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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year Passes, Still No Horton Street Bike Boulevard

It's déjà vu all over again:
December 31, 2013 Is Like December 31, 2012
Bike Plan Still Being Ignored

The Tattler introduces a new feature:  We're going to re-post our September 2012 story on Emeryville's Horton Street Bike Boulevard every December 31st until City Hall stops stalling and implements our Bike Plan as they are required to do (see the story below for details).  This feature will act as an annual clearinghouse for any news on the hold up of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard over the previous year.   Readers bored or exasperated with the ongoing story of City Hall inaction on Horton Street can now simply read the year end (short) synopsis in the italics preceding the September 2012 re-post.  
I wake up every day, right here in Punxsutawney,
and it's always February 2nd, 
there's nothing I can do about it.

This year the City Council, under pressure from the Bike Committee, didn't implement the Bike Plan but directed that a $10,000 "study of the study" be performed.  The new study means residents waiting for the Horton Street Bike Boulevard are no longer waiting for the Plan to be implemented but rather they're waiting on the adjunct study to be completed.
If the Bike Committee remains vigilant over 2014, perhaps residents next December 31st will be waiting on a "study of the study of the study".  We'll just have to wait and see.  Check back on December 31, 2014 to get the latest report on Godot...uh...the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.

Here then is the September 29th, 2012 Tattler story:

Major Traffic Calming Long Past Due For Horton Street

Emeryville's premiere bicycle thoroughfare, the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, has so much high speed traffic that it has become unsafe for bicycling.  So says Alta Planning, a Berkeley based urban bike network design firm that was commissioned by the City of Emeryville to study bicycling in town.  The $200,000 study, now incorporated into Emeryville's Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan and adopted into law by the city council lays waiting, ready to be implemented.
The question is, will it really be implemented or will it languish in some dusty corner at City Hall as so many other expensive studies have done?  Given the city council's baleful history of failing to calm the traffic on Horton Street for bicycle traffic and working to improve the street for vehicle use at the expense of bicycling, it seems likely it will be ignored and will remain a major automobile thoroughfare, unsafe for bicycles and becoming increasingly more so over time.  

Central to the Alta study is a limit on the number of cars that may use Horton Street, set at 3000 vehicles per day, before a mandatory set of traffic calming procedures kicks in.  The idea is that the traffic calming fixes will lower the number of vehicles that use the bike boulevard down below the 3000 maximum.  It should be noted Emeryville's 3000 number earmarked for bike boulevards is larger than any other city in the Bay Area. 

A choker is an example of a 'neckdown'
called for by level 4 traffic calming.
The prescibed traffic calming comes in a series of increasingly interventionist levels, one through five, that reduces traffic volume and speed, the last such level resulting in a total diversion for through traffic.  Each level requires two years to adequately assess its efficacy.  

At this point, Horton Street has already gone through the first three traffic calming levels; these involve street stenciling, signage and intersection "bulb-outs".  Now, since traffic has not subsided on Horton (it's actually increased), it's time for level 4 traffic calming to be implemented according to the Plan.
Level 4 calls for "significant traffic calming", specifically, 'neck downs' or traffic limiters such as 'chokers', designed to act like a one lane bridge permitting only one car through at a time.

Here's what the Bike Plan calls for on Emeryville's bike boulevards:

Level 1 Basic Bicycle Boulevard- signs, pavement markings
Level 2 Enhanced Bicycle Boulevard- wayfinding signs, reduced delays at intersections
Level 3 Limited Traffic Calming- intersection bulbouts
Level 4 Significant Traffic Calming- neckdowns
Level 5 Traffic Diversion

Level 5 calls for diverters: This
is called out only if level 4 doesn't
work after two years.
The problem is the Bike Committee has already twice voted on significant traffic calming for Horton Street in years past.  Both times the city council has overridden the committee's findings.  The last time the committee voted unanimously to add such calming, councilwoman Nora Davis explained her veto to the committee, "I have no problem putting paint on the asphalt [pavement markings]" but anything more dramatic than that would draw a veto from her and consequently also from the council majority.

In the intervening two and a half years since the last council veto shutting down Horton Street traffic calming, the city has commissioned and now encoded the $200,000 Alta study.

While we acknowledge Ms Davis' forthrightness in explaining to the people why they shouldn't expect safe biking routes in town, we call on the rest of the council to abide by the new Bike Plan they have adopted.  The fact that other such documents have been subverted in the past by the council should not serve as a precedent for inaction on Horton Street.  It's never too late to start working towards livability and rational public policy.  Let's make bicycling safe on the Horton Street Bicycle Boulevard.  It's time for a choker on Horton Street.

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