crashes at the same intersection.

After the October 2012 injuries, Atherton officials began lobbying a reluctant California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to implement safety improvements, resulting in “enhanced crosswalk signing and striping” at the town’s five existing crosswalks on El Camino — including Almendral Avenue, where Shahriar Rahimzadeh was killed on July 23.

Caltrans also agreed to install pedestrian hybrid beacons on El Camino at Almendral Avenue and Isabella Avenue, but only after Atherton town staff insisted on a solution that would require drivers to come to a complete stop for pedestrians crossing the street. Pedestrian hybrid beacons are similar to standard traffic signals: They display yellow, then red, lights to stop vehicle traffic after being activated via a push-button by a person wishing to cross the street on foot or by bike. Caltrans agreed to pay for, and install, the beacons at a cost up to $150,000 for each intersection — but not until 2017. Caltrans engineers initially proposed using much cheaper rectangular rapid flashing beacons, which flash yellow lights from a roadside sign but do not require drivers to stop.

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Spectacular New Devil’s Slide Trail Difficult to Reach Without a Car

A 1.3-mile section of abandoned Highway 1 south of Pacifica was converted into the new Devil’s Slide Trail, seen here just before its grand opening to the public on March 27. Photo: Andrew Boone

The 1.3-mile “Devil’s Slide” segment of Highway 1 just south of Pacifica is the latest addition to San Mateo County’s 20 parks. The freshly-paved walking and biking trail offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and its coastal cliffs, and it’s by far the widest trail in the San Francisco Bay Area, with 12 feet striped for walking and 12 feet for bicycling.

“This is inarguably one of the most beautiful segments of the California Coastal Trail,” said Coastal Conservancy Executive Officer Samual Schuchat at the trail’s ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday. “It’s incredibly exciting to open it, after years of driving through here and wanting to take in these views but being afraid that you would crash.”

The geologically hazardous section of highway was closed to cars in March of last year with the opening of the twin Tom Lantos tunnels, which Caltrans constructed to bypass this stretch. As Deidra Kennedy of the Pacifica Historical Society told the SF Chronicle last week, Caltrans originally planned to build an inland bypass and bury the Devil’s Slide highway, but local activists persuaded them to instead build a tunnel and re-purpose the coastal road.

Construction included re-paving the road, building parking lots, bus stops, and public restrooms at both ends, and adding three overlooks, 12 benches, and a variety of educational panels alongside the trail to help visitors learn about the area’s geology and ecology. The San Mateo County Parks Department spent $2 million on the highway-to-trail project, and will invest another $492,000 per year to maintain it, or roughly 5 percent of the department’s annual budget.

Getting to the new trail without a car, however, is a challenge. Since the trail was carved from Highway 1, the highway remains the only way to get there.

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Meet Streetmix, the Website Where You Can Design Your Own Street

Streetmix lets users mix and match design elements to create the street of their dreams. Image: Streetmix

Last fall, Lou Huang was at a community meeting for the initiative to redesign Second Street in San Francisco. Planners handed out paper cutouts, allowing participants to mix and match to create their ideal street. Huang, an urban designer himself, thought the exercise would make for a great website. Now, after months of work beginning at a January hackathon with colleagues at Code for America, it is a great website.

The principle behind Streetmix is simple: it brings drag-and-drop functionality to a basic street design template. Users select a road width and add or remove everything from light rail to wayfinding signs, adjusting the size of each feature meet their specifications.

“It’s a little bit like a video game,” collaborator Marcin Wichary said. ”We were very inspired by SimCity.”

But Streetmix is more than just a fun way for amateur street designers to spend an afternoon. “What we want to focus on is, how can this enable meaningful conversations around streets?” Wichary said. “For many people it’s a kind of entry point.”

The first version of Streetmix went online in January, but the latest version, which has new features and a slicker design, launched less than two weeks ago. In that short time, advocates have used the website to illustrate possibilities for Dexter Avenue in Seattle and Route 35 on the Jersey Shore. Streetmix has profiled how people from Vancouver to Cleveland use the website. Residents of Sioux Center, Iowa, even used Streetmix illustrations in their campaign to stop the state DOT’s road widening plan in their town.

“It’s giving power back to the people, allowing them to vocalize what their streetscape priorities are,” Huang said.

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Streets Bond Measure Headed to November Ballot

Photo: ejbSF

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of occasional stories on the “2011 Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond.”

A $248 million streets bond measure being pushed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other electeds is on its way to the November ballot after being approved this week in a 9-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors. The “2011 Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond” would provide funds over three years to repave the city’s crumbling streets and fix cracked and buckling sidewalks. Streets with high volumes of transit, bicycle and pedestrian traffic would be prioritized.

“With more than half of our 850 miles of roadways deteriorating, we must confront the crisis in the condition of our streets now or we will face even greater costs and threats to public health and safety later,” Lee said in a statement released yesterday.

The San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW) recently posted maps online that give a citywide breakdown of which streets stand to benefit from the bond money. The final list of streets would be “geographically equitable” and the SFDPW would “ensure that projects are evenly distributed to all parts of the city” without raising property taxes.

The agency’s outgoing director, Ed Reiskin, recently appointed to head the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said funding sources to improve street conditions have gradually declined over the years, and the measure is urgently needed to rebuild a growing backlog of streets in poor condition.

“We have a huge need. That backlog is maybe three quarters of a billion dollars, and there’s just no way that we can dig out of that hole using the operating dollars that are funding police and firefighters and library services and health and human services,” Reiskin told Streetsblog in a recent interview.

