Mountain View Voice

News - January 18, 2013

Council narrowly approves pedestrian plan

by Daniel DeBolt

The City Council approved Mountain View's first Pedestrian Master Plan on Tuesday.

Though bike and pedestrian advocates said it lacked detail, the plan was nearly voted down by City Council members who said it had too much.

In a 4-2 vote with Mike Kasperzak absent, council members approved the plan. John McAlister provided a surprise swing vote. Council members also voted to have the city's bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee add "goals, priorities and measurable results" to the plan, for review by the council next year.

Road diet debate

The plan describes the city's existing infrastructure of trails, paths and road crossings as well as general goals and policies for improvement. The most contentious issue in the plan was a list of "road diets" streets that could be narrowed to calm traffic and make room for protected bike lanes.

McAlister and Abe-Koga wanted the list removed.

"I am not comfortable with including potential projects that have not been vetted," Abe-Koga said. City Manager Dan Rich provided a compromise it would be made clear that the list of road diets was simply a list of examples, not proposals. Public works director Mike Fuller explained that city staff sometimes apply for grants for such projects with the idea that "the worst that could happen" is the council will reject a project that has won a grant.

Bryant told the hesitant council members, "I don't find this list scary because this is not a decision we're making about these projects."

McAlister didn't explain why he was swayed, but has questioned the idea of narrowing streets as the city grows.

Former Mayor Matt Pear, whose family owns the land on Showers Drive where Target sits, opposed the inclusion of Showers Drive on the road diet list.

"If you want to drive out business, that's a good way to do it," Pear said of reducing Showers from four lanes to two.

Senior traffic engineer Sayed Fakhry said traffic flow on Showers was less than 12,000 trips a day, making one lane in each direction on Showers adequate.

Fakhry added that four-lane streets that lack a center turn lane, such as California Street, could have better traffic flow by reducing the street to one lane in each direction with a turn lane in the center.

"Say if you have two lanes in each direction and the faster lane has a lot of left turns that creates a lot of unsafe situations" as cars stop in the middle of a fast moving traffic to turn, Fakhry said.

Advocates of road diets say the city's major streets allow drivers to feel comfortable driving unsafe speeds, as evident in recent pedestrian deaths. A graph in the plan notes that pedestrians have only a five percent chance of death when hit by car going 20 miles per hour, but the risk jumps to 40 percent at 30 miles per hour and over 80 percent when a car is going over 40 miles per hour.

Goals needed

Even though Abe-Koga opposed the road diets, she summed up many comments when she said the plan is "a good start, but I really would hope we can add meat to this document."

"It is lacking in some solid measurable goals, like by a certain year we're going to have this done or that done," said Bruce England, a member of the bicycle and pedestrian advisory commission.

Resident Wendee Crofoot said a potential goal could be "50 percent less pedestrian collisions in five years or zero deaths next year." Then city officials would have to ask, "Why are we building this trial, is it hitting our goals? There's a lot of ways we can build on streets to meet these goals."

Crofoot helped launch Great Streets Rengstorff Park, an effort which has called for "complete streets" in the city's densest residential neighborhood, as well as the narrowing of California Street following two pedestrian deaths there last year.

Council member Ronit Bryant pointed to the example of the city's parks and open space plan, which states goals about having parks within walking distance of everyone in the city and notes what areas are deficient in parks space

The pedestrian plan should include "the most important places to look at pedestrian issues," Bryant said. "Maybe near schools or areas that have highest residential density. Streets where we've had the most bicycle and pedestrian collisions."

"I would like this document to be an advocacy document that says we will make Mountain View a very walkable city," Bryant said.

Resident Don Bahl questioned the need for the plan. "Why do we have a BPAC and no automobile commission that would represent the 95 percent? This is tyranny of the 5 percent."

Resident Jarrett Mullen called Bahl's thinking "outdated." Without a good plan, there will be "greater congestion, more air pollution and higher traffic fatalities," he said.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by Cuesta Resident, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 17, 2013 at 5:16 pm

We need to balance reasonable ped/bike safety with reasonable traffic and commute.

Too much of this is couched in extremist views. If you really want to prevent ped/bike deaths, lets set a goal of zero - and then either make driving illegal or make walking/biking illegal - problem solved!

Far better is to look at ways to improve safety for the small percentage of people who bike/walk (versus drive) by looking at things that will not impact (or have the least impact) on drivers.


Posted by William Symons, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Great Job Council. Glad to see the city favor making MV more pedestrian and bike safe. I am happy to see even a loosely assembled plan pass, rather than NOTHING pass due to disagreement. This is how change happens. Start with what you have, and grow on it!

It always seemed to me the city generally defaulted to favoring vehicles as priority. MV will never be an outstanding responsible model 21st century city, if vehicular traffic continues to rule all the roadways.

Me and Sayed Fakhry have never seen eye to eye, but he makes good common sense points here.

And in True diverse MV community fashion, i the council chambers, and here on the forum, I see several vehicular traffic I-hate-change advocates have made their points very clear:-)


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