Search The Tattler

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Internal Document at City Hall Reveals Clandestine Attempt to Overturn Emeryville Bike Plan

Public Works Department Subverts Bike Plan 

Smoking Gun Document Shows a Department Bent On Torpedoing Settled Bike Policy

A damning internal City Hall document obtained by the Tattler Thursday reveals a rogue Public Works Department attempting to misdirect the newly hired Emeryville City Manager in order to subvert and ratchet back Emeryville's Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan.  The document, a letter from a Public Works employee to City Manager Carolyn Lehr, was sent in response to a public request to conduct a traffic count on 45th Street, a street designated as a bike boulevard, and was meant to assure Ms Lehr no such traffic count is prescribed by the Bike Plan, a patently false claim.

In the letter obtained by a Public Records Request, the employee falsely tells Ms Lehr other than in case of "significant community concern", the only circumstance when the City should conduct traffic counts on 45th Street or any other bike boulevard in Emeryville is when, "significant development occurs on or near that boulevard."  In fact the Bike Plan actually says unequivocally, "[Traffic] counts should be conducted every two years."

Noteworthy is that the Bike Plan prescribes a course of traffic calming action, as is the case for all seven bike boulevards in Emeryville that are found to have an excess amount of traffic, for the 45th Street Bike Boulevard that being a maximum of 1500 vehicle trips per day.  If the street were to be found to have more than this volume of traffic, a regime of traffic calming measures would be automatically initiated as called for by the Bike Plan.  The letter would remove Emeryville's capacity to determine when traffic calming is called for, leaving bicyclists in danger on bike boulevards with gross excess vehicular traffic.

The Bike Plan provides for up to five levels of traffic calming on bike boulevards meant to keep traffic volumes below the maximum allowable for each boulevard.  Traffic calming starts with simple signage and progresses up to level five traffic diverters.  The idea is that on bike boulevards bikes are preferred although cars are allowed so long as the maximum number of cars per day is not reached. Up to two years between each level are called for to study the effects on traffic.
The main north/south bike boulevard in Emeryville, the Horton/Overland Bike Boulevard has been in violation due to excess car traffic for at least ten years and has been a source of friction between the Bike Committee and bike interests versus the Public Works Department.  Decision makers at City Hall have not been able to move Horton Street past level three traffic calming even though the Bike Plan clearly calls for it.  The Horton Street recalcitrance has cast a pall on bicycling as a viable mode of transportation in Emeryville.

Public Works Dept: Increasing Traffic Not Possible
Besides misleading the City Manager about the need for a traffic count on the 45th Street Bike boulevard, the Public Works Department, by falsely presenting the requirement for development on or near bike boulevards to trigger a traffic count, a bizarre and unfounded finding of fact is presented that it is inconceivable that traffic might increase over time in the absence of a development project on or near the street in question.  This premise has been shown to be patently false in the Bay Area over the years.  What has been indicated is an increasing number of vehicles using city streets as the aggregate population in municipalities and the region increases.

Maurice Kaufman, Emeryville's Director of Public Works and the ultimate progenitor of the letter to Ms Lehr it should be noted, has expressed concern over bike boulevards in the past.  He has indicated to the Tattler his job is to make traffic in Emeryville flow more efficiently and he's noted although bikes are not a problem, traffic calming over level three would begin to severely impede the flow of vehicles, something he has said he is duty bound to prevent.
Mr Kaufman is on vacation and unavailable for comment for this story.

