Solano Complete Streets better alternative

AS&R has expressed disappointment in the Solano Complete Streets Draft Plan that was released in February 2019. The plan offered no improvements for people riding bikes on Solano Ave. We heard from many people that bikes don’t really belong on Solano Ave., there are good alternative east-west bike routes nearby, and if we want to shop on Solano by bike we should just arrive from a side street and park at the corner. This is antithetical to the concept of Complete Streets.

The Traffic & Safety Commission took a big step to improve the plan at its meeting on February 28th. The Commission viewed a new alternative design that would welcome bike riding on Solano, offer more sidewalk space for people walking, and maintain roughly the car parking capacity that the street has today.

The new design provides a safe, protected bike lane for people riding uphill, avoiding conflicts with drivers using the diagonal parking. In the downhill direction, bike riders would share the lane with car traffic, alongside a parallel parking strip.

The Traffic & Safety Commission unanimously asked for the new alternative to be included in the plan.

The final plan, coming soon, may offer a range of alternative designs to consider. AS&R will support alternatives that encourage more people to shop on Solano using active transportation, and will oppose alternatives that invite more car use:

  • The primary design in February’s draft plan devotes more public space to car parking and does not recommend any tools to manage parking demand. It makes no improvements for people biking. It widens sidewalks a little, but not enough for a main street. Some features meant to help people walk across the wide street would create new hazards for those biking. AS&R opposes this design.
  • February’s draft plan recommends studying back-in angled parking as an alternative to today’s parking configuration. This would improve safety for people biking, but would not encourage a wide range of people to try biking.
  • AS&R enthusiastically supports the new design with the protected bike lane. It provides safe spaces for people to ride bikes from ages 8 to 80, devotes more space for walking, and does not encourage additional driving. This is a true Complete Street.

8 comments to Solano Complete Streets better alternative

  • Linda Berland

    That’s a great compromise and solution! Totally support it =).

  • Amy Smolens

    Clearly, given the hundreds of bicycles of all types that we see parked on AS&R’s “Bike Bike Racks,” bicyclists of all ages DO shop, eat and do business on Solano Avenue. How about some decent infrastructure to support them?

  • Clay Larson

    Amy;

    “Hundreds of bicycles” seems a bit hyperbolic, but after parking the bike, the cyclist becomes a pedestrian. Accordingly, we should emphasize the pedestrian enhancements called out in the Solano Ave Complete Streets plan.

    • Amy Smolens

      Sorry, Clay, I just now saw this.
      Hundreds of bicyclists is not at all hyperbole. I have hundreds of photographs of various bicycles parked at Bike Bike Racks on Solano Avenue . Yes, hundreds of different bicycles, many kids’ bikes, with child seats, trailers, trail-a-bikes, Xtracycles, etc, etc, etc . Your wife Joan is my Facebook friend so please go to my Facebook page, flip through the photos and you’ll see for yourself that I am not exaggerating in the least.
      We have to get there before walking, hence, a safe bicycle infrastructure is crucial. That’s what “Complete Streets” means – “They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.”

    • Harry Chomsky

      Thanks Clay for directing attention to the quality of pedestrian improvements. As you noted, everybody walks (or uses a wheelchair) as part of their Solano visit, whether they arrive by walking, transit, car or bike.

      The new alternative with the protected bike lane offers much better benefits for walking too, compared with the consultants’ design shown in the draft plan:

      * Sidewalks are wider in the new alternative. Unlike the draft plan, the new alternative provides room for people to walk side by side in both directions and to mill about.
      * The new alternative allows bigger trees, because the trees will be farther from buildings.
      * Crosswalks in the new alternative are positioned so they will be in daylight more of the time. This will help keep people visible as they cross the street.

  • Harry Chomsky

    Updates on the Complete Streets plan and the new alternative:

    * Albany’s Climate Action Committee considered the plan. They unanimously rejected the design shown in the draft plan and approved the alternative with the protected bike lane.

    * The Economic Development Committee considered the plan. They were interested in both designs and wanted more time to consider them before making a recommendation. They did not automatically assume that the alternative with more car parking (i.e., the design shown in the draft plan) would be better for business. It is becoming more widely understood that reallocating space from private cars to other modes can improve business, as shown by studies worldwide. Also, Albany’s parking occupancy survey showed that our existing parking capacity is not as heavily used as many thought, and 45% of people arrive without using a private car.

    * The City Council will not be considering the plan on April 15th as originally scheduled. The city is taking more time to consider options.

  • Clay Larson

    Amy;

    Your reference to “hundreds of bicycles” parked on AS&R’s bike racks is hyperbolic because it appeared to be offered as a measure of the intensity of bicycle travel on Solano.

    The proposed enhancements to the Solano Ave. should be based on a demonstrated need; real numbers: How many bicycle trips are made on Solano Ave? How many trips are made on the immediately adjacent Washington and Marin Ave. bike routes?

    On Sunday, I took a walk all the way up Solano. During my half-an-hour walk, I observed only four bicyclists actually riding on Solano. There were 10 bicycles tethered to racks or polls. I observed more than a hundred pedestrians and certainly “hundreds” of cars. These observations suggest that we should prioritize pedestrian enhancements on Solano Ave. and that we should be careful about changes that will interfere with automobile traffic, including parking.

    The lack of any data demonstrating the need for bicycle routes has been a long-standing problem with bicycle planning in Albany, including the ATP. Albany’s if we build, maybe they will come approach is wasteful of public monies.

    Harry;

    The new alternative with a protected bike lane obviates potential pedestrian enhancements such as bulb outs and refuge islands. The proposed bicycle facilities will also reduce parking and potentially implement a bizarre new parking scheme. Parking is already at a premium on Solano.

    • Harry Chomsky

      Unfortunately we can’t obtain real numbers for how many people *would* ride bicycles on a hypothetical Solano Ave designed as a complete street. We can observe what happens today: 7% of people surveyed on the Ave arrived by bike, many people park at the bike racks, few ride on the street because it’s laid out to make riding unsafe and frightening, some unfortunately ride on the sidewalks, and many probably arrive via side streets. Other places have found that good bike infrastructure brings people in and improves the atmosphere of a shopping district.

      The new alternative offers short crossing distances just like the draft design. The only difference is that on the south side, you walk across the bike lane first, then onto a bulbout, then up to the car lanes where you have good visibility just like in the draft design. The new alternative does not have center refuges, but those were controversial at last fall’s demo and are probably overkill for a two-lane, 25-foot-wide car section.

      The new alternative doesn’t reduce car parking — it keeps it roughly the same as it is today. Real numbers show this parking is not very heavily used. What about the proposed parking scheme seems bizarre to you? It’s the same layout as on Portland near Memorial Park, for example.

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