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December 13, 2009

Should Walnut Creek become more bicycle friendly? If so, how? And, can’t we all—cyclists and motorists—be friends?

Actually, it’s mandated in the Walnut Creek General Plan 2025 that Walnut Creek become more bike friendly. According to its draft Bicycle Plan, the city wants to “provide a safe and attractive environment for bicycle travel, promote bicycle use as a sustainable and healthy mode of transportation, and provide facilities that encourage and support bicycle use for travel and recreation in Walnut Creek.

Besides these lofty, eco-friendly goals, the city needs to develop a comprehensive Bicycle Plan to become eligible to receive state funds alloted by such agencies as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management Distirct.

Okay, so Walnut Creek must become more bicycle friendly. The “how” is what the City Council will begin discussing at its meeting Tuesday night.

Background: Over the past 10 years, the city has spent about $2 million to ease bicycle transportation around town. These new facilities include building a “Class 1” bicycle- and pedestrian-only bridge along the Iron Horse Trail crossing Ygnacio Valley Road and installing 50 new bike racks in the downtown area.

But the city would like to do more to encourage more people to bike to work or to school or to use bikes to shop, go out to eat, take in a movie or show at the Lesher Center, and get themselves to our parks and open space areas.

The Draft Bicycle plan says that many roads are not currently bicycle friendly; connections to downtown, transit, and work centers are not clearly established; bike parking facilities are inadequate; and improvements should be made in bike safety programs. Also, the unincorporated pockets surrounded by the city (like my neighborhood) create gaps in bike routes.

The city has identified a long list of destinations for cyclists that includes 31 schools, 27 parks and open spaces, two BART stations, and eight commercial centers. The city would also like to improve the bike networks between us and neighboring cities.

One consideration: The 2000 Census shows that only 0.6 percent of Walnut Creek residents bike to work on a regular basis. That number is slightly higher than the national average and, of course, doesn’t include kids who ride their bikes to school or people who ride recreationally.

A disclosure: I don’t ride a bicycle and don’t foresee myself taking up cycling, but I have co-workers who bike to work and relatives who are serious recreational cyclists. For these people, I know cycling saves them money for commuting, and gives them a chance to exercise and enjoy the outdoors.




One major concern is bicycle safety for cyclists. However, it appears that the people most in need of bicycle safety education are the cyclists themselves. Of the 109 bicycle crashes in Walnut Creek from 2004 to 2008, the majority were caused by the cyclists, primarily by riding on the wrong side of the road. Remember, as the draft plan says, every person riding a bicycle upon a street or highway is subject to the all the duties applicable to a driver of a vehicle.

Hmm. I’ve seen a fair share of cyclists, especially those weekend groups riding in packs fail to stop at stop signs in my neighborhood …

Well, here are some of the specific ideas for making Walnut Creek more bicycle friendly, and you can read more in the draft plan:

--Require major development and redevelopment projects be reviewed by the Bicycle Advisory Committee to ensure that bicycle facilities can accommodate various users, including the provision of temporary facilities.
--Require appropriate bicycle-related improvements as a condition of design
review or subdivision approval.
--Require routine accommodations for all modes of travel when implementing city street-widening projects
-- Consider sidewalk widths greater than 10 feet whenever bicyclists are allowed or encouraged to use sidewalks on a designated bicycle facility.
--Where feasible, integrate new bikeways when designing new or modifying existing roadways.
--Support the development of a bikeway network that provides connections to bikeways in neighboring communities.

17 comments:

Up3rd said...

Be friends? You're kidding, right? Too many times I've nearly run over or into a cyclist because they seem to believe the laws of vehicle operation don't apply to them. When cyclists actually stop at stop signs and red lights, cease cutting laterally across red light intersections against the light, and choose to either be IN the lane or not, I'll be more inclined to tolerate them on the road. And this from someone once used to cycling as my primary mode of transportation.

Anonymous said...

Well, as a new cyclist who daily transverses downtown, I could equally cite SUV drivers either texting/talking, or rolling through red lights.

I obey all laws, as I do when I am driving.

With your I'll 'tolerate' them, ie, the other, I guess your two tons of metal will win.

Aren't you so big.

Lisa Mc said...

I love Walnut Creek's trail system. I've never lived anywhere that had such great use of trail space for walking, jogging and bicycling. My son and I bike to his school every day and only have to cross one street to do so. And I ride to the store all the time and to downtown.

Downtown is tougher though. I often carefully ride the sidewalks (I was told this was OK but haven't seen any signage for it). The streets aren't wide enough for cars and bicycles and the drivers don't give much room or slow down significantly around bicyclists. I'm assuming because they're not used to sharing the road with bikes.

Clearly marked bike routes downtown is a good start to make it more bike friendly and inviting to newer cyclists. I haven't cycled in SF since they shut down some of Market St. I hear more people are riding there now throughout the city and it's not as terrifying as when I lived there and tried to bike to work on occasion.

It's tough (and expensive) to go in to an existing infrastructure and change the road system but Walnut Creek is set up better than most. And the weather is PERFECT for it too. More secure bike racks would also help immensely.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question and I love to bike...why do the cyclists at Heather Farms Park feel the need to cycle in the car lanes (and hold up all park traffic) when there are perfectly adequate bike trails, right next to the street. Have always wondered about that.