The letter to the City Manager omits the Bike Plan's direction for traffic counts every two years on Emeryville's bike boulevards and instead jumps to a section that adds on to that a further requirement to conduct traffic counts when development has occurred.  From the letter dated July 17th:
"...The plan says that the City should collect traffic data when significant development occurs on/near that boulevard or when substantial community concern is brought to the City.  Our last traffic counts on 45th Street were in 2008, and volume did not exceed the goal of 1,500 average daily vehicle trips.  There has been no significant development in the area that would suggest traffic has changed substantially."
From the actual Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan:
As noted in Chapter 4, Section 4.4.3, the City should regularly monitor traffic volumes, and speeds on its bicycle boulevards to determine if they are meeting the goals listed above or not. Counts should be conducted every two years. If a bicycle boulevard goal is not met, the City should consider treatments that will allow the bicycle boulevard to meet goals. If additional treatments are not possible, or if treatments are unlikely to result in conditions that meet the above goals, the City should consider a different type of bicycle facility. Emeryville should collect this data and evaluate each bicycle boulevard in the case of any of the following:
  • Development occurs that is projected to increase motor vehicle volumes on the bicycle boulevard 
  • The Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan is updated 
  • Substantial community concern is brought to the City 


  1. There has been development near 45th since 2008! The new section of Bakery Lofts for example. So, above and beyond your points, the Public Works staff is also apparently blind to nearby development that could clearly increase traffic!

    1. This is true...a huge amount of residential development has occurred on 45th Street or within one block since 2008. I didn't mention it because I'm planning on doing a follow up story with this raised. The staff at Public Works is aware of the development of course but they don't want that inconvenient fact to force traffic calming most likely. Traffic calming past level three is the big bugaboo that must be avoided it would seem. But guess what? We're going to get our Bike Plan adhered to or we're going to force the Council to amend it. We're not going to let the Plan to continue to be ignored. Watch the Tattler for more. Thanks for commenting and pointing out the obvious.

  2. I'd normally read this but your credibility on the subject has been damaged when you wrote the community voted for a level 5 diverter in front of your residence which was a clear lie. I'd post this on your own blog but you'd just censor me.
    -written by Rob Arias but posted by Brian Donahue

    1. Notice to readers-
      I took the liberty to post the above comment from Rob Arias because he doesn't believe I would post least he says he doesn't believe it. I'll use this opportunity to again clarify the Tattler comment policy: all comments are posted except ones that engage in personal attacks. The only exception is when commenters personally attack me. I'll post every one of those. So feel free to impugn my caractor of engage in name calling against me....but only me.
      Mr Arias is incorrect in his assertion about censorship here at the Tattler. Readers should know this allegation has been made by several right wingers in town over the years but it's just a meme meant to discredit the Tattler. If anyone doubts this, I encourage them to test it by making any comments they feel, especially those from right wingers who might believe I would feel uncomfortable posting. Of course these people can also not do this and just go on with their false accusations if they wish.

  3. Rob Arias made a false allegation above when he said I said "the community voted for a level five diverted in front of [my] residence". The community DID vote for level five diverters for Horton Street but they did not specify where on the street.
    Mr Arias is free to disbelieve the letter posted in the story but it's quite easy to check. He could do a Public Records Request himself...or he can continue to sling mud and engage in baseless ad hominem vitriol. If he's interested in HIS credibility, he should first check his facts before he goes around half cocked. Just a suggestion.

  4. FYI, I have worked with Maurice Kaufman in the past and he commutes to work via bicycle, so trying to label him a bike hater is disingenuous. I would argue that he has a better understanding of his job than you do.

    1. OK, first of all, I didn't say Mr Kaufman is a 'bike hater". But I have suggested Maurice Kaufman is a Level 4 and Level 5 traffic calming hater (at least in Emeryville). Because he said as much himself.

      If you want to draw attention to where I've posted something not factual, please feel free to provide evidence and if it checks out, the Tattler will post a retraction. Just show where there's been incorrect reporting.

      And as far as Maurice knowing his job; he incorrectly reported to the City Manager traffic counts on Emeryville Bike Boulevards should only happen if there has been construction on or near a boulevard or if there has been substantial resident complaints. That is incorrect and presumably Maurice didn't know it (unless you want to assert he purposely misinformed the new City Manager). So in this particular case, I do know more than Maurice Kaufman about his job than he does, since knowing the Bike Plan squarely falls within his know it is part of the job description, for which he's quite well paid.