Well, we can’t get there quite yet, but a significant step has been taken. The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the tentative parcel maps and the design review for the University Village Mixed Use Project on Wednesday, December 11th. The conditions of approval include the developers providing up to an additional two feet abutting the San Pablo right of way as needed to make the sidewalk, cycle track and landscape configuration approvable by CalTrans.
Garnering this approval is the next big hurdle. The extra space deals with one point of feedback from CalTrans. The others are providing a cycling signal phase for users of the cycle track and continuing the cycle track all the way to the east end of the new Buchanan path from the get go. The project and City-hired engineers are working on the cycle signal phase and AS&R has conveyed a number of ideas for consideration. The likelihood of the cycle track going all the way to Marin at the outset is slim to say the least, but there is high likelihood of being able to close this gap in the long term (for instance it would score highly for grant funding). In the short term staff is likely to counter propose installing a cross walk at the north end of the cycle track by the grocery store instead. This would allow people cycling north along the cycle track to cross over San Pablo to continue heading north. This midblock crosswalk is called for in the San Pablo complete streets plan, which was just approved unanimously by the City Council.
The Planning and Zoning Commission also changed the conditions of approval to specify a HAWK signal at the Dartmouth crossing of San Pablo as the preferred option for that location. The developer has already specified this type of signal on the plans, but AS&R asked for this preference to be codified in the approvals. Staff have already taken the HAWK signal proposal to CalTrans, and report back a generally positive response.
Thank you to City staff, UC, and the developers for working in collaboration to incorporate an amazing amount of cycling access in the project. Ringed by cycling paths with another running along Monroe down the middle, this project will do more for cycling in Albany than any other private project ever, by far.
The original “Check for Bikes” cling, AS&R’s latest safety initiative. What is it?
Go to http://checkforbikes.org/ to find out more!
Sending out holiday cards or notes to your friends, family and colleagues? Albany Strollers & Rollers member Lynn Eve Komaromi had a great idea about how to spread the gift of cycling safety by including Albany Strollers & Rollers ‘Check for Bikes’ clings in her cards – why don’t you do the same?
These are clear, repositionable, vinyl clings for drivers to put on the inside of their windshield or window – a simple and friendly reminder to watch for bicyclists on our roads while driving. AS&R members – your neighbors – conceived and designed these, and you can buy any quantity at 5 clings for $1.
Email Amy Smolens at email@example.com to get them or if you have any questions.
16 of these attractive and useful “Bike Bike Racks” around town and counting!!
Like the Bike Bike Racks around town and want more? Are you thinking there are other ways Albany Strollers & Rollers (AS&R) could spend money to make cycling and walking safer and more enjoyable if AS&R were a bit better funded? Well, here’s an easy way to help, while getting tax benefits as well.
If you and/or your employer donate money to AS&R via our fiscal sponsor, East Bay Bicycle Coalition, it will go to important projects in Albany such as more bicycle parking where you and your neighbors needed it or more bike valet parking racks at local events.
And yes, you and/or your employer will get a tax write-off if you make the
Busy busy busy! Our Bicycle Valet Parking service is so popular we could use more of these bike valet racks!
donation through our fiscal sponsor. Do it before December 31 and you’ll get the benefit for 2013.
The best way to do this is to write a check made out to “East Bay Bicycle Coalition for Albany Strollers & Rollers” and send to Harry Chomsky, Treasurer, Albany Strollers & Rollers, 1127 Curtis St, Albany, CA 94706.
More questions? Email Amy Smolens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Harry Chomsky at email@example.com and we’ll get you going. And soon you’ll see the fruits of your donations right here in Albany!
Any doubt whose rack this beauty is? Yes, Charlie Prins Chiropractic co-funded this rack, along with AS&R and the City of Albany, but neighboring businesses are welcome to use it!
Many of you know about AS&R’s program by which we’ve been co-funding the beautiful
I went to BevMo to pick up something to drink while watching the World Series and met Paul from Berkeley. He loves BevMo and Albany Strollers & Rollers’ new Dero Bike Bike Rack and encouraged me keep on installing them!
