GUEST BLOG ARTICLE from EUGENIE THOMSON
Streets throughout California are being rebuilt to accommodate the increasing number of bicycles on the road. Due to narrow rights-of-way and the implementation of separate bicycle paths within preexisting roadway cross-sections, this process involves completely redesigning roadways.
I applaud the efforts to make the roads safer for all users but alarmingly, less-than-minimum safety design standards are being applied. This practice is counter to the needs and desires of the public and it is happening here in Alameda.
The City of Alameda has been approving design concepts for these roadway reconstruction projects that violate minimum design criteria and with experimental designs (i.e. Shoreline Bikeway), followed swiftly by approval of grant applications for their final engineering and construction. The Clement Avenue and Central Avenue Complete Street Plans are moving in the same direction.
Problematically, the City has no qualified civil engineers in responsible charge of these projects. All of the City’s four lead civil engineers have left. Clearly numerous safety and traffic delay problems are going unresolved.
Would you hire a divorce attorney who is not licensed? Would you hire an obstetrician who is not licensed? Of course not. Nor should Alameda hire planners to perform civil engineering functions who are not licensed or qualified in that field. But that is exactly what is happening.
I am very concerned that the City is moving forward with reconstruction of its streets with numerous safety problems and causing nightmarish congestion by what staff calls a road diet. (i.e. reduction of lanes).
The same cycle path on Shoreline Drive was recently approved by Public Works staff and consultants to be built on the estuary side of Clement Avenue between Grand and Broadway. The city and consultant’s staff, all planners, stated there were no major flaws. This was concerning, in and of itself. But little did they know that their design was particularly dangerous. Neither the drivers nor the bicyclists would have had adequate stopping sight distances to stop safely (i.e. blind corners) and there were numerous violations of even the most minimum safety design criteria.
Further their design with only one lane (11 feet wide) in each direction required a complete shutdown of Clement Avenue for the regular wide deliveries to the marinas. Their design also added an extra signal phase just for bicycles which would have required a reduction in signal time for autos at Park Street- severely increasing delay for all Alamedans leaving the island in the morning through the Park Street/ Clement Avenue intersection. There was no mention whatsoever anywhere of this excessive increase in delay. Were they hoping Alamedans would not pay attention?
Residents and business owners went to the Transportation Commission on March 25th to fight for what was right. It is heartening the Transportation Commission turned down the City staff and consultant’s plan but with only a slim majority. Wouldn’t you agree Alamedans should not have to go to City Hall and tell staff and consultants that their work has major flaws and the plan is biased and unsafe?
Traffic safety issues are going unaddressed. Let me explain from personal experience. About 15 years ago, my Mom then in her early eighties, was hit by a bicyclist in a similar configuration as along Shoreline. She stepped out of the passenger side of the car into the path of bicyclist traveling quickly. Bicycles easily travel east along the new Shoreline path at 20 mph or much more with the usual tail wind. This too is in the same space where young children excitedly exit the cars to go to the beach.
Building a “commuter cycle” track on Shoreline was inappropriate and unsafe for a recreational trail along a beach. It is a commuter bicycle concept to save time not meant for recreation. A recreational trail should have been built like the one at Crissy Field or like those in Holland along beaches.
I beseech Alamedans to speak up to Council before these poorly designed roadway plans for Shoreline, Central and Clement Avenues cause serious injury. As I think you will agree, these roadway changes affect virtually every Alamedan. We applaud the efforts to make our roads safer. However, far greater care must be taken in keeping us safe. Roads must be designed by qualified civil engineers as required by State Law.