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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mayor Announces No More Bike Boulevards, Yes to Protected Bike Lanes

Two Year Countdown Clock Runs Out For Emeryville to Build Bike Boulevards

Mayor Responds: No More Bike Boulevards

The Mayor of Emeryville has taken a missed deadline in the City’s Bicycle Plan yesterday to announce she will explore finally scrapping Emeryville’s entire bike boulevard system in favor of a system of ‘protected’ bike lanes.  Mayor Ally Medina, who also serves as Council liaison to Emeryville’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), made the surprising announcement in a recent interview with the Tattler in response to probing questions over the City’s recalcitrance providing traffic calming for the 45th and 53rd street bike boulevards.  The two streets are now past due to receive ‘Level Four’ traffic calming measures owing to an excess of vehicle traffic discovered during a City commissioned measurement of traffic two years ago.  Instead of providing traffic calming for the two streets, Mayor Medina indicated she will direct the BPAC to start discussions over amending the Bike Plan with an eye towards finally removing all bike boulevards, an idea she says has not worked well in Emeryville.

Mayor Ally Medina
She says bike boulevards'
time has come and gone
in Emeryville.
Bike boulevards are streets that allow vehicle traffic but are set up primarily for bike travel.  Vehicles and bikes share the street on a bike boulevard but vehicle speeds and volumes are managed by a traffic calming infrastructure.  Streets with protected bike lanes by comparison, are regular streets with physical separation between the vehicle traffic and bikes.  Usually, the separation is provided by bollards or concrete ‘K’ rail.
In Emeryville, the Bike Plan says the City has up to two years to move a bike boulevard up to the next highest level of traffic calming after a traffic count shows an excess of traffic on the street.  Bike boulevards here have routinely been moved up to Level Three traffic calming without incident but Level Four calming, a more rigorous push down against vehicles, has never been applied. The less restrictive Level Three traffic calming infrastructure involves corner intersection 'bulb outs' as well as signage and other such benign measures.

Ms Medina’s desire to finally kill Emeryville’s bike boulevard system comes at the end of a two year period in which the City should have installed temporary Level Four traffic calming for the two bike boulevards on 45th and 53rd streets.  Level Four traffic calming is defined by Emeryville’s Bike Plan as either ‘chicanes’ or ‘chokers’.  Both devices, using bollards, are meant to lower traffic volume to less than 3000 vehicle trips per day, a number that both streets have been in excess of as the Council commissioned traffic count from two years ago revealed.  A chicane is described as a “horizontal” traffic calming measure, a forcing of vehicles to wiggle side to side, whereas a choker is a narrowing of the street to one lane, effectively serving like a one lane bridge.

Level Four traffic calming has proven to be very unpopular with developers and the business community here although it is common in neighboring cities.  Developers, have publicly stated their desire to not have Level Four calming in Emeryville and it has never been used here.  Some Council members over the years have announced they will only go as high as Level Three calming on our bike boulevards despite the clear direction from Emeryville's Bike Plan that traffic calming goes as high as Level Five (traffic diverters).
The former Horton Street Bike Boulevard was removed from consideration for Level Four traffic calming in 2016 when the City Council signed a ‘Statement of Overriding Considerations’ (SOC) that posits the Sherwin Williams development on that street is more important than the bike boulevard and that the City has no interest in keeping traffic on the street less than 3000 vehicle trips per day after the development, with its 1000+ vehicle trips per day generated, was found by its attending Environmental Impact Report to be in conflict with the bike boulevard.  The street will have approximately 4000 vehicle trips per day including the traffic generated by Sherwin Williams.  Horton Street still has signs up claiming it to be a bike boulevard but the City Council, by signing away the Bike Plan’s provisions for it in the SOC, has said it will not place Level Four (or Level Five for that matter) on the street regardless how much vehicle traffic it has.
So 2019.

Mayor Medina used her influence to place bollards along Horton Street in 2018 it should be noted, after she received many complaints from bicyclists over vehicles blocking the bike lanes around the Amtrak train station at 59th Street.  The bollards themselves, consequently, have become a source of controversy as car and truck drivers complain they have no place to make drop offs or deliveries to businesses in the area.  These complaints, ironically, would not be happening if the City had enforced a bike boulevard for Horton Street because bike lanes are not to be used on bike boulevards and as a result, street parking, including yellow zones, could have been employed in that congested area.

Now that the two year clock has run out for the City for the 45th and the 53rd street bike boulevards, like the Horton Street bike boulevard earlier, Level Four traffic calming has been taken off the table with the announcement by Ms Medina.  The City Manager, Christine Daniel, whose job it is to place agenda items for the BPAC to consider, told the Tattler she will not allow the committee to discuss Level Four traffic calming for the 45th and 53rd street bike boulevards specifically but she will allow the committee to discuss Emeryville's bike boulevard system as a general thing, in October.  However, she did not say if the October meeting would be the time for the committee to take up the Mayor’s idea of eliminating bike boulevards in Emeryville.  Mayor Medina for her part, refused to explain the City's (and her) failure to implement the Bike Plan for traffic calming on the 45th & 53rd street bike boulevards, using the idea of eliminating the entire bike boulevard system as an indication the City has moved on and bike boulevards are no longer applicable here.

Emeryville's Bike Boulevard 'Treatment' plan may be viewed HERE.

The Tattler's 45th & 53rd Streets Level Four Traffic Calming Countdown Clock
This feature has been on the bottom of the home page for almost two years.
Yesterday it finally hit 00 days 00 hours 00 minutes 00 seconds.
The City couldn't or wouldn't install the traffic calming mandated 
by its own bike plan in that time.


  1. Wasn't there a farsighted commissioner on the bike-ped subcommittee who warned about all of these problems BEFORE the bike blvd's were declared? That they were being assigned to streets where major development was pending....and that traffic volumes would soon make them less safe than retaining the then-existing bike lanes? We need more people like that guy, rather than wasting time on worthless trendy schemes.

    1. Bike boulevards are safe because traffic is moderated. The only problems with the bike boulevards has been that the business community doesn’t like them and the Council refuses to implement them. Major development is happening on EVERY north /south street in Emeryville. If bicycling is to be accommodated, at least one street on either side of the rail road tracks has to be selected. That means conflict with those who want to maximize the streets for vehicles. Conflict is normal. We have to decide if we want to accommodate bikes or not. And then stick with our decision. We need more guys that advocate for bicycling rather than constantly working to accommodate business/developer interests.