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Eyes on the Street: Valencia Gets Trees and Decorative Streetlights

trees_and_light_small.jpgNew trees and new roadway scale lighting. Photos: Matthew Roth

Now that the Valencia Street sidewalk reconstruction between 15th Street and 19th Street has given us sparkly new pedestrian space, the Department of Public Works (DPW) has begun putting on decorative touches. The DPW has planted two types of trees as well as pedestrian and roadway scale lighting, all of which reflects the decision from the community outreach process that began in 2004.

The DPW said the two types of trees are the deciduous London Plane (platanus acerifolia) and the evergreen Brisbane Box (lophostemon conferta). The DPW is planting 96 new trees across the length of the project, which project manager Kris Opbroek said were "just a hint of things to come."

The streetlights are two different heights: The teardrop shaped fixtures are approximately 27 feet tall for roadway scale and the harp-shaped pedestrian scale fixtures are approximately 14 feet high.

Now if they could just clear the bike lanes of gravel and fix that dangerous pavement edge near Mission police station!

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Streets for Walking, Part 2: Dan Burden on Building Support for Change

Calgary.Afternoon.night__11_.jpgBurden leads a workshop helping a hospital in Calgary design its pedestrian space. Photo: Dan Burden.

Last week Streetsblog spoke to walkability expert Dan Burden about how new design guidelines for urban streets can replace the suburban, car-oriented standards that have become the norm throughout America (read the interview here).

Burden has been advocating for walkable neighborhoods for more than 30 years, including 16 as the bike and pedestrian director for Florida's Department of Transportation. He's traveled to over 2,700 communities across the United States and Canada to help them figure out how to build safer, more sustainable transportation systems. So while we had him on the phone, we wanted to pick his brain a little more.

In the second part of our interview, we discussed why transportation reformers shouldn't recoil from public process, as long as that process is well-designed. Burden has faced more than his share of what he calls "the screaming meanies" over the years, and here he talks about some of his experience building a base of support for livable streets that can withstand the inevitable opposition.

Noah Kazis: A lot of your work focuses less on generating the content of planning, but on getting people to collaborate. What is the role of public process in designing walkable communities?

Dan Burden: In about 1978, after I’d been out trying to promote bicycling, I realized that there is a huge pressure just to keep doing the same thing that others did. When we got to a public meeting, we couldn’t get enough people to show up. I realized that everything that we want to do to change America had to revolve around good quality public process. The product, the technical side of things we did, was the easy side; it was the public process side that’s the real tough ingredient. 

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Eyes on the Street: A New Sidewalk Emerges on Valencia Street

IMG_1333.jpgOn the west side of Valencia between 16th and 17th Streets, a widened but unfinished sidewalk is now open to pedestrians. The original sidewalk and the blacktop will be replaced with shiny new tiles. Photo: Michael Rhodes
Business owners on one block of Valencia Street can see the light at the end of the tunnel after months of painful construction that made their stores less accessible to customers. Street trees, bicycle racks and pedestrian-scale lighting haven't arrived yet, but between 16th and 17th Streets, a sparkling new widened sidewalk is beckoning shoppers and diners back even before DPW crews have finished resurfacing it.

Construction on the Valencia Streetscape Improvement Project started in early August, and is bringing wider sidewalks, additional street trees, additional street lighting, sidewalk bulb-outs, and art elements to Valencia between 15th and 19th Streets. While bicyclists are still waiting for the bike lane to be repainted, pedestrians are starting to see the fruits of the DPW's work, and multiple business owners on the block between 16th and 17th Streets were feeling relieved this week as customers returned from holiday travel and no longer found narrow sidewalks and construction barriers.

During construction, "our sidewalk was barely two-and-a-half feet wide, so people were not coming to this side," said Adam Hernandez, a design consultant at Z-Barn Interiors. When the construction barriers were cleared from the sidewalk recently, that all changed, he said. "I'll tell you, since they took this off just before Christmas, it's been a huge difference."

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CNU Summit to Focus on Reforming Transportation, Planning Principles

cnu_banner.jpg

The Congress for the New Urbanism will meet in Portland, Oregon, in early November for the annual Project for Transportation Reform, a summit to further define and clarify emerging urban transportation policies that embrace entire networks, rather than interdependent transportation segments, and that seek to balance modal transportation splits and reduce overall vehicular miles traveled (VMT).

Summit attendees and partners, including Streetsblog, will participate in discussions on emerging network planning and develop a strategy for informing the national transportation infrastructure debate, of particular significance as the climate and transportation bills move forward. As the draft CNU Statement of Principles on Transportation Networks notes [PDF], climate change and infrastructure problems in the US continue to intensify:

The US now has the world’s highest level of VMT per capita, while simultaneously experiencing the highest traffic fatality rates of any developed nation. Per capita traffic delay has more than doubled in the United States since 1982. This deterioration in transportation system performance has occurred in spite of an ongoing public investment of more that $200 billion per year in transportation infrastructure."

CNU President John Norquist said the current focus by transportation professionals on road capacity gives us cities like Detroit, where consistent spending to widen roads has destroyed communities.

"Federal and state DOTs don't understand how cities work. They still want to take rural forms and jam big roads into cities." he said. "Rather than measuring projected traffic flow, they should be measuring how much value it adds to a neighborhood. The US can't afford to be energy wasting and spending money on projects that destroy the value of neighborhoods."

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