Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 29, 2016

Why did the Alamedan cross the road?

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

Don’t forget, if you put in a speaker slip on Wednesday but did not get a chance to speak on the Central Avenue project you can attend the City Council meeting tonight because they will continue where they left off.  Also if you didn’t get a chance to make it down on Wednesday to weigh in on the subject you can tonight.  Starts at 7pm I think.

Anyway, at the Wednesday meeting one of the most surprising moment for a lot of people (it got a huge amount of commentary on Alameda Peeps) was around Mayor Trish Spencer’s grilling of a staff member about the delay that would be caused by the “added” crosswalks after staff had indicated that the improvements would only add a delay time of 1.5 minutes.  She was absolutely fixated on the motorist delay number and how much more time people crossing the street would add to cars waiting for people to safely cross.

The staff person explained that they didn’t add any assumptions for more people crossing the road, what was being presented was the worst case assumptions that everyone continues driving and that there are no mode shift shares (aka people going from car to bike or car to walking or walking to car or bike to car).

In order to figure out what Trish Spencer wanted would require too many assumptions (how many people are going to shift mode shares, how many people are going to be crossing the street, etc) and the information that she was seeking “how much more delay are people crossing in crosswalks going to cause to drivers.”  But it took three different people trying to explain the exact same answer to her in slightly different ways.  And she still didn’t understand what the answer she was trying to get would require a more complex set of calculations and that they had already taken into account the worst case scenario that there were no other mode shift.  It was truly an embarrassing moment.

Anyway, in case you thought this was Trish Spencer’s first and only concern about how crosswalks cause delays to motorists in November during an agenda item that, if memory serves, came back from a referral by Jim Oddie about Island Drive.  Apparently Earhart students and families that come to the school on foot are using too many different crosswalks and therefore cause a delay for drivers.  Rather than encourage more families to use alternate modes of transportation, she was actually suggesting that families who are currently not using a car go out of their way to use a very specific crosswalk to not burden drivers:

So here’s the section that I believe she’s referring to.  At the lower right hand corner is the crosswalk used by families who live below Robert Davey Jr and on the golf course side of Island Drive.  She is suggesting that those families not take the direct path to the school, but cross the street three separate times “closer” to the school in order to not burden cars:

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 3.33.58 PM

It’s this sort of concern to minimizing driver delay at the expense of people who use alternate modes of transportation which makes what should be a simple and obvious safety project require hours and hours of discussion and debate.



  1. Perhaps before the mayor asks a question, she should be required to estimate how many hours of delay will be added before the rest of us can resume our lives.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — February 29, 2016 @ 7:45 am

  2. 1. like

    Comment by MI — February 29, 2016 @ 9:15 am

  3. The principle of what Trish is suggesting has precedent, it’s just that her application is poor. There were cross walks removed on Otis to increase safety for peds.

    If every new cross walk along Central has a lighting system embedded in the road that might cause some delay, but if those systems are installed selectively like the one right near Franklin school, then it seems unlikely there will be significant delay from the new painted crosswalks drawing hordes of new pedestrians to flood the streets.

    Comment by MI — February 29, 2016 @ 9:21 am

    • I don’t think that the rationale for “encouraging” peds to walk “closer to the school” is for safety reasons but rather to minimize driver delay.

      Comment by Lauren Do — February 29, 2016 @ 9:31 am

  4. 2. The fact that the mayor calls herself a “progressive” and yet criticizes people whop walk or bicycle for “delaying” auto traffic shows that she seems to not understand these issues or the connections between them:

    -global warming and the City of Alameda’s policies to reduce greenhouse gases;

    -modern traffic design, which promotes safe streets and inclusive use by pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and drivers;

    -Safe Routes to School and Walk ‘n’ Roll to School Days;

    -the demonstrated connection between America’s love affair with (addiction to) automobiles and rising rates of obesity, heart disease,
    diabetes, and other threats to our physical and mental health and happiness;

    -the international “Vision Zero” campaign to eliminate traffic deaths, especially pedestrian and bicycle fatalities from motor vehicle collisions;

    -Bike to Work Day (and Week);

    -The City of Alameda’s General Plan, its Transportation Master Plan, and all of the TMP’s component plans–all of which are designed to reduce traffic congestion the only way possible–by reducing the number of cars on the roads while increasing the number of trips made on foot, by bicycle, and by transit.

