Adams and Kains Bikeways Pilot Approved

In the closest victory for biking in Albany in over ten years, the Council approved one-year bike boulevard pilots on Adams and Kains to be installed in the future pending funding. In the week of the climate strike and after having earlier in the same meeting considered the draft Climate Action and Adaptation Plan showing more than half of Albany’s greenhouse pollution currently comes from cars, you would think the City Council would fall over itself to approve bike boulevards first proposed seven years ago and studied and engineered for over last two years. Instead, the Council barely found its way to approving them on a 3-2 vote. Vice Mayor McQuaid and Councilmember Barnes opposed without offering any alternative actions by which Albany could take local responsibility for its transportation greenhouse pollution.

The last time the Council approved major cycling infrastructure on just three votes was in April 2007. In voting yes, then Councilmember Lieber strongly invoked the need to act locally to avert the climate crisis. Here we are still having to fight that battle. The 2007 action approved construction of the multi-use path along the 500 block of Pierce Street. The next phase of that project will complete the path from there through Thomsen Pierce Street Park and along Cleveland to connect with the Buchanan path. Unforeseeable then was that this portion of the path will go right by 60+ affordable residences planned at Cleveland and Washington. The path will make those residences all the more affordable by providing a safe means for people living there to get around without having to own a car.

The main concern of opponents to the Pierce Street path was loss of motorist parking on the street. When that was resolved through engineering, residents opposed to the project turned to other issues. Hundreds of residents signed a petition against the project. Albany Strollers & Rollers had only about a hundred member households then but prevailed nonetheless.

Albany will soon have Bicycle Boulevards like this one in Berkeley!

This time the main concern of opponents was again motorist parking. Not loss but rather which direction motorists would park. The pilot project will convert Adams and Kains back to two-way, as Kains was in the early 1990s, but install barricades preventing motorists from entering each block in the direction currently prohibited (semi-diverters). These barriers will allow people biking to pass through. In this manner, these streets will finally be legal for people to bike both directions without increasing motorist traffic.

Opponents’ main concern was whether motorists parking on the side of the street with the semi-diverters would park facing them (contraflow parking – left wheels to the curb) or away from them as typical for a two-way street (right wheels to the curb). Organized under the banner Safe Streets Kains and Adams, opponents threw up speculation of collision chaos under either alternative. As common in political discourse, the group did not bother to analyze available injury collision data to test its speculation.

UC Berkeley currently makes thirteen years of statewide injury collision data available through AS&R analyzed these data for the nine blocks of Adams and Kains in the pilot, five blocks in Berkeley with semi-diverters, and two dead-end blocks in Albany with no turnarounds (north end of Stannage and Madison). The semi-diverters in Berkeley were installed over 40 years ago (1975) and motorists have been parking contraflow ever since. Motorists on the dead-end streets in Albany make three-point turns to park right wheels to the curb. So these three sets of blocks capture current and possible future motorist parking.

In thirteen years, the nine blocks of Adams and Kains had two injury collisions, each involving a motorist at fault colliding with someone biking. The five blocks with semi-diverters in Berkeley had two injury collisions that were motorist on motorist. The two dead-end blocks in Albany had no injury collisions. While it is tempting to draw conclusions about which configuration is safest from these data, the collision rates on all three are statistically the same. And low (less than one injury collision per block every twenty years).  These data indicate however motorists end up parking on Adams and Kains it will be no more dangerous for motorists than it is now.

Meanwhile, the Alameda County Transportation Commission (Alameda CTC) recently identified the top 10% of streets with the most injury collisions involving people biking. The only such street in Albany is San Pablo (see page 61 of Book 2 of the agency’s new active transportation plan for the County). This validates AS&R’s decade of advocacy for safer cycling options in the corridor.

An opponent of the project also protested that the planned bikeway west of San Pablo between Richmond City Hall and Oakland’s Jack London Square is no longer part of the Alameda CTC’s plan. Even if this were true, all the other cities along this route (Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland) have already built or funded this route though. The only city that has not done its part is Albany, creating a gap right in the middle. The pilot project would close most of this gap by allowing two-way biking on Adams. The other component to close the gap is an active transportation bridge over Cerrito Creek. Of this, the Alameda CTC states the following in Book 4 of its new active transportation plan:

“Cerrito Creek has a greater impact on connectivity, especially west of San Pablo Avenue which crosses the creek, but is a high-stress street for bicycling. A concept design study of a bridge at Adams Street is currently under development by Alameda CTC.”

So the opponent’s contention that Alameda CTC is no longer interested in the west of San Pablo route is wrong at best. Alameda CTC is actually so interested it has decided to help Albany or actually take the lead.

Unremarked by the Council is its zoning of Adams and Kains for two to three times as many residents as there are currently and reducing the off-street car parking required per residence from two to one. It reduced the parking requirement on the idea this would increase construction of new residences and the new residents would not need more than one car each because they would walk, bike, and take transit. This is working as evidenced by the recent construction permit application for nine new residences where there is currently a parking lot at Kains and Portland. The two votes against biking both ways on these streets contradict these previous voters by the Council.

Opponents of piloting bike boulevards on Adams and Kains misinformed their neighbors, almost 200 of whom subsequently signed a petition against the project. Supporters of the project that spoke to the Council in favor were outnumbered about ten to one by opponents. Still, with the 700 member households of AS&R standing behind those who did speak, AS&R prevailed. This is part of what winning the future by minimizing climate change looks like. Millions of political decisions going the right way. Thank you for providing your support.

1 comment to Adams and Kains Bikeways Pilot Approved

  • Clay Larson

    I just discovered Harry Chomsky newspaper styled recount of the City Council’s recent decision on the Kains Adams bikeways. I didn’t find much here to comment on. The usual overreach statements about striking a blow for climate change. The usual misstatements about gaps in some fictional, regional bikeway between the Richmond City Hall and Jack London Square. Nothing new here except, the statement, “The pilot project will convert Adams and Kains back to two-way like they were in the early 1990s…” I have heard Amy make this surprising statement with regards to Kains. The statement is completely incorrect for Adams. I have lived on Adams since the mid 70’s and it has always been one-way. Old timer Adams St. neighbors tell me that Adams has been one-way since at least the 60’s. But, I also asked a Kains Ave resident, who in turn checked with her neighbors who confirmed that Kains has been one-way since at least the 70’s and probably much earlier. Was Amy simply mistaken or is there something else going on here? Chomsky’s statement appeared to suggest that the proposed change would just return the streets to their recent, old normal configurations. This is not true and clearly misleading.

    The proponents of the Kains/Adams projects have made many misstatements. I have always assumed that these were honest mistakes (You guys do wear your helmets, right?). However, the misinformation (disinformation) has certainly confounded a reasonable discussion of the issues.


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