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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Yet Another Year Passes, Still No Horton Street Bike Boulevard

It's déjà vu all over again
December 31, 2015 is like December 31, 2014;
Bike Plan Still Being Ignored

Today, the Tattler brings back our ongoing end of December yearly feature: We re-post our September 2012 story (below) on Emeryville's Horton Street Bike Boulevard every December 31st and will continue until City Hall stops stalling and implements our Bike Plan as they are required to do.  This end-of-the-year feature serves 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 simply read the year end (short) synopsis in the italics preceding the September 2012 re-post every December 31st:  
I wake up every day, right here in 
Punxsutawney, and it's always 
February 2nd (or December 31st 
in Emeryville), and there's nothing 
I can do about it.

2015 Synopsis-

In 2015, nothing happened to implement the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.

In 1998, Emeryville adapted its Bike Plan after years of study and $200,000 spent on it.  In 2013, the City Council agreed to spend $10,000 to study the Bike Plan to figure out how to implement the Horton Street Bike Boulevard required by the Plan.  This $10,000 study is referred to as the 'study of the study'.  The Bike Plan doesn't call for any studies to be done to implement its requirements, it should be noted.  In 2014 City Hall held two community meetings about the study of the study but no action on Horton Street was taken that year or through to the end of 2015.  The 2013 authorized study of the study still hasn't even happened, raising doubts that the 12/31/16 re-post of this story will be any different than today's post.  
Especially disturbing this year is the fact that Emeryville voters elected the progressive City Council majority in 2014 and they have done nothing all year by way of delivering the Horton Street Bike Boulevard even though both Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue both campaigned as being very pro-bike. 

As a side note: In 2014, City Hall found out another Bike Boulevard, the 45th Street Bike Boulevard is also in violation due to too many cars on that street.  Nothing was done in 2015 to fix that problem either.

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 'neck-down'
called for by level 4 traffic calming.
The prescribed 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- way-finding signs, reduced delays at intersections
Level 3 Limited Traffic Calming- intersection bulb-outs
Level 4 Significant Traffic Calming- neck-downs
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.


  1. When are you gong to realize this is not what people want?

    1. One could draw that conclusion after having waited for almost 18 years for Horton Street bike facilities but the problem is that the Council keeps running for (re)-election saying they are pro-bike. Council members keep winning on that election platform. That tells us people DO want this for Horton Street (and now 45th Street). If the Council members want to get elected and then NOT do as they promised, that's not illegal, but they at least need to amend the Bike Plan to reflect that there will be no bike facilities for these streets. The streets need to return to regular streets if they have no will to follow the Plan. Amend or follow, ignoring is unacceptable.

  2. People do want traffic calming, esp. if you live on that street. Of course the "shortcut" people are offended that they cannot speed through your neighborhood. 45th Street now has "Chokers" installed and there is more traffic than ever, speeding, and auto's not stopping for stop signs at the roundabout's. A cheap solution for this would be a police presence in the Triangle Neighborhood and give a few tickets to the obnoxious ones, heck, they could even make money doing so.

    1. Thanks for responding. You should know, if the Bike Plan were followed, there would be no more than 1500 vehicle trips per day on 45th Street. The roundabouts on 45th are not chokers. A real choker works like a one way bridge allowing only one car at a time through. If we can ever get a City Council that is willing to follow the Bike Plan, this level 4 traffic calming will come to 45th Street.

    2. This summer 2015, someone, possibly the city, did conduct a car count on 45th Street. I wonder what the actual number was?, and why was it taken at the slowest traffic time of the year? Anyways, Happy New Year Tattler!

    3. Thanks!
      And just so you know, the traffic count was conducted by the developers of the Sherwin Williams project on Horton Street. That's the report that informs us that 45th Street is now in violation of the Bike Plan as per the number of allowable vehicles per day.