    Since the 1990 General Plan–and probably before that as well–it has been official City of Alameda policy to encourage “active transportation” modes (bicycling, walking, and other human-powered transportation) and transit. This is a much-needed rebalancing of skewed transportation policies dating back to the 1920s or so that have emphasized the convenience of auto drivers over all other priorities.

    Before 1910-1920, urban streets in Alameda and elsewhere in the USA were dominated by pedestrians, bicyclists, urban rail transport (trains, trolleys, streetcars, etc.), and horses (mostly horse-drawn wagons). With the advent of the “horseless carriage,” pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit vehicles lost their previous access and convenience. All we are trying to do now is to restore the mode share balance here in Alameda–and across the world–to something resembling historic norms.

    It has been shown across the nation that we cannot build our way our of congestion: adding more lanes to streets and roads merely adds to the congestion and slows travel times. The only way to unclog Alameda’s *relatively* uncongested streets is to remove automobiles. If more people ride bikes,walk, and take transit, they can get where they are going just as fast as they would in a car but without creating greenhouse gases (and sea level rise, which is a direct threat to our islands), adding to traffic congestion, and making the air unhealthy to breathe. And we will all be healthier as a result, too.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — February 29, 2016 @ 9:46 am

  5. Currently, Pacific, Santa Clara, Central and Grand (along with Shoreline) are good streets for bicycling–in fact, they are labeled (and have signage) as bike routes.
    Why are they never mentioned in the plans for the future?

    Big 18 wheelers do not use those streets.

    As an adult I do not feel comfortable riding my bike alongside 18 wheelers and large trucks which now use, and will continue to use Central.
    I doubt children feel or will actually be any safer than I, while riding on any part of Central with these trucks.

    The city employees should repaint the sharrows and lines on Pacific, Santa Clara, Central and Grand.

    Then encourage bicyclists to ride them.

    Then put a traffic signal at the intersection(s) in front of Encinal High.

    There are so many people opposed to revamping/designing Central Avenue that it should not be done.

    We have alternatives.

    Red light the Central Avenue project. End it.

    Comment by A Neighbor — February 29, 2016 @ 11:11 am

  6. 6. I don’t recall seeing a lot of large trucks along Central. I don’t recall them in the tubes either. Why would implementing this plan increase truck traffic on Central ? Even semis are rest
    ricted to 25 MPH.

    Trucks stocking goods for Southshore must use Fruitvale bridge and Broadway which was long ago reconfigured to the lanes proposed for Central west of Sherman. I know it will offend people who think advocates for bike infrastructure are elitists, but if the numbers in opposition are misinformed ( which in this case I think they are) why should majority rule ? A majority may elect Trump president, but that doesn’t make him the best choice, or make his behavior “presidential”. .It’s not my impression that our City staff has made this plan in a vacuum or is pandering to the bike lobby, but instead they have employed science and data.

    Comment by MI — February 29, 2016 @ 11:46 am

  7. #6, the only reason you state for ending the project is the number of people opposed to it. Is that really why you think it should be cancelled?

    Comment by ajryan — February 29, 2016 @ 11:50 am

  8. “There are so many people opposed to revamping/designing Central Avenue that it should not be done.”

    Was there a vote taken that I’m not aware of? Based on what I’ve seen in social media and at the previous #alamtg, there were more people in favor of it than opposed.

    Are we instituting “minority rules” now?

    Or is this another case where the “special”, “real”, “native” Alamedans should be making the decisions for the rest of us?

