It was a relatively routine evening for the Concord City Council on April 8th 2014. During the public comment period community activists of all political persuasions gave their recommendations on saving the world including the place they called home.
Among them could be found Adam Foster, who works by day in the Planning Division for the City of Lafayette and as a green life-style proponent in his spare time. In making recommendations to the City Council, he spoke in favor of parking maximums, increased density for downtown commercial development, and larger secondary dwelling units.
Make no mistake about it, Adam Foster wants to reduce the public’s dependence on the automobile for both ecological and lifestyle reasons. He and his family, who reside in the Wisteria development near BART, definitely walk the talk.
Foster commutes to work each day on his bike and his family shops with a specially outfitted transport (with a large box) that can pick-up larger parcels at nearby stores. They own but one car and are the poster child for being able to survive without being a slave to the combustion engine.
In bringing forth this arguably enlightened point of view, Foster served on the Downtown Ad Hoc Steering Committee, and was recently appointed by Caltrans to be a member of its Bike Advisory Committee. At the Thursday evening Farmers Market/Music Extravaganza at Todos Santos, Foster can be found providing free repair services for those bringing a two wheeled conveyances to the park.
Taking this advocacy one step further, the Progressive Adam Foster has filed papers to run for the Concord City Council this November.
When it comes to building the Concord of tomorrow he does not hesitate to recommend a much different world than exists today favoring a large transit village that utilizes BART to commute to work and having close by businesses to decrease the necessity for using cars. In the deliberations of the Concord Downtown Ad Hoc Steering Committee, Foster favored implementing a study (that was turned down) that recommended:
“On Willow Pass Road, a road diet has been identified as a potential measure at several community meetings. Road diets are ideal on four-lane roadways carrying upwards of 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day. On roadways with average daily traffic volumes between 20,000 and 25,000 there is a greater likelihood that traffic would divert to alternate routes. Based on the level of daily traffic on Willow Pass Road, a road diet would likely result in traffic diverting to parallel roadways, including Clayton Road and Concord Boulevard. With a road diet, Willow Pass Road would have limited ability to accommodate traffic growth, whether from the SPA or regional growth.
Benefits of the road diet would be the ability to provide bike lanes or on-street parking, decreased pedestrian crossing distances across Willow Pass Road, potential for decreased vehicle speeds, and the potential for increased sidewalk width. Additional analysis would be needed to determine the extents of a road diet, such as from East Street to Galindo Street (or further west to Fry Way or Gateway Boulevard), the expected traffic diversion to alternate routes and intersection operations with reduced capacity on Willow Pass Road. It is expected that peak hour analysis for vehicles would show degraded operations for vehicles, with off-peak operations likely remaining about the same for vehicles. Benefits for other travel modes would be experienced at all times of day.”
It can be expected that with $200,000 being spent for a bicycle and pedestrian safety study for Concord’s future, will likely bring this issue up once again. It is certain the grant funds are going to do more than recommend building a few special lanes and bike racks to adorn parks and public gathering places.
The bike lobby has become a powerful special interest group whose accomplishments include the creation of special lanes thru the Caldecott Tunnel and Bay Bridge built at a cost of mega millions of dollars. In short this group wants to alter the way most of us live.
Key to bike enthusiast’s plans is changing the way people get to and from major transportation hubs like Concord BART and the Todos Santos District. Building high density residential developments that limit those living in them use of cars as well as others in the community is the cornerstone of the strategy.
From such a concept is where the expression listed above as a “road diet” or “traffic quieting” comes from. With this way of thinking increased congestion is mitigated by reducing traffic flow to encourage people not to be dependent on personal motorized vehicles for their primary transportation needs.
This strategy has proven to be successful in such diverse places as Barcelona Spain, Venice Italy, and closer to home in Portland Oregon. All of these locales were already gridlocked before bike lanes, public transit only areas, and more pedestrian friendly walkways were installed. How the road diet concept would apply to a less congested suburban landscape in Concord and the cities along the Hwy 680-4 corridor remains to be seen.
CONCORD BIKE STUDY SHOWS BIKE-AUTO ACCIDENT ZONES
This is what is to be expected to be discussed with the freebie grant money that is financing the bike and pedestrian study. As might be expected, I am apprehensive of this having immigrated over 30 years ago to the Diablo Valley from congested San Francisco.” There is no way I want to make my home environment a replica of the “City by the Bay.”
While in general I am vehemently opposed to the San Francisco-ization of the region, I am not entirely against making improvements for pedestrians and those who ride bicycles. Among concepts I favor exploring are:
- Alternative routes of bicycles away from congested arteries such as the Monument Corridor, Clayton Road and Willow Pass.
- Consider closing off street in the downtown area to motorized traffic during selected hours to encourage so called “walk able streets”
- Improve the quality of bike paths (not so many rough spots) and to build more of them in new developments such as the new Concord Naval Weapons lands.
- Construct new bike paths to connect up with existing ones.
- Try to build a safe path parallel to BART lines for pedestrians and bikes as suggested by the Downtown Ad Hoc Steering Committee.
- Encourