Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 18, 2016

Safety second

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Even though there are plenty of studies conducted world wide about how bike lanes actually are not a detriment to business districts, it’s nearly always a business district that opposes bike lanes anywhere near the business district because the assumption is that all the people buying stuff won’t be able to get there unless they’re in a car.

Case in point the West Alameda Business Association sent this letter to the City Council opposing any lane reductions on Central Avenue because it would impede cars getting to the business district and also through their business district.

Dear Council Members:

The board of directors of the West Alameda Business Association would like to submit written comments regarding the Central Avenue Complete Street Project, which is an agenda item at your City Council meeting on 2/24/16.

We would like to state the following facts on which we are basing our position:
· Webster Street is an arterial road for motorists driving in an out of Alameda through the tubes. It has also become an important road for residents of West Alameda to access the new Alameda Landing shopping center.

· Central Avenue is an arterial road connecting Alameda’s motorists from and to Alameda’s East and West sides.

· Webster Street (including commercial parcels and businesses on side streets such as on Central Ave.) is a commercial district with businesses that depend on motorists from Alameda as well as surrounding cities who shop, dine and visit on a regular basis.

· The businesses in the Webster Street business district, including those on Central Avenue, need parking and access for business owners, visitors, commercial delivery vehicles as well as emergency vehicles on a daily basis.

· Lane reductions on any streets intersecting with Webster Street will create a slow down for motorists passing through the district and discourage them from driving through the district.

· Businesses and property owners in the Webster Street business district will be negatively impacted as a result of fewer motorists (shoppers, diners & visitors) passing through the district.

· Santa Clara Avenue, intersecting Webster Street, currently services bicyclists visiting the Webster Street Business district.

· The proposed elimination of one westbound lane on Central Ave. will make it unsafe for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists to travel through the Central/Webster intersection.

We feel that any effort to increase visitors riding bikes to our district, at the expense of those driving cars, will reduce the total number of visitors to our district and negatively impact our property owners and businesses. Bicyclists can always use Santa Clara Ave. to visit our business district.

At the WABA board meeting on 10/21/15, Gail Payne from the city’s Public Works department stated that the concept being presented did not include any lane reductions for motorists traveling in either direction on Central Avenue, from Eight Street to 200 feet west of Webster Street.

However, the proposed concept in the staff report, which was presented to the Transportation Commission at their meeting on 11/18/15, included the reduction of one west bound lane on Central Avenue near Page Street and also starting at the intersection at Webster Street.

The lane reductions on Central Avenue beginning at Eight Street and past Webster Street, as proposed in the staff report, will have a negative impact on the traffic flow to and from the Webster Street business district and will make is unsafe for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists to travel along Central Avenue.

We are therefore stating our opposition to the concept as being presented by city staff at your meeting on 2/24/16 and we urge you to vote against this proposal.

The thing about it is that most businesses on Webster Street are service based meaning that it’s not really a district that needs people  to come to with huge trunks to fill up with stuff.  That would be Alameda Landing which hasn’t weighed in on the topic of Central Avenue.   Given that a lot of more popular and notable businesses on Webster Street are restaurants, providing some measure of calming would actually activate that street more than it currently is now.

The goal of the Central Avenue project is not to somehow punish the business district or make it harder for them to do business but rather to ensure that Central Avenue which is well used now by bikes and pedestrians and cars to better allocate the space to ensure that every user can feel safe using the street.  Right now the largest percentage of the public streetscape is reserved for cars and to make cars feel comfortable getting from point A to point B, but it largely comes at the expense of pedestrians who are forced to share a tiny sidewalk with bikers who don’t feel comfortable taking a whole lane on Central.  Or it comes at the expense of bikers who are unwanted on both the sidewalks and the street.

Remember that the stretch between Webster toward Main Street has not one, not two, but three schools on that road.  Are our local business districts really telling Alamedans that the safety of kids getting to their schools are less important than shoppers to their retail storefronts?




  1. It’s really disappointing to see the West End Business Association’s letter opposing the Central Avenue Complete Street Proposal. I’m afraid they are out of step with the bicycle movement. Studies show that cities embracing bicycling are reaping the benefits of an urban bicycling boom (taken from this article):

    The City of Oakland is also aware of the studies. Here’s part of what’s in the pipeline for Oakland Complete Street projects:

    “Oakland City Council approved Phase I of the Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets Plan, which extends bike lanes from Downtown Oakland to 41st St., including protected bike lanes for 9 blocks in the KONO District. We expect these on the ground in 2015. Bike lanes in the Temescal District are expected to come in 2016 after the protected bike lanes are shown successful. Berkeley is updating its bicycle plan in 2015 and we are pushing for it to include protected bike lanes from the Oakland city line up to Derby St.

    People Mean Business People who walk and bicycle to shop spend more money than people who drive. It sounds counter-intuitive we know, but study after study of similar retail corridors shows that after adding bike lanes and calming traffic, retail activity goes up.”

    Finally, I recently had some out of town guests for a couple of weeks. The first thing they did was “rent bicycles”. They went almost everywhere on bike. Ironically they spent a great deal of time in the West End Business District – Crolls was one of their favorite spots! And one last note – they were in the 55+ age group – so all ages are participating in this bicycle movement.

    It’s going to take some great leadership to educate the public on the benefits of this movement (health, safety, traffic). It’s a win win for everyone and the cost benefits are an enormous plus!

    Comment by Karen Bey — February 18, 2016 @ 7:21 am

  2. As a side note, I’d like to mention “Westside Joe’s Bikes” – one of our newest additions to the West End – located on Central Avenue. They’ve got a great story and a great business. It’s great to have them on the West End!

    Comment by Karen Bey — February 18, 2016 @ 7:31 am

  3. Why does WABA oppose a safety enhancement project that will not only improve business activity but also *keep more of its customers alive*?

    The letter from WABA contains *at least* three errors of fact, based on nationwide and international studies of the impact on business districts of bicycle lanes and other traffic safety enhancements:

    1. “Lane reductions on any streets intersecting with Webster Street will create a slow down for motorists passing through the district and discourage them from driving through the district.”

    Numerous studies show that it is *precisely* the slowing of auto traffic that leads drivers to stop and patronize local businesses: with reduced auto traffic speeds, drivers are *more likely* to stop for coffee, a sandwich, or for shopping than if they are whizzing by at 40 MPH. And slower traffic speeds induce more pedestrians to walk the business district, stay longer, and–surprise–spend more money.

    And, BTW, drivers are *less likely* to hit and kill pedestrians when they are driving 20-25 MPH than they are at 30-40 MPH,
    and pedestrian fatalities create bad press. (All of the above documented findings informed our deliberations in the Webster Streetscape subcommittee when we were planning the Webster Renaissance Project in 1999 – 2001. This is not new information.)

    2. “Businesses and property owners in the Webster Street business district will be negatively impacted as a result of fewer motorists (shoppers, diners & visitors) passing through the district.”

    It is not the motorists *passing through* the district who spend money: the shoppers who *stop and shop* in the district spend money at local businesses. And pedestrian- and bike-friendly business districts see higher rates of business activity and revenues. Here are just a few of the available citations that refute these first two assertions:

    3. “The proposed elimination of one westbound lane on Central Ave. will make it unsafe for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists to travel through the Central/Webster intersection.”

    This last statement flies in the face of every applicable study of Central/Webster traffic safety and goes against the expertise of Alameda’s traffic and transportation planners. Reducing the volume and speed of traffic at an intersection *improves* safety, especially for cyclists and pedestrians, who are the ones most at risk along the Central Avenue corridor. Where are the citations and statistics to support this clearly inaccurate and unsubstantiated claim?

    Why does WABA oppose a safety enhancement project that will not only improve business activity but also *keep more of its customers alive*?

    If WABA wants to oppose the Central Avenue project, it should at least get its collective facts straight and not rely on counterproductive and self-defeating economic or traffic myths that were proven false 10-20 years ago…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — February 18, 2016 @ 7:50 am

  4. What, the people meeting hookers at the motels don’t bike?

    Comment by BC — February 18, 2016 @ 8:05 am

  5. This is rich: ‘The businesses in the Webster Street business district, including those on Central Avenue, need parking and access for business owners, visitors, commercial delivery vehicles as well as emergency vehicles on a daily basis.’ If WABA really feels that way, perhaps they should have lobbied the city to buy the parking lot at Taylor and Webster when it was for sale.