    Signed, “Your Neighbor in Favor” – Brock

    Comment by brock — February 29, 2016 @ 11:57 am

  9. 7. I think if anything, the Central plan may push some traffic trying to get on and off island to and from Southshore and the areas south and east of, say, Grand and Santa Clara, that might have otherwise used the tube towards Park/Frtvl/High bridges. The effect may be fairly negligible though as this is probably already happening at certain times of day and will probably accelerate as Alameda Landing and other areas west of Webster are built out.

    Comment by MP — February 29, 2016 @ 1:03 pm

  10. #7 You haven’t driven Central lately. I end up behind a large truck almost every time I drive to Alameda Point. 3 words why truck traffic is increasing on State Route 61 = Developing Alameda Point.

    Read the External Correspondence [1+2+3+4+5] in the City Council agenda packet. No named engineers seem to have been involved in this project, according to the named engineers opposed to this project. No official Caltrans approval yet..just a wink and a nod.

    Everyone speaking against this project both drives and knows how to ride a bicycle…and did so before there were bike lanes. Not true for everyone urging approval.

    A majority mob without the appropriate training & experience should not be making decisions for the rest of us. I prefer licensed civil engineers do that.

    A few stop signs along Central would slow down traffic considerably…and for cheaper. The cyclists would probably run them anyway, so its a win-win for both bikes and cars.

    Comment by vigi — February 29, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

  11. Please link to or indicate where the “named engineers” opposed to this project can be found. There are ~400 pages of documents. In “External Correspondence [1+2+3+4+5]”. The significant majority of the ~400 pages of external correspondence is in favor of the project.

    It makes no sense to think engineers involved in the project would be found in the “External Correspondence” package. It’s “external” because it comes from people not directly involved.

    Comment by brock — February 29, 2016 @ 3:28 pm

  12. I will repeat:

    Pacific, Santa Clara, Central and Grand are currently designated bike lanes and totally usable and safe. Why not repaint those and encourage bicycle traffic on those routes? Why is no one suggesting a traffic light in front of Encinal High?

    Is it because city employees have put their energy into designing something that they can spend grant money on, which will keep them employed? (i.e. the plans for Central)

    Why are city employees not looking for money to repave our pot holed streets?

    Comment by A Neighbor — February 29, 2016 @ 4:28 pm

  13. 13. “Why are city employees not looking for money to repave our pot holed streets?”

    Have you looked at the Cost Estimate? Please become informed before further commenting on this project.

    For Example, if you looked at the Cost Estimate, you wouldn’t have to go beyond Page 1 before you found:

    “Segment #1
    New Asphalt Roadway $344,176
    Asphalt Resurface $ 100,000

    Boat Ramp Road
    New Asphalt Roadway $229,280

    Comment by brock — February 29, 2016 @ 5:06 pm

  14. 13. Repeat all you like; it doesn’t mean you make any more sense.

    Grand is perpendicular to Central. Santa Clara west of Webster doesn’t have bike lanes. Pacific west of Webster is quite dangerous. The schools are along Central. But apart from that, good argument!

    “Is it because city employees have put their energy into designing something that they can spend grant money on, which will keep them employed? (i.e. the plans for Central)?” No. One ought not ascribe one’s own venal motivation to others. The employees I’ve met on this project are motivated by doing the right thing.

    I do worry about this evening. Our conservative mayor (has she ever claimed to be a progressive?), at the opening of the Shoreline bike path, could say nothing good about it and proudly self-identified as a driver. And a concern of hers is how long it takes to drive from Peets to Marketplace. A friend of the pedestrian and cyclist she has not been. I hope she surprises me tonight.

    Comment by BC — February 29, 2016 @ 5:14 pm

  15. post#11,” Everyone speaking against this project both drives and knows how to ride a bicycle…and did so before there were bike lanes” Not true for everyone urging approval”. bullshit, prove it.

    Comment by John P. — February 29, 2016 @ 5:59 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Create a free website or blog at