People Don't Like To Live Near
Public Bike/Pedestrian Paths
So Should We Not Have Paths?Opinion
Last week, the Emeryville city council voted NO to two bike/pedstrian paths that the General Plan says should be installed. The council faced angry neighbors, so they're going to amend the General Plan to get rid of the two paths. It seems a rash decision, even though we recognize there's a cynical logic to it.
Think about it...if you live right next to a public bike/pedestrian path there's going to be some downside: noise, litter, lessening of privacy and possible criminal activity. It's understandable how people that live near these paths would think the downside outweighs the upside. But what about everyone else? Well, for them, a bike/ped path in their neighborhood would be just upside.
So how should a city council decide about the fate of such paths?
the city council listens to the complainers, not everyone else...at least when it comes time to consider a bike/ped path. The council has its own upside/downside calculations to make. The upside for the council is they get to mollify angry neighbors, the down side is...well there's no downside to saying NO to these paths.
Without a newspaper in town and as a result of the general ignorance among the residents about how the council conducts the public's business; the council takes the path...the path of least resistance. But is the general public being well served by this kind of politics?
We say no.
We don't think the city council should be able to cheapen the public realm and get away clean like they do. We think there should be a price to be paid for disregarding the general public's interests just like there's a price they must pay when they go against angry residents at the council chambers. Otherwise, we get the kind of town we now find ourselves in, politics conducted by cowardly council members controlled by the lowest common denominator.
We expect the council to try to work with angry residents who may feel put upon by the imposition of a public amenity such as these paths represent. Compromising can be done to help ameliorate the worst effects on the immediate neighbors. Things like building privacy and sound walls, not allowing hiding places for criminals, lighting that doesn't bleed into private property, and so on.
Depriving Emeryville residents of much needed and wanted bike/ped connections like the council is doing is a low minded, knee-jerk reaction that should not be tolerated. And what of our new General Plan that informs the council on how to build a connected city? Is this the kind of piddling and political amending we should be doing? Again, we say no.