Dero”Bike Bike Racks” around town. Well, every time the City of Albany installs a few racks, someone sees one and asks us how they can get one of their own! That’s exactly what happened – Dr. Charlie Prins Chiropractor, BevMo, AS&R members Mattison Ly & Buddy Williams (whose son attends Albany Children’s Center) and the City (for Jewel’s Terrace Park) also realized that this combination of secure bike parking and attractive sculptural art were too good to pass up.
These four add to the Bike Bike Racks already in town at Albany Taproom/Grazzy Burger, Be Fit Personal Training, Daniel Winkler & Associates Inc., Gathering Tribes, Innate Chiropractic, K2TOG, Metta Thai Massage, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, T324 and Wheels of Justice Cyclery.
Thanks to Public Works’ Aleida Andrino-Chavez , Mark Matherly, and Amy Alvidrez, the City bought the racks for the school and the park, we placed the order for all four racks (buying four or more makes the racks more affordable) and the City again installed them free of charge.
As always, Rack Guru Dan Lieberman was instrumental in measuring and marking the locations, and Ken McCroskey designed the stickers for the “saddles,” which were printed at Design-A-Sign.
I would like to thank Grizzly Peak Cyclists, whose generous donations to AS&R have allowed us to make purchases like this which benefit cyclists from all over the East Bay.
And of course, Winkie Campbell-Notar of the Albany Chamber of Commerce, who helps AS&R connect with our local businesses for this and other projects.
Yes, I’ve already been contacted by another Albany resident who wants a colorful “Bike Bike Rack” in front of both of her local businesses! If I get two more takers, you might see “Bike Bike Racks” 4.0 before too long – 16 and counting!
Have any other ideas of local community projects? Contact me!
Albany Children’s Center got a new Bike Bike Rack, thanks to AS&R members Mattison Ly & Buddy Williams, and Aleida Andrino-Chavez of the City of Albany
The new Dero Bike Bike Rack at Jewel’s Terrace Park.
See more photos of bike racks around town in our Gallery. If you get any good photos of your own for the Gallery or Facebook page, send to me or Nick to post.
Enjoy all the new bike parking!
The Traffic & Safety Commission meeting on October 24th led to some results and news of interest to AS&R. Details below, but here are the highlights:
Complete Streets: The Commission approved the final plan and sent it on to the City Council. The controversial bus stop move is still included in the plan.
UC Village Project: Staff showed more details of the bike path and related traffic features. The presentation included a tentative but creative solution to the conflict between bike riders and bus passengers that AS&R has been worried about.
Washington Avenue Sidewalk Parking: The Commission is taking this issue more seriously than it did in the past. At their next meeting, they will take up the controversial idea of eliminating some parking to solve the problem.
Buchanan Marin Bikeway: Staff provided more details of what steps they are taking to protect cyclists from right-turning motorists, and when those steps are likely to occur.
Sidewalk Maintenance: Though not on this meeting’s agenda, the issue has been brought back to the Commission’s attention for further discussion soon.
The Commission took its final look at the Complete Streets plan for San Pablo Ave. and Buchanan St. The only real question left was whether the plan should show the northbound AC Transit stop at San Pablo and Solano shifted from the southeast corner of the intersection to the northeast corner. Most people in the planning community support the move, but most of the local merchants oppose it. The Commission heard many more strongly-worded statements of opposition at this meeting. In the end, though, the Commissioners seemed swayed by the notion that the plan represents a sort of idealized vision of how the street might look someday, and including a controversial element like this just keeps it in the mix for future discussion, without necessarily legislating that it must be done. The Commission voted unanimously to send the plan on to City Council with the Commission’s blessing, including the bus stop move.
AS&R is very pleased that the Complete Streets plan is finalized and is moving on to its next phase of approval.
UC Village Project
City staff showed a detailed plan of the proposed bike path and other transportation aspects of the project. They emphasized that these features are still in flux day by day.
The biggest improvement is a relocation of the bus stop. AS&R has been concerned that the planned bus stop in front of the senior housing (just south of Monroe) would create conflicts between bike riders on the path and bus riders crossing the path as they enter and exit the bus. The designers have eliminated this stop. They are proposing to move the southbound stop just south of San Pablo further south to just north of Village Creek. This is just north of the grocery store and the north end of the bike path.
