Alameda Mayor Ashcraft Kills Protected Bike Lanes on Grand

Let the roll back continue

A rendering of proposed upgrades to Grand Street in Alameda, now killed by the mayor. Image: Fehr & Peers
A rendering of proposed upgrades to Grand Street in Alameda, now killed by the mayor. Image: Fehr & Peers

Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft joined councilmembers Tony Daysog and Trish Herrera-Spencer and put the brakes on a plan for protected bike lanes on Grand Street at Tuesday’s city council meeting. Advocates such as Drew Dara-Abrams, who has pushed tirelessly for this important safety project, were outraged (check out Streetsblog’s May coverage for background).

The thread gets into how Ashcraft, who lives on Grand Street, maneuvered to blow up the project. “Unfortunately, the revised plan leaves a critical gap in the low-stress bike network just proposed in our newly-minted Active Transportation Plan. It’s a huge loss for safety, climate, and equitable mobility,” wrote Bike Walk Alameda in a post about the results.

Dara-Abrams emailed the mayor directly, excerpted below:

Dear Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft,

I am very disappointed by both the outcome of last night’s Council meeting regarding Grand Street and the process — rather, the entire lack of process — used to reach that outcome.

Of the many unfortunate outcomes of your process, perhaps the most representative was when Councilmember Trish Herrera Spencer requested the further removal of the protected bike lanes from Otis to Dayton and you had to agree in exchange for her vote. I’m no expert, but I can see that this is what happens when you ditch a thoughtful, multi-step planning process: stupid decisions are made. It’s unfortunate that an off-hand decision will adversely affect the 55% of students observed by staff riding their bikes on the sidewalk to Wood Middle School. If I recall correctly, staff pointed out that the rate of cycling on the sidewalk is highest on that bridge over the lagoon. (I did not go back and watch the video to confirm; I can’t tell you the minute and second at which I believe staff added that detail.) Anyway, whoops, sorry, students!

Why did city staff, professional consultants, Transportation Commission members, and a wide range of constituents participate in a months-long planning process just for this to happen? Your appointees to the Transportation Commission sweated through the meeting on Grand Street. They worked through a huge amount of divergent input and reached a unanimous decision to recommend the protected bike lane option to City Council. I mention this not because they should have the final word — rather, I mention that because I remember watching the TC chair sweat through a tough meeting and make a tough decision. Why did she and her volunteer colleagues do that?

You had a chance to take a critical eye to this project in June. At that meeting you could have declined adoption of staff’s recommended option for protected bike lanes. The plans were right there in the agenda packet. Instead you engaged and provided substantive input on the protected bike lane option. Thank you for doing so — but to be honest the manner in which you took back that decision last night calls into question more than just your position on this specific portion of Grand Street.

After so much work, the city just released the Active Transportation Plan for public review on Monday. The next day, you, Councilmember Herrera Spencer, and Councilmember Daysog verbally re-planned and removed a central leg of the proposed safe cycling network. How is anyone in this community supposed to engage in good faith with that planning processing now? What is the point of community engagement, professional consultants, hearings by commissions and boards, and the involvement of licensed Professional Engineers if tough decisions are just going to be repeatedly “re-litigated” and overturned at a later City Council meeting?

Perhaps you were trying to repeat the strategy you used on the Central Ave Safety project? I recall your last-minute verbal redesign of the “modern roundabout” proposed at Central/Encinal/Sherman. From what I recall, It didn’t matter that staff mentioned how they had repeatedly reached out to the immediately affected residents who dialed in to comment that evening; it didn’t matter that staff had a plan for accessibility accommodations. What apparently mattered was making a concession to a subset of loud residents in the Gold Coast neighborhood. That evening you had the advantage of being able to depend on two more responsible Council colleagues for their votes. You also had the advantage of being able to “nip and tuck” one feature of a long corridor. That’s not comparable to what happened last night: you may have tried to pull a single thread — regardless, the entire thing came undone. Whatever the strategy was, this is now a substantive loss for this project and the overarching process for safer streets across Alameda.

Streetsblog has emailed the mayor and will update this post. But for now, this is the reply Dara-Abrams received:

AlamedaMayor

Who knows what this “path forward” will be. With the upcoming election, perhaps the mayor is pushing off the plan until after November to appease reactionary voters. But it certainly looks bad for Alameda cyclists.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG