Marin Cyclists Win a Safer Butterfield Road

Almost 900 Marin households turned in responses to a survey on Butterfield Road--here are the results.

Amber Wipfler and her co-pilot. Wipfler is one of many local cyclists who helped push for a safer Butterfield. Photo: Brian Bercovitz
Amber Wipfler and her co-pilot. Wipfler is one of many local cyclists who helped push for a safer Butterfield. Photo: Brian Bercovitz

This post originally appeared on the Marin County Bicycle Coalition’s website. It is republished here with permission.

For the last year MCBC has been working hand-in-hand with a group of parents and safe streets advocates, as well as San Anselmo and Marin County staff, to improve Butterfield Road for people walking and biking. Now our hard work has paid off and we want to share the results.

THE NEED

Butterfield Road is a collector street that serves residents of the Town of San Anselmo and unincorporated Marin County in the community of Sleepy Hollow. Not only does the street serve three schools (Brookside Elementary, Hidden Valley Elementary, and San Domenico School), but it also acts as a through-route for bicycle riders accessing Terra Linda via Fawn Drive.

Despite the hundreds of daily bicycle riders (not to mention pedestrians), Butterfield Road has no sidewalks and had a narrow bike lane only as far as the town/county border (roughly at Oak Knoll Drive). North of Oak Knoll Drive, parked cars on the shoulder forced people walking and biking into the lane of car traffic, and have resulted in many collisions and countless close calls.

THE PROCESS

A group of parents, residents, and advocates had pushed for improvements for years, but were met with reluctance and caution on the part of public officials. While the road did not have a great number of reported bicycle/pedestrian collisions (aside from a widely publicized fatal crash in 2019), many residents had reported instances of their children being hit by cars, and a general lack of safety.

In order to back up these anecdotes with data, MCBC developed a community survey in partnership with the group of parents and residents to determine the degree of support for reconfiguring Butterfield Road. Thanks to the collaborative effort, the survey had a phenomenal response, with nearly 900 households completing it in three weeks. The findings of the survey were even more surprising (which you can read here in full), with over 50 previously unreported crashes since 2015 (half involving children) and a 90% support rate for replacing the shoulder parking with a bike/walk lane.

Butterfield Safety Committee

THE RESULTS

After seeing the overwhelming level of support for changes, staff at both the Town of San Anselmo and Marin County kicked into gear. As part of their planned resurfacing of Butterfield between Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Oak Knoll Drive, San Anselmo DPW widened the bike lane by 25% and added green striping at the cross streets to alert drivers to the presence of cyclists.

On the County side, between Oak Knoll Drive and Sleepy Hollow Drive, the Board of Supervisors decided to formalize the bike lane (which had previously been stenciled on the pavement but never actually enforced). This means prohibiting parking on the pavement, thereby providing a place for people to walk and bike outside of the path of car traffic. Parking will still be permitted in areas off the edge of the pavement (i.e. outside of the bike lane).

These projects together significantly improve safety for people traveling to and from the elementary schools, over Fawn Drive, or just between various destinations on the corridor. In total, users of this corridor will get over 1.5 miles(!) of new or improved bike lanes on Butterfield Road.

Last but not least, the project will include a new crosswalk at Irving Drive to improve access to the Community Center (though this would be installed at a later date due to funding issues).

Butterfield Road Irving Crossing

GIVING THANKS

This work would not have been possible without the focus and attention of a large group of neighbors, parents, and advocates that make up the Butterfield Corridor Safety Committee. These devoted community members took time out of their busy schedules to meet regularly and bring about the improvements we celebrate today.

Additionally, we deeply appreciate the support from the County of Marin, the Marin Department of Public Works, and the Town of San Anselmo. Supervisor Katie Rice’s aide Nancy Vernon put countless hours into this project, as did County engineer John Neville and Scott Schneider of the San Anselmo DPW.

We know that change is never easy. On behalf of our membership, and all the people who want to ride bicycles but don’t yet feel safe enough to do so, we thank these public servants for doing the hard work of building a better Marin, rather than taking the easy way out and maintaining the status quo.

***

Warren Wells is policy and planning director for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition

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