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Pleasanton to Fix Treacherous Gap in Iron Horse Trail

Author: Bike East Bay

Date: September 15, 2016

On Tuesday, September 13, Pleasanton’s City Council voted unanimously to add green painted bike crossings at the the intersection of Stanley Boulevard, Valley Avenue, and Bernal Avenue, where a fatal bicycle crash occurred in June. This near term fix will be followed by a plan to install a protected intersection at this crucial gap in the Iron Horse Trail.

Since June, Pleasanton residents have been pressuring the city to move forward with a fix at that intersection while also working toward updating the city’s bike plan with a complete network of low stress bikeways. The hard work and advocacy has paid off. More than 90 members of the Pleasanton community packed City Council chambers for a special meeting on the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan Tuesday night. One speaker, a young student from Pleasanton Middle School, asked the Council plainly, “Should a death cause a community to start making safer roads? We should have started before any accidents occurred.”

Bike East Bay thanks our partners at Bike Pleasanton for getting the word out to the longtime residents, middle school students, and young parents who showed up and spoke powerfully in favor of a forward-looking bike plan. The plan will go to Council for approval in December following one more community workshop in November. You can follow Bike Pleasanton and sign up for Bike East Bay’s online newsletter to stay up to date on meeting dates and opportunities for action.

A Solid Proposal from City Staff

Mike Tassano, Pleasanton’s traffic engineer, gave an excellent presentation on the major features of the bike plan update, and explained a near-, medium- and long-term redesign options for the intersection of Stanley, Valley, and Bernal, which is also a gap in the Iron Horse Trail. The near-term design he proposed to Council is very similar to the one Bike East Bay asked for in a response letter following the fatal crash in June. Even better, the medium-term solution features a protected intersection, which would be the first in the Tri-Valley.

The master plan draft includes several protected bikeways and aims to create an “all ages and abilities” network for bicycle access throughout Pleasanton.

Pleasanton Youth Speak for Better Bikeways

The real excitement came with community comments, more than an hour into the meeting. After waiting patiently, students from Pleasanton Middle School began marching to the podium, one after another, to speak on bicycle safety.

One Pleasanton Middle School student expressed her desire for transportation independence: “Fixing these streets would make me want to ride my bike more often. I need to be able to be independent. I need my parents to be okay with me going downtown by myself. I love going downtown and I also love riding my bike.”

Though many of the young speakers could barely see over the podium, their voices were big, steady, and clear: we want to ride and we want to ride safely.

Middle school teacher and parent Rebecca McLaughlin hit the point home: “Our students need to be able to bike to school. Such a better option. My daughter wants to ride her bike to Pleasanton Middle School, but there is no way. We would like access. It needs to happen for the rest of us, and not just experienced cyclists.” Members of the community, young and old, spoke on specific intersections, roadways, and barriers to bicycling, all with the overarching message that the existing narrow, on-street bike lanes were not enough to make riders of all ages and abilities feel safe.

Amador Valley High School and Pleasanton Middle School students made the strongest impression, showing Council that bicycle infrastructure is for everyone.

Though the mood in the room was one of urgency, the proposal for the Stanley Boulevard intersection and the excellent master plan draft gave residents some concrete plans to get excited about. Bicyclist John Houston said after the meeting, “to witness the power of community influence first hand was amazing. Truly democracy in action.”

City Council Votes

After two hours of discussion, Mayor Thorne gave final comments, expressing his support for the project. “I’m not a cyclist–I don’t even own a bike,” he said. “But if we did have safer facilities I might actually buy one.” It took the full willpower of every audience member to resist erupting into cheers.

At 8:43pm, after all students had gone home to do their schoolwork and get ready for bed, Councilmember Jerry Pentin made the motion to direct staff to begin work on the near- and medium-term fixes at Stanley Boulevard, Valley Avenue, and Bernal Avenue. As part of the motion, he asked that a long-term redesign be incorporated into the upcoming bike plan. After a second from Councilmember Karla Brown, the motion passed unanimously to enthusiastic applause.

Next Steps

With the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan update still in progress, the city still needs community input on priority corridors and bikeway designs. What you can do:

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