Get Involved in Walnut Creek's West Downtown Specific Plan

As part of its commitment to creating a vibrant, walkable, bikeable downtown with significant increase in housing and higher transit usage, Walnut Creek is moving along with plans for higher density, urban neighborhood in its West Downtown Area. To date there have been 3 public workshops focused on land use patterns in the West Downtown Area. In the Fall of 2013, the focus shifts to the street designs in the area, and that is where the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and our members will have a big influence on creating streets that are safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities.

We submitted a letter to the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, with our concerns and ideas to ensure streets are bike-friendly, such as California Blvd, Mt. Diablo Blvd, Olympic Blvd, and the interior streets of the plan area. If you have any questions or want to get involved, please contact EBBC’s Advocacy Director Dave Campbell.

Hundreds of residents are involved in this exciting process and most are supportive of a more walkable, more bikeable neighborhood. They have our support but we need you involved too.

To get involved, contact city planner Andrew Smith.

Contact Information:

Andrew M. Smith
Planning Division
1666 N. Main Street
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
asmith@walnut-creek.org

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East Bay Bicycle Coalition Letter of July 17, 2013

Citizens Advisory Committee

West Downtown Specific Plan
Walnut Creek CA

 

Re: West Downtown Specific Plan

Dear Citizens Advisory Committee for the West Downtown Specific Plan:

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition and our affiliated group Bike Walnut Creek are very interested in seeing the West Downtown Plan include modern, American-class streetscape designs that are safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities to bicycle. We specifically urge you to include such designs for California Blvd, Mt Diablo Blvd, Olympic Blvd and any interior streets that will see significant traffic. Such designs will of course be consistent with Walnut Creek’s Complete Streets Policy, which states:

“The City of Walnut Creek expresses its commitment to creating and maintaining Complete Streets that provide safe, comfortable, and convenient travel along and across all City streets…”

Such complete streets designs are a required part of funding agreements from the One Bay Area Grant program and the regional Plan Bay Area. The awarding of regional money is contingent upon local cities designing complete streets, that is streets safe for everyone, including bicyclists.

To achieve the types of complete streets that residents of Walnut Creek have been voicing support for at the public workshops to date, we strongly encourage you to look at the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide for best practices in North American modern urban bikeway improvements: http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/. This tool is invaluable in re-designing streets that work for people on bikes, and is particularly useful in ensuring intersections allow for safe turning movements with reduced car conflicts.

As you move toward the streetscape design part of the process, there are some additional important specifications we urge you to consider:

  1. Please avoid center landscaped medians. Our organizations support more greenery on streets, but this greenery should be along the sides of streets and not in the middle. It is much preferable from a bicycling perspective to place greenery along sidewalks and within parking bays. This avoids breaking up the street, as well-intentioned as that notion is, and rather brings the street together and makes it more of a place and a better place for people. Equally important, it avoids saddling future generations with a street that cannot easily be modified to add bike lanes or adjust to changing conditions, without expensive streetscape work. Place needed greenery along the sides of streets.
  2. Bicycle improvements must be selected based upon traffic speeds and volumes. Every street should be bike friendly. For streets that are calmer – neighborhood streets, with traffic speeds around 20 mph and lower traffic volumes –  a shared street configuration is fine. However, where traffic speeds exceed 20 mph or traffic volumes are higher, a bike lane should be included on every street, with no exceptions. Where traffic speeds exceed 30 mph, a buffered or physically protected bike lane is necessary in order to create the type of safe roadway experience that will encourage more trips by bike. Since all of arterial streets within the West Downtown Plan have higher speeds and higher traffic volumes, protected bikeways are needed.
  3. For California Blvd in particular, we urge you to design a protected bikeway (i.e. cycle track), due to its high traffic volumes and speeds. Here is a link to design guidelines for Cycle Tracks: http://nacto.org/cities-for-cycling/design-guide/cycle-tracks/. The only way to make California Blvd safe for bicycling for people of all ages and abilities is to design a protected bike lane with a physical barrier between bikes and cars so that Walnut Creek residents feel comfortable bicycling on this busy street. Many cities in the Bay Area are designing such bikeways and local bike/ped planning firms are well-versed in their application. It is time for Walnut Creek to design a busy street that is truly bikeable.
  4. Concord has proposed protected bikeway designs for Clayton Rd, Pacheco St and Grant St. in their downtown. These modern bikeways will provide much-needed bike connectivity between Todos Santos Park and the Concord BART Station. Similarly, Pleasant Hill is designing separated bike lanes on Contra Costa Blvd, and 11 additional cities in the East Bay are planning modern, innovative bikeways. As these nearby cities plan for modern urban bikeways, Walnut Creek needs to keep pace in order to continue to attract employers and maintain a strong economic base.
  5. We strongly support the bike/ped bridge over Ygnacio Valley Rd from N. California Blvd. or from the end of Lacassie Ave. and urge you to include in this Plan the needed connection from this bike route into Downtown Walnut Creek and the Iron Horse Trail.
  6. Improving bicycle facilities not only benefits cyclists, but it also benefits motorists due to the decrease in traffic congestion and the demand for vehicular parking spaces. Consider that on Bike To Work Day this year, more than 400 bicyclists passed through the intersection of the Iron Horse Trail and the Contra Costa Canal Trail.  That’s 400 fewer vehicles on the road during the peak morning rush hour of 6:30-9am.  Bike Walnut Creek conducted a bicycle count during the same week, and counted 18 bicyclists riding on Newell Avenue between Main St. and California Blvd during the evening rush hour (5-7pm). Newell Avenue has sharrows, which forces cyclists to share the lane with motorists at high traffic speeds (35 mph) and no shoulder. This contrasts greatly when during the same time period, 208 bicyclists (eleven times as many) were counted on the Contra Costa Canal trail (between Cherry and the Iron Horse trail). Evidence shows that people in Walnut Creek are more willing to ride on protected infrastructure. This local data is consistent with national research on modern bikeway designs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ytdb71FLQoE John Pucher Ph.D., Rutgers University.
  7. Olympic Blvd is of particular importance because it is being studied as a potential connection between Lafayette and Walnut Creek. This future bikeway needs to be designed to accommodate people of all ages and abilities on a low-stress, comfortable bikeway. The West Downtown Plan should allow for such a potential new bikeway on Olympic Blvd. http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_22254625/connection-between-iron-horse-lafayette-moraga-trails-be
  8. Oakland Blvd can be improved as a bikeway, but we don’t want this street to receive undue priority. The other major streets in and around the West Downtown Plan are more important. That said, Oakland Blvd should be safe for bicycling.

Thank you very much for your consideration of these important bikeway design points and concepts and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and Bike Walnut Creek will always be a resource for the work you are doing to make Walnut Creek a more walkable, more bikeable city served by good transit.

Cordially yours,

Signature

Dave Campbell

Advocacy Director

East Bay Bicycle Coalition

 

cc: Bike Walnut Creek

Andrew Smith, City of Walnut Creek

File attachment: Image icon 2012guidance_protectedcycletrack-2.jpg Walnut Creek