This stop location avoids any conflict between bus passengers and people biking on the path. It would work well for bus riders, since it gives them better access to the grocery store, which staff said AC Transit prefers. Placing the bus stop further from the senior housing is not an issue according to the senior housing developer because in its experience few seniors living at its facility ride public buses because they are over 80 years old on average. Nonetheless, staff cautioned that this relocation idea is very new and still needs further consideration and vetting.
Staff were attentive to AS&R’s long-term goal of continuing the path north all the way to Marin Ave. to connect with the east end of the new Buchanan path. They suggested this extension could be routed in a small westward arc to create a bus stop island where passengers could wait, board and alight from the bus. This is basically the same design AS&R previously proposed for in front of the senior housing based on similar cycling facilities in San Francisco and Vancouver. It is easier to arrange at the new location because no buildings are being proposed in that area.
The newest plans also showed more about how traffic conflicts at San Pablo and Monroe will be managed. The intersection is narrower relative to Monroe than before, allowing a shorter north-south crossing distance for peds and bikes. Notably, this change was made at CalTrans request, suggesting the agency is working constructively toward approval rather than moving to denial at the outset. The path and sidewalk will cross Monroe on a “speed table”, at an elevation halfway between street level and sidewalk / path level. So motorists on Monroe will encounter a bump and people cycling on the path will encounter a dip. This should help each group of users recognize the need to look out for the other. Staff also agreed to consider warning signs such as those proposed for Buchanan St. (see below).
The only piece not shown on the newest plans was a connection from Dartmouth St. south to Codornices Creek. This will be essential to connect to the new path to be built along the creek, and also to help southbound cyclists on the path make a smooth transition to the road and on to Berkeley. Staff indicated that that design will be coming soon.
It was rewarding to see staff and the designers paying attention to important details that will affect the usability of all the paths being added.
Washington Avenue Sidewalk Parking
It was announced that the Traffic and Safety Commission will be considering red curbing one side of Washington from Cerrito to Pierce at its November meeting. The purpose of this red curbing is to eliminate motorists’ parking their vehicles on the sidewalks on both sides of the street because the road is too narrow to accommodate parking fully on the street on both sides. The way the vehicles are parked fully blocks both sidewalks, necessitating that people walk in the street.
While parking on sidewalks is illegal according to State law, the Albany Police Department APD was instructed a long time ago not to enforce the law on Albany Hill, even upon complaint. The APD continues to abide by this directive, which creates tremendous liability for the City. Red curbing one side of the street will allow the APD to start enforcing the law on the other, resulting in the sidewalks becoming available for walking. AS&R supports the red curbing as the only solution that has been presented that will attain this goal. More background follows.
The issue of these sidewalks being blocked by parked cars was first raised during the ATP workshops over two years ago. A participant who had relatively recently moved to this segment of Washington noted the sidewalk blockage. He said he made a point of parking his car fully in the street in the hope of starting a positive trend that would clear the sidewalk. The street side mirror of his vehicle was promptly knocked off by a hit and run motorist. He had it replaced. It was promptly knocked off again by another hit and run motorist. He gave up and joined his neighbors in parking on the sidewalk. About the same time, a parent living on this portion of Washington that she walk in the street pushing a stroller with her two young children.
In addition to creating a hazard for residents that walk, this segment of Washington is a designated priority sidewalk in the Active Transportation Plan (ATP). This was in response to AS&R advocacy following a discussion on the discussion list that indicated numerous people walk this route to reach the transbay bus stop on Pierce and numerous students walk this route to reach Albany High School. It is the northernmost route south of the peak of Albany Hill.
The Traffic and Safety Commission subsequently looked into this issue. The information about APD not enforcing the law came out. Measurements found that cars could not be parked in the street on both sides and maintain emergency vehicle access. Consequently the only way to solve the sidewalk blockage problem and maintain emergency vehicle access is to prohibit parking on one side of the street by painting the curb red. Albany’s Municipal Code actually anticipates this situation and provides red curbing one side of the street as the solution.
