Bike and Ped Master Plan for Alameda County’s Unincorporated Areas

Can this autotopia region become inviting and safe for cyclists and pedestrians?

Some images of the bleak current conditions for pedestrians in unincorporated Alameda County. Photo: from the Public Works Agency Study
Some images of the bleak current conditions for pedestrians in unincorporated Alameda County. Photo: from the Public Works Agency Study

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Joe Lamberti, who rides his daughter to Golden Oak Montessori School in Castro Valley on his cargo bike, was stark about bike and pedestrian infrastructure in Alameda County’s unincorporated areas. “It sucks!” he said while heading into last night’s charette about bike and ped plans, held at the Castro Valley library.

Lamberti, who was one of about 40 people to attend, was especially critical of the door-zone bike lane on Redwood Road, which, aside from offering no real protection from inattentive motorists, disappears at key intersections. “Drivers swing right into the bike lane to pass other cars … it invites collisions,” he said.

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Joe Lamberti, who bikes with his daughter on the back of his cargo bike, was scornful of Castro Valley’s current bike and ped infrastructure. All photos Streetsblog/Rudick unless noted.

This is the kind of condition that Paul J. Keener, Senior Transportation Planner at the Alameda County Public Works Agency, hopes to fix in an updated Bike and Ped Master Plan for improvements in the unincorporated parts of the county. The plan is updated every few years.

“What’s most important to you that we prioritize?” asked Keener during a question-and-answer session at the presentation. He also said the idea is to focus on missing links in bike lanes and to improve walking and biking connections to transit and schools.

"bike lane"
Six-lane Redwood Road’s ‘bike lane’ in Castro Valley, right across from the BART station. Unlike the Dutch example a few photos down, it offers no physical protection, discontinues at intersections, driveways, and a few other random locations, and is basically just a drainage gutter.

But, as the chart (from the last available master plan, from 2012) below indicates, there’s a huge amount of work to do. The county only has 3.3 miles of Class 1 bike path. The rest of it consists of striped door-zone lanes that cut in and out, don’t continue across intersections, or are positioned in the gutter along with the storm drains. And then there are 4.3 miles of “bike route,” which isn’t really anything but a street with signs.

chartofbikelanes

AlamedaMap

JoAnne Lauer of BikeWalk Castro Valley, who was also at the meeting, didn’t seem terribly optimistic about that getting improved. “Now they have all kinds of money, and they are trying to throw solutions at things without consulting users.”

Bike walk CV's JoAnne Lauer
BikeWalk CV’s JoAnne Lauer

Lauer voiced her frustration with some recently added pedestrian bulbouts–which are great, she said, but the county built the wheelchair ramps at a 45-degree angle from the corners of the intersection, instead of having two ramps on each bulbout. This means people in wheelchairs or using strollers can’t get directly to the crosswalk they need.

Instead, someone in a wheelchair has to roll into the intersection and navigate around the bulbout to get to the crosswalk. “With the ramp in the corner they made it less safe… ” than it was before, she said.

“I’m a super pedestrian!” said Pam Bovyer, also with BikeWalk Castro Valley. “I’ve avoided being hit only because I’m super paranoid.”

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Paul J. Keener, tie and jacket, takes comments from the attendees.

Not everyone is so lucky. Lauer’s son was hit, fortunately not too seriously, in a crosswalk by an inattentive motorist. And Lauer was hit while riding her bike.

Dorothea Beringer, who is originally from Bern, Switzerland, had similar complaints about the bike and pedestrian infrastructure. “My dream is for my kids to be able to bike to school [it’s only two miles away], but it’s just too dangerous … so I’m one of those moms lining up in a car to pick them up.”

She is especially peeved about Proctor Road, which has a substandard sidewalk that is continually blocked by parked cars. “We want the sidewalk improved. And I’ve been fighting for ten years to get the sheriff to ticket people for parking on it.”

A very typical scene on Proctor road. Local law enforcement refuses to issue tickets to people who park on the sidewalk, ostensibly because the curb height isn't regulation. Image: Google Maps
A regular scene up and down Proctor road. Local law enforcement refuses to issue tickets for this. Image: Google Maps

It’s unclear how many of these issues will be resolved in the new plan, which should be available next week.

Alameda County is working on the plan with Toole Design Group (TDG). Streetsblog readers will recall that Bill Schultheiss, one of its principals, has long argued for truly protected/separated, Dutch-style bike lanes on fast, multi-lane roads. He’s also pushed for traffic planners to have to behave in a more ethical way, making the safety of vulnerable road users the number one priority.

TDG’s Megan Wooley-Ousdahl, who presented at the meeting, said she has toured and studied Dutch and Danish bike facilities. Sam Gross, another TDG planner on the project, said there will be some Dutch-influenced infrastructure/protected bike lane options in the plan.

A proper bike lane, on a proper street... so far, there are no plans to bring anything like this kind of infrastructure to unincorporated Alameda. Nijmegen. Photo: Bicycle Dutch
A proper bike lane on a multi-lane road in Nijmegen in the Netherlands… so far, it’s unclear if there are plans to bring anything like this kind of infrastructure to unincorporated Alameda. Photo: Bicycle Dutch.

Portions of the project should take five to fifteen years, depending on priority. Keener said the total costs of implementing the plan has not been calculated.

The last meeting in this round of public comments is tonight, Thursday, January 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Livermore Public Library. As with the previous meetings, the formal presentation, which runs about 45 minutes, starts at 7 p.m. Comments on the plan can also be made to Paul J. Keener, Senior Transportation Planner for Alameda County Public Works Agency at paulk@acpwa.org.

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Lamberti’s bike at the Castro Valley library last night. You know bike infra is bad when there’s only one bike on the rack outside your bike and ped plan meeting.
  • xplosneer

    There are some proposed Class IV protected lanes, but they’re part of a Vision map and require future study.

    No LTS analysis in the RFP for this project. A shame.

  • Roger R.

    “some proposed Class IV protected lanes” thanks for posting that. Good to hear, but on a road like Redwood … that’s got to become standard on a four or six lane road. Good point about Level of Traffic Stress.

  • xplosneer

    I used to ride Redwood down through Hayward every day. Until I was nearly killed twice in one week. Now I go only under the bridge, down the sidestreets.

    I sometimes have to use Redwood to get to Trader Joe’s. Consistently awful.

  • xplosneer

    In other good news, Redwood is getting a crosswalk at the freeway right now (under construction) and thus cutting the 2000 ft crosswalk gap in half.

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