Masterlock said...

I think the key to making WC more bike friendly would be some kind of safe keeping or bike check so that people can leave their bikes somewhere without it being stripped bare.

Anonymous said...

I bicycle commute daily to PH BART(actually N Walnut Creek Bart). Bikelink.org has a couple of dozen lockers there that are a great solution for secure bike parking. When construction is over they intend to add more lockers there.

My problem downtown is there is no place to park a bike. Simple bike racks would be great. I get called for Jury Duty every other year to the courthouse. The trail goes right by there(practically), yet there is no bike parking. Shopping is easily accessed via the same trail, yet there are just a few racks at the garage next to Nordi's

BTW, I also drive. Not long ago I had a suburban, so I fall into both obnoxious categories. Seriously, many bike riders annoy me and I'm on a bike.

Anonymous said...

From comments so far in response to this story, bike racks sound like the key!

The city could start by adding those to downtown and other key shopping/recreation areas and gauging their use for the next year or so, and do a follow-up survey of residents to see if more steps are needed at that point.

Racks (and locking facilities at BART stations) could be a simple, low-cost way to improve things for everyone.

Bob Brittain, PROS Commission said...

Hello Anon 12:31pm,

I have some good news for you. The City is considering an improvement project for pedestrians, bikers & drivers in Heather Farm Park.

The public meeting will be at 7pm on Tuesday, Jan. 5th in the Club Room in the Community Center at Heather Farm Park.

According to the invitation I was sent:

"Attendees will be given a brief overview of the project,
including the environmental process, proposed improvements
and phasing, and anticipated schedule. Your participation is encouraged!"

I formerly biked through the park as part of my "scenic route" to work in Shadelands. I did tend to use the trail but there were problems with the bike/pedestrian interface. I hope this project resolves some of those items.

Please come to the meeting if you can and share your ideas for improvements. Best wishes.

MC said...

re: Heather Farms

I ride my bike in the "car lanes" or the regular road, as it is otherwise known because it is faster, i dont have to worry about pedestrians and how to get around them, and some of the bike trails are fairly bumpy, whereas roads that serve cars are not.

it depends on the road, but i usually prefer riding on streets rather than paths for the above reasons. but that depends on the street too. i dont ride on treat blvd and think the cyclists who do are crazy and brave.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? I hate the bike riders in their ugly, full-of-advertising, spandex outfits who traverse down Danville Blvd. They ride double,triple, outside the lines, yaking all the way.. Why can't they use the bike trail? I am a VERY careful driver yet alomost hit a few bikers a couple of times. I'm also a walker. The bike riders expect you to get out of their way even though I'm on the side of the trail.
PS--To the Bike riders without the physique "spandex is a privlege not a right."

LeftCoast said...

LOL, just wait for our favorite parking lot concession owner to post that you should have the priviledge to have your bikes valet parked at 7 bucks a shot.

Just kidding Mr. Parking lot owner, just kidding.

Masterlock said...

9:36 has a good point, the road bikers on Danville BlVD are out of control. My nephew lost a bet 9:36 and we're going to make him ride along with a group of them in cut off jean shorts the next time he comes in town. I'll post the youtube once we execute it.

Anonymous said...

Message to Rodney King:

Evidently, we cannot get along, even about sharing the road among bikers, pedestrians and motorized vehicles!

Jeez, people! Being mean-spirited toward others is bad for your health.

Anonymous said...

Yes SM, its in the General Plan, but we all know by now that is meaningless. Point: the bicycle draft you mention lists as Number One on the High Priority list California Street between Olympic and Newell.

Well, Hall and Associates have their new plan for the Kentucky Fried Chicken block redo with absolutely No Accommodation at all for improved/safer bicycle passage along this major reconstruction. I ride that area, it a major connector to BART and Kaiser, and is a matter of time until someone gets mowed down.

Hall's property has plenty of room for expanding the pedestrian/bicycle passage. Why no mention of a transit improvement incorporated into the plan? Where is the planning department, whose job it is to execute the General Plan?

Silly me.....

Anonymous said...

Each parking garage should have multiple bike racks. It's nice to have the bike undercover as some of us ride in the rain. I have bike locker at the bart station. It's awesome as I don't have to worry about someone taking my lights etc. I'd like to see more bike lanes but know it's not feasible on existing roads. Mt. Diablo needs one, so does main. Let's keep planning and discussing. It's an awesome way to get around... cheap and provides exercise.

Soccer Mom said...

Thanks everyone for your post, and Dec 15, 5:22 p.m., you raise a specific point that is very interesting and worth checking out. And Bob Brittain, thanks for the information about the public meeting regarding improvements at Heather Farm Park.

Anonymous said...

I think the best way to encourage cycling is to get kids to bike to school.
The walnut creek study shows that 25% of journeys are school trips yet only 5% of kids bike to school.
School trips are the one local journey that people regularly make - work and shopping trips are often longer and require bag carrying.
The only thing stopping kids cycling are safe routes - free from other kids being driven to school.
It would also keep them fit and wake them up each day.