The subsequent study also revealed that motorists speed on this local street, with indication they use it as a cut through to avoid San Pablo, Solano and Buchanan. These factors raised concern that red curbing one side of the street would widen the travel lane resulting in motorists driving even faster. This was a dubious conclusion because the road width taken up by vehicles parked partially on the street on both sides is almost the same as vehicles parked fully on the street on one side.
Nonetheless, the City has focused on motorist calming measures since this issue came to light. A stop sign has been installed at Polk. The wide intersections with Gateview Avenue and Cerrito Street have been narrowed by placement of temporary barricades. The City is planning to install a speed table with cross walk at the top of the hill to connect to Catherine’s Walk. However the City still has not taken the politically difficult step of actually solving the problem of parked cars blocking the sidewalks.
AS&R noted this again after the report on Washington at the September Traffic and Safety Commission meeting. In response it was announced at the last meeting that red curbing one side of the street will be on the body’s November agenda, with complete noticing to the residents of the affected segment. Needless to say, eliminating the public parking in front of where people live will inconvenience those using that parking, and so will likely and understandably result in considerable opposition. Unfortunately no one, including AS&R, has found another solution. So parking convenience should not trump the City’s responsibility to enforce State Law to assure people can walk on the sidewalks instead of the street.
Buchanan Marin Bikeway
Now that the bikeway is mostly complete, AS&R’s biggest concern is the possibility of motorists turning right from eastbound Buchanan / Marin not noticing cyclists traveling along the path. There are several different steps being considered to mitigate this:
Passive signage. Aleida has already ordered signs for the Jackson intersection, warning drivers that they are about to cross a two-way bike path. These signs should be installed in the next few days. She is going to order signs for the San Pablo intersection as well. She promised that the new right-turn lane there will remain closed until those signs have been installed.
Leading pedestrian interval. After an eastbound red light phase, if the button has been pressed for a walk signal, the light will remain red for the first few seconds that the walk signal is on. This gives pedestrians a chance to enter the crosswalk before fast-moving cars start making turns. With the path here, the extra protection is helpful to cyclists too. Aleida announced a leading pedestrian interval was just implemented on Buchanan at Jackson about a week ago. Adding one at San Pablo is harder, because the existing traffic light controller can’t support this feature. Sometime within the next year, that controller should be upgraded, either as part of an upgrade of all the controllers along San Pablo by CalTrans or by the City as a leading element of the next project phase (extending the bike lanes from Cornell to San Pablo). At that time a leading pedestrian interval can be implemented there. Caltrans has already given its approval for this.
Blank-out no-right-turn signs. This technology was recently installed at Marin and Santa Fe. It indicates no-turn-on-red during certain time periods. Here, the no-turn-on-red signal would be active only during the leading pedestrian interval. This way, the leading pedestrian interval is fully protected — no cars can cross the path during those few seconds. This system will be installed at Jackson St. soon. Staff hopes to install one at San Pablo too, but of course that has to wait until the main signal is upgraded and the leading pedestrian interval is implemented, and it will also require additional permission from Caltrans. Staff sounded optimistic that this will all work out.
Sidewalk Maintenance – Future Agenda
Early this year staff recommended and the City Council adopted a goal of improving sidewalk maintenance. This was a result of AS&R’s sidewalk census making apparent the poor condition of the sidewalks throughout town. Last spring, staff presented a plan to the Traffic and Safety Commission. Staff subsequently indicated to AS&R that some adjustment to the plan would be made and it would be brought back for consideration in this fall. In the meantime, sidewalk maintenance had fallen off the Traffic and Safety Commission’s list of future agenda items.
At the end of each Traffic and Safety Commission meeting is an agenda item to consider future agendas. In public comment, AS&R noted the outstanding sidewalk maintenance improvement plan and advocated the Commission bring it back for an update. The Commission agreed and placed this on its November agenda. Staff relaid the plan is likely to go to Council for adoption by then. The Commission noted the item would be an update in that case.
