An unusual thing happened at San Leandro City Council May 23 at their first work session on the draft Bay Fair BART Specific Plan. Council members were not only in support of protected bike lanes on three busy streets around the Bay Fair BART Station: Hesperian Blvd, E.14th Street and Fairmont Drive, they wanted the bike lanes wider, more separated and more protected. It was practically unanimous and no Councilmember expressed concern about removal of travel lanes to make room for protected bike lanes. Rather, they voiced concern about one proposal for sharrows pavement markings northbound on E.14th Street in lieu of a bike lane. We need more city councils like this.
The Bay Fair BART Specific Plan is early in the design phase, led by the city’s Planning Department, and little traffic analysis has been done to comfort the city’s traffic engineer. That will come later. As such, there is still much more work to do and many opportunities for input.
A community workshop is planned for Fall this year, followed by more technical analysis over the Winter, including the traffic issues. Final adoption is expected Summer 2017. Bike East Bay expects there to be pushback against repurposing travel lanes for protected bike lanes. If traffic analysis is favorable, San Leandro should be poised by at least as early as next Winter to start applying for grant funds to redesign the streets. Future developer fees can also help fund the changes.
Like the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan and many similar plans, bold visions for reimagining downtowns pit planners against traffic engineers. Planners envision an area with streets redesigned for people first, and then traffic engineers say it won’t work because everyone will still drive and some local merhcants with misperceptions of driving say their customers need to park. Berkeley recently dealt with this issue in a horrific way on Fulton Street where its Downtown Plan called for bike lanes, but engineering said no, the need to move cars is too great. Megan Schwarzman was hit by a car. Oakland is currently dealing with this challenge on 14th Street where planning envisions the graphic to the right–beautiful protected bike lanes and a much more customer-friendly street, but engineering says “we first have to do a traffic study.” Bike East Bay is closely working with Oakland to minimize this traffic study and hope to have it 35% complete this year. Concord also did a downtown plan that included many streets around Todos Santos Plaza redesigned for better walking and bicycling, but traffic engineering is prioritizing moving thru traffic over Concord’s own residents.
San Leandro will soon address this issue and that is why your involvement and support is critical. Get involved in Bike Walk San Leandro.
The timing is right for all this as the State of California and local municipalities rewrite their rules for how to plan for future traffic. The State has released draft rules that no longer require cities to prioritize speeding traffic–they can prioritize walkable neighborhoods and better balance of jobs and nearby housing. Bike East Bay supports this new approach. More on this topic soon.