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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Another Year Passes, Still No Horton Street Bike Boulevard

It's déjà vu all over again
December 31, 2016 is like December 31, 2015;
Bike Plan Still Being Ignored

Today, the Tattler brings back our ongoing end of December yearly feature: We re-post our original September 2012 story (below in non-italicized print) on Emeryville's Horton Street Bike Boulevard every December 31st and will continue every year until City Hall either stops stalling and implements our Bike Plan or if they refuse, amend our Bike Plan and remove Horton's Bike Boulevard status, additionally they could amend the Plan to allow more than 3000 vehicle trips per day on Bike Boulevards.  Those are their only choices available as dictated by the Plan.  Stalling is not allowed.  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 synopsis in the italics preceding the September 2012 re-post every December 31st here: 

2016 Synopsis-
"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."

In 2016, the Horton Street Bike Boulevard finally died with the signing of the Sherwin Williams Statement of Overriding Considerations. Before that fateful day, the City Council voted to place Level Three traffic calming measures in the form of three temporary speed bumps along Horton Street between 45th Street and 53rd Street.  The bumps went in in November.  It represented no forward movement for the implementation of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard because Horton Street was already at Level Three and because the street still remains substantially more than 3000 vehicle trips per day (the cut off point where a street can be called a bike boulevard).  The speed bumps have been called out as unlikely to succeed in bringing down the volume of traffic by Alta Planning, the writers of Emeryville's $200,000 Bike Plan but may cause vehicle speed to be reduced.  Additionally, the Level Three speed bumps are counter to what Mayor Scott Donahue and Councilwoman Dianne Martinez promised voters in 2014 when they said they would move Horton Street to Level Four traffic calming (chicanes or chokers).  Notably, City Engineer Maurice Kaufman said he would not allow any Level Four or Level Five traffic diversion in Emeryville regardless of the Bike Plan's requirements for it.  But the most important event of 2016 is the Sherwin Williams decision and it's Statement of Overriding Considerations signed by the City Council that says Horton Street will have 4000 vehicle trips per day forever (with more coming every year) rendering a bike boulevard impossible for Horton Street.  This year end wrap up at the Tattler will continue until the City Council finally amends our Bike Plan and removes the bike boulevard status for Horton Street returning it to a regular street.

In 1998, Emeryville adapted its Bike Plan after years of study and $200,000  subsequently 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 the next year (finally came in the form of the November 2016 speed bumps).  Also 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 has been done to rectify that either.  The Tattler investigation of the 45th Street and Horton Street problems was revealed when we reported the City Engineer lied to the City Manager to stop the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.  

Here then is the September 29th, 2012 Tattler story we re-print every December 31st:

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. You seem to be fighting the "Tide". The only simple way to conquer it would be to go with the flow. Try it.

    1. If you re-read the first part, you'll see I'm giving the City Council three choices:
      1) Follow the Bike Plan
      2) Amend the Plan to make more vehicles on a bike blvd legal
      3) Amend the Plan to get rid of non-complying bike blvds
      I don't see how I can be any more Taoist than that and still call what they do public policy.

  2. Don't worry Brian- By the time the City gets around to making a decision on the Bike plan, all of the traffic will be gone because people will be using flying cars. You will have Horton Street all to yourself.

    1. Yes, it IS in the (bad) politicians interest to continue to kick this can down the road. Anytime they do something, someone's toes get stepped on. That's the nature of elected political office of course. It's so much easier to do nothing than to risk special interest uprising and the resultant possible loss of personal power.

  3. What's the point anyways? Until cyclists start following the laws, this is an exercise in futility.

    1. Yes, people break the law. Does that mean we need to dispel law? Have you ever seen a car roll through a stop sign without coming to a complete stop? If you have, does that mean allowing cars to use roads is an exercise in futility? Should we stop cars from using roads because they run stop signs? Until drivers start following the laws, this is an exercise in futility, right?.