AS&R also noted the plan staff proposed last spring, while a big improvement, still unfairly place the burden for repairing this public infrastructure entirely on the owner of the property adjacent to the repair site. AS&R reiterated its position in support of a parcel tax to pay for sidewalk maintenance, just as there are parcel taxes to pay for road and storm drain maintenance and each water users bill to pay for maintaining the sewer system. Sidewalks are the only public infrastructure where the entire cost falls on specific people rather than the public as a whole.
Still, the plan staff proposed last spring would be a big improvement over the current situation, and so worth supporting. It would resolve the other current problems with sidewalk maintenance. The first is that identification of damaged sidewalk is only by public complaint. This provides non uniform information, and again contrasts with the City uniformly surveying the condition of other public infrastructure such as roads and sewers.
The second issue is that property owners currently are responsible for identifying, hiring, managing contractors. This increases the burden upon property owners, resulting in some who can afford to pay for repairs not choosing to undertake them. It also results in greatly increased costs due to the spot nature of the repairs. Under the plan staff proposes, the City would uniformly survey sidewalks for damage in need of repair, package numerous repair locations into a single project, contract for and manage the work, and subsequently charge the property owners adjacent to each repair for the work. This would result in repairs being made uniformly and at far reduced cost.
The did plan include a property lien option for low-income property owners. The Commission commented on the need for a such a provision. Staff subsequently responded it would consider adjusting the plan to further accommodate low-income property owners and bring it back this fall.
Come join the fun!
photo credit Peggy McQuaid
Albany Strollers & Rollers is excited to announce our sponsorship of the Albany Community Triathlon. AS&R is lending the bike racks we use for bicycle valet parking to the triathlon for the race transition area and we are also putting goodies in the swag bags of all participants and volunteers. Other sponsors include Albany Lions Club, the Albany Community Foundation, REI, Blue Heron Bikes, Albany Ford/Suburu and Transports.
The Albany Community Triathlon emphasizes fitness and fun with a 400m
Come join the action and the fun!
swim, 10k cycle and 3k run – at the Albany Aquatic Center and the streets around Memorial Park. Please come down to test your cycling, running and swimming skills in a low-key setting, while helping AHS sports teams in the process!
Registrants will get a t-shirt, water bottle and a useful REI Coupon while supplies last!
All proceeds will go to the Albany High School Athletic Department to benefit all teams. In addition to the fund raising, this event focuses on fitness and fun. If you have always wanted to participate in a triathlon, but felt intimidated at the prospect, this is the one for you.
New for 2013 – take part in the FAMILY HEAT!
Parents, kids, spouses: When you register, you can indicate your desire to be in the same wave as one or more family members. Then you can compete together & keep an eye on each other during the race (but not assist each other, per triathlon rules).
The race begins at 8 am, and starts in waves.
For more information about the Albany Triathlon and to register, please see the web site, www.albanytri.com. This is a great community event and really fun to watch even if you don’t want to participate!
Come on down, have fun and support Albany High School sports!!
Albany Strollers & Rollers parked more bicycles at our free Bicycle Valet Parking station than ever — 331 — this year at the 39th annual Solano Avenue Stroll on September 8!
And more family bicycles than ever as well, with toddlers as young as 2 doing their share of keeping their parents’ wheels spinning. Support was provided by a team of 13 volunteers, including AS&R Core members Nick Pilch, Preston Jordan, Ken McCroskey, Sylvia Paull, and Angela Armendariz, as well as Anne Malamud, Mac McCurdy, Australian visitor students Sara Aziri and Nasser Saber, Alisha Saville, Rinda Wardle, Francesco Papalia and Dutch visitor Petra van der Wat (who happened to be walking by and was grabbed as a volunteer.) What a great team effort!
Thanks to Bua Luang for again sponsoring our BVP service & for providing tasty lunches for all the volunteers… and to Ken McCroskey for building the racks.
Volunteers Sara, Nick, Sylvia, Ken and Anne beneath the Bua Luang banner after a long & productive day of parking 300+ bikes!
Missing Link Bicycle Cooperative has been distributing our “Check for Bikes” clings, AS&R’s simple safety initiative designed to remind drivers to watch for cyclists before they open their door or make any other move.
In July they bought 200 of them… they were such a hit that they recently ordered 300 more for distribution at the Caltopia festival and at the store.