    Comment by Kristen — February 18, 2016 @ 8:59 am

  6. WABA has always been controlled by a very few business owners on the street. I have found them to always be very conservative and backwards thinking. I don’t believe that the majority of business owners in the West End have much of a say. That’s just my opinion.

    Comment by John P. — February 18, 2016 @ 9:06 am

  7. WABA is not entitled to their own facts. The last point in particular is an opinion not substantiated by facts. “The proposed elimination of one westbound lane on Central Ave. will make it unsafe for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists to travel through the Central/Webster intersection.” B.S. They all bitched about the street modifications to Webster like bus seats benches and bulb outs because they lost parking. The did lose parking but I wonder what facts they have to substantiate they they lost business. I’ve pulled up and parked right in front of destinations like Wescafe a lot and even when there is farmers market have not had to park further away than Lincoln. This project will not effect Webster at all, will not take parking and will not restrict traffic to Webster, so screw their phony facts.

    Comment by MI — February 18, 2016 @ 9:53 am

  8. If I owned a business that was paying dues to WABA, I would be having a shit-fit over this letter.

    Especially if I were a business like:

    Westside Joe’s Bikes (obvious reasons)
    Alameda Sports Cards & Comics, T-Mix, Cookiebar, Pacific Pinball Museum (proposed improvements make it easier for kids to bike to my store)
    Webster Street Farmers’ Market (my non scientific-observation is about <10% of customers drive to this)
    The Fireside Lounge, Wally's, Shamrock Pub (are we promoting Drinking and Driving now?)
    Island Yoga, Bladium Sports Club (customers naturally inclined to walk/bike)

    Is membership in WABA mandatory, or can businesses opt-out?

    Comment by brock — February 18, 2016 @ 10:01 am

  9. I sat for 10 minutes at the light when going north on 8th because it is one lane that had bumper to bumper traffic. Once I crossed Central Ave, the traffic moved on 8th and on Central, which are both presently two lanes. Hmmm, one lane does not make traffic worse?? This logic escapes me. I also have sat for long times trying to get on and off the island through the Webster Tube and sat trying to get off the island at Park Street. I have a suspicion that these jams are just the beginning, despite all the studies and justification that it “ain’t so”. Bring on the development!!!! It is more revenue, which is good, and will be more headaches for people who do use the convenience of car and of course, more idling cars, which is just adding to the pollution.

    Comment by Hugo — February 18, 2016 @ 10:04 am

  10. Forgot to say, the city of Oakland did a beautiful job around the Lake a few years ago. It is a great improvement. The one exception is the elimination of a land connecting Grand Ave. and Lakeshore. Now that it is one lane, there is a traffic jam in the morning and on weekends.

    Comment by Hugo — February 18, 2016 @ 10:09 am

  11. Sorry, but 8th is one lane without a middle turn lane. Can’t recall if there is a turn lane AT the intersection with Central south bound as there is north bound but I think your comparison is apples and oranges, Hugo. The modifications are not to create one lane in each direction only, but to also have a full left urn lane for any point along Central, just like Broadway. Also note the High Street is a major artery for ingress and egress which is only one lane in each direction but generally traffic is not backed up for blocks nor are there the kind of delays cited for 8th and Central. When I enter Alameda from the tube I always head east on Lincoln or before to avoid approaching Central North bound on 8th. Cars always stack up from Lincoln where you lose Constitution and 8th turns to a single lane. This modification will not effect cross traffic.

    A letter in the Sun today from perennial complainer Dave Case says we don’t need another lane like the track on Shoreline. Well guess what? this is NOT proposed for that, but Dave Case doesn’t care about facts either.

    Highly theoretical studies are worth careful scrutiny, but this bike stuff seems fairly pedestrian as studies go and not rocket science.

    Comment by MI — February 18, 2016 @ 10:32 am

  12. Alameda Landing may not have weighed in — but they have bike lanes in their shopping center. They are obviously aware of the studies as well.

