Law ignored; Council Scuttles Bike Plan On Horton Street
After months of rebuilding, the contractors are completing work on Horton Street in the Park Avenue area and it's finally ready to paint the center line striping and stenciling for parking on the fresh asphalt but they're not going to paint bike lanes, even though the law mandates that they be placed there.
For years, local business owners and car advocates have made their wishes known to the council that the city's Bike Plan, a legal document, be changed to get rid of the bike lanes slated for that section of Horton Street in favor of more car parking. At their May 18th meeting, the council showed they had no problem getting rid of the bike lanes but amending the Bike Plan, something required to legally remove the lanes, proved more then they were willing to do.
Sensing governmental impropriety, Council Member Jennifer West interceded with an attempt to force a vote among her colleagues at the May 18th meeting but was rebuffed by the other four council members. Ms West indicated that the council is entitled to remove bike lanes city-wide at its pleasure but to legally do so they are required to amend the Bike Plan, which calls for bike lanes on that stretch of Horton Street. Her colleagues demurred.
Responding to charges that her colleagues didn't want to make a public anti-bike vote by amending the Plan to get rid of the lanes, Ms West acknowledged to the Tattler that she thought Emeryville residents wouldn't appreciate seeing their council members voting against biking, "They (the other council members) are aware it wouldn't look good" she said. She added "it's probably true" that they refused to make the vote to amend the Plan to keep the public's impression of them favorable. "I can see an argument against amending a plan that's soon to be replaced anyway, however it would be prudent to amend the Bike Plan to reflect the reality of what is being placed on the street" she said.
Never mind the fact that the Bike Plan is law and must be obeyed.
The staff, normally sticklers for proper procedural decorum remained silent at the May 18th meeting as the council members debated the prudence of proceeding to strip the street of its required bike lanes without a vote to amend the Bike Plan, a clear violation of the law. "I didn't feel it was necessary to comment" said Planning Director Charlie Bryant by way of explaining his silence on the matter.
The city's Bike/Pedestrian Committee voted unanimously to retain the bike lanes on this section of Horton Street after pressure mounted from the business community to remove them last year.
The Bike/Pedestrian Plan was certified by the council in 1998 and is a legal planning document for all bike matters in the city. The city has commissioned a yet-to-be announced urban planning firm to upgrade the Plan at a cost of $200,000, expected to be complete sometime in the summer of 2011.