They are one of many businesses to show their commitment for safe cycling by carrying them.
Stop by Missing Link or the other businesses listed here to pick up your clings and to thank them for their support!
Questions about the clings? Go to www.CheckForBikes.org or email Amy Smolens.
The image above is of the latest retail component of the University Village Mixed-Use Project at San Pablo and Monroe. This plan was prepared in response to input from CalTrans and Albany’s Planning and Zoning Commission. It was presented at the last Traffic and Safety Commission meeting on June 27th.
This plan eliminates the two driveways from San Pablo into the Sprouts parking lot that were part of the previous plan. These make the cycle track and sidewalk along San Pablo much more cycling and pedestrian friendly. It also dramatically increases the odds of CalTrans approving the cycle track (which is needed because it is proposed to be in CalTrans’ right-of-way).
Not only were the driveways eliminated, the former position of the southern driveway is now proposed as a plaza with seating, which makes for an even more welcoming pedestrian environment. The former position of the north driveway is now a walking path along Village Creek, which then curves around the west side of the property to connect to Monroe.
AS&R can’t claim credit for any of these improvements. Thanks for the driveway elimination are due to Planning and Zoning Commissioner Phillip Moss and the CalTrans review team assembled by District 4 Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Beth Thomas. Thanks for the path along Village Creek is owed to Albany resident Ed Fields, who realized the previous plan did not accord with the amenity list included in one of the Council approvals a year ago. However without a willing and fast-acting retail developer and major tenant that actually listen, all this input might have been for naught. So thanks and appreciation are also due to Oppidan (which appropriately is a word that means “of the town as opposed to the university”).
Albany has informed AS&R the project will be studied again by the Planning and Zoning Commission at its July 24th meeting, which starts at 6:30 pm in the City Hall Council Chambers. If you have written input you would like to provide, you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You could commend the project for being the first to propose a cycle track along a major commercial street in the East Bay, and perhaps the first along a commercial portion of a State highway. You could ask the project to improve the cycling accommodation along Monroe.
The agenda to the P&Z meeting is here and this is the third agenda item.
It is unlikely to come up before 7:30, but you can monitor the meeting on Cable Channel 33 or streaming if you want to time your arrival. You can also offer input and/or encouragement by email to email@example.com.
As pictured, striping has just been added to the reconstructed Greenway path segments. AS&R successfully advocated for the three-lane configuration that has been implemented. There is one cycling lane for each direction and a wider lane for walking.
With the implementation of this configuration, this portion of the Ohlone Greenway path joins the yet to open west span Bay Bridge path, path along the south side of Crissy Field, south Golden Gate Bridge access path, most recent segment of the Bay Trail in Berkeley, and the renowned Minneapolis Midtown Greenway in having three lanes so those users that care to have the information how to stay separated.
Thanks are due to AS&R members Amy Smolens and Zack Mensinger for leading this advocacy effort. Zack collected pictures of analog paths near and far and ran AS&R’s first petition on change.org. Amy spoke to hundreds of Greenway path users and collected signatures for the three-lane configuration on paper. Together they presented the hundreds of signatures to the City and attended meetings to convincingly make the case.
Thanks are also due to the City and BART for being willing to hit the pause button on the planned single stripe down the middle option in order to give AS&R time to make its case and for the City to contemplate the issue. This contemplation included hiring transportation engineering consulting firm Fehr and Peers to review the situation, whose agreement with AS&R’s position helped the City decide. The City also took the opportunity to upgrade the street crossings, as pictured to the left. You can express your appreciation to the City by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is one little glitch in the striping. As implemented elsewhere, there is a pedestrian icon in the walking lane (as well as cycling icons in the cycling lanes). This icon is currently missing, suggesting it was not included in the striping plan. Also, there are only icons on the lanes at the path entries. Midblock icons would increase awareness of the lane configuration as people may be paying more attention to navigating the curves and looking for other users than symbols on the ground at the entries. AS&R is working on it. Success getting other little glitches corrected (shoulders that end too short, a trash can located in the line of a shoulder) provided confidence that this will be worked out.