The sweeping, popular expansion of Palo Alto’s bicycle and pedestrian network is on hold, but probably not for long.
The City Council voted early Tuesday morning to send the final draft of the 2011 Bicycle + Pedestrian Transportation Plan back to city staff to incorporate a slew of modifications before returning to council with a final plan.
Although they expressed great appreciation for the majority of the plan, council members wanted to see more attention paid to funding, design, and implementation.
“I’m torn, because I want to see this adopted,” said Council Member Pat Burt. “I don’t expect that we’re gonna have another bike master plan for quite a while, so it’s really important that we get it with these additional changes.”
One by one, council members took their turn proposing tweaks to the plan.
Council Member Greg Schmid said that the plan places a lot of focus on north-south corridors, but needs to pay more attention to east-west paths, especially given the and the likely need for additional capacity for bikes travelling to and from that area.
Schmid also noted the lack of proposed bridges over Highway 101, pointing out that Mountain View, Menlo Park and Redwood City all have bike and pedestrian bridges built or under construction.
“I would look for wording in the bike plan that says the bike plan strongly endorses cross-101 connections,” said Schmid.
Council Member Greg Scharff added to the list of changes, pointing out the lack of bike racks downtown.
“Bike parking should be emphasized a little bit more,” said Scharff. “I have a hard time finding a rack downtown.”
Scharff also noted that the plan didn't call for a bike path next to the Downtown Whole Foods, and he took issue with the use of the word "non-motorized" throughout the plan, because he said it didn't anticipate the likely popularity of electric bicycles in the future. He asked staff to change the language to "bike and pedestrian" so as to not rule out new technological advances.
After a unanimous vote, the plan was kicked back to the Parks and Recreation Commission and Transportation and Planning Commission fore further review.
Palo Alto Chief Transportation Official Jamie Rodriguez, who said there are numerous income streams to tap to fund the $35 million plan, was receptive to the changes.
Rodriguez did point out to council, though, that the plan—which sailed through two commissions before arriving at Council Chambers—calls for improvements that could bring the city to a platinum certification from the League of American Bicyclists, who designated Palo Alto a “Bike Friendly Community.” The city currently has gold status.
If eventually approved, the plan would build upon the ambitious 2003 Bicycle Transportation Plan by including innovative design strategies, a new policy framework, a revised bike network and other changes.
The plan lays out the following five objectives:
- Double the rate of bicycling for both local and total work commutes by 2020 (to 15% and 5%, respectively).
- Convert discretionary vehicle trips into walking and bicycling trips in order to reduce City transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 15% by 2020.
- Develop a core network of shared paths, bikeways, and traffic-calmed street that connects open spaces and promotes healthy, active living.
- Plan, construct, and maintain ‘Complete Streets’ that are safe and accessible to all modes and people of all ages and abilities.
- Promote efficient, sustainable, and creative use of limited public resources through integrated design and planning.
To help meet these objectives, there would be an “aggressive expansion” of the existing Bikeway Network, according to the new plan, by adding over 50 miles of new or enhanced routes, bringing the total length of the network to about 120 miles.
These routes would include new bike lanes, shared lanes, multi-use paths, “enhanced” bikeways—which offer dedicated or preferential use for bicyclists—and new or expanded Bicycle Boulevards.
The plan also, for the first time, outlines a strategy for pedestrian transportation. If approved, sidewalks would have to be built at least six feet wide with no gaps, all curb ramps would be ADA compliant, curb extensions would be considered where appropriate, curb radii would be tightened to slow motorists, higher-visibility crosswalks and signals would be built, and new shared spaces for motorists and pedestrians would be considered.
Palo Alto Planning Director Curtis Williams said he thinks staff should have the revised plan back before the council by February.