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