    Comment by Karen Bey — February 18, 2016 @ 10:41 am

  13. Brock, a lot of the bars, restaurants and cafes on and around Webster Street benefit from bike lanes too! Why drive when you can walk or bike?

    It’s what’s making Oakland’s Temescal District one of the most desired places to live, shop, and play.

    Comment by Karen Bey — February 18, 2016 @ 10:56 am

  14. 12. Alameda Landing also has a small public kiosk where you can use bike tools for emergency repairs. Quite cool.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — February 18, 2016 @ 11:16 am

  15. Karen, whenever someone makes a statement like “why drive when you can walk or bike” (a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with), someone comes along with accusations of “Anti-senior / anti-disabled!!”

    As if traffic-calming, pedestrian-friendly improvements aren’t an overwhelmingly net-benefit to seniors and disabled people. I imagine it is terrible to try to cross Central at 9th if you are using a wheelchair, walker, or cane.

    I was trying to highlight business situations where these disingenuous accusations don’t really apply.

    Comment by brock — February 18, 2016 @ 11:21 am

  16. #9. I was waiting for the “traffic is backed up on 8th leading to Central, therefore changing central will cause a problem” argument. Horseshite. The backup on 8th is due to a bottleneck, where all traffic from Otis and Southshore must cross to get off the island. Same with the tube. You could have four lanes there and it wouldn’t make a whit of difference because the problem is that only a handful of enormous and inefficient vehicles can pass through the light during the time allotted and is ultimately constrained by limitations of the estuary egress.

    Comment by AJ — February 19, 2016 @ 9:31 am

  17. Sandip Jariwala who is owner of Hawthorn Suites on Webster and who is WABA president, is the one whose signature is on the letter regarding Central Ave opposition. He needs to be taken to task for this. He doesn’t even live in Alameda and, based on his letter, has little concern for the residents and children of our city. Let him and WABA know where you stand on this:

    Comment by AJ — February 19, 2016 @ 9:37 am

  18. Lauren, thank you so much for all of your blog posts in support of the Central Avenue project. I have been trying to get a handle on the business association’s concerns to see if there is a way Bike Walk Alameda can help resolve them and I guess maybe it boils down to this: Instead of beating up on the business district, maybe they need to hear from us that people who walk and bike support West Alameda businesses, and that we want to spend our money on Webster Street.

    Don’t get me wrong: I am a parent who desperately wants the City Council to approve this so my kids will have a truly safe route to school, and this is my primary motivation for fighting to win approval. But I also think that preserving local businesses is critical to maintaining Alameda’s identity and I want to do everything I can to support them.

    Since Webster Street is pretty close to my house and almost all of the businesses I go to there don’t really require a car, I usually walk there. But I never ride my bike to Webster Street because I don’t have a safe route to get there. When I take my family to Webster Street, we drive – not because I want to get in the car, but because I don’t feel safe walking or biking there with my kids.

    I think providing safe places for people who want to bike and walk to Webster Street would expand access to the businesses there for people from my neighborhood. I think the proposed Central Avenue improvements would also provide critical linkage between the business district and new residents in Alameda Landing and Alameda Point – housing that is being designed to attract people who are less inclined to drive.

    This is a process and it’s fair to expect the business district’s leaders to look at the plans and comment on them. Some major compromises have been made already – notably a decision to maintain four car travel lanes on Central between Eighth and Webster. Given the fact that this is a conceptual plan, additional design changes will likely be considered once the city gets the money to pay for the improvements.

    But all that said, WABA’s concerns are the same ones that have been expressed by business owners all over the country, because for them this is a big change. Fortunately, study after study has shown that these changes have benefited businesses and that people who walk and bike spend money at businesses they can get to. I would love to have the opportunity to sit down with WABA to talk to them about how this proposal can be successful for everyone. In the meantime, I think we need to show the businesses that people who bike and walk support them.

    Comment by Michele Ellson — February 22, 2016 @ 9:14 pm

  19. The only time I ever go to Webster is on a bicycle.

    Comment by dj — February 23, 2016 @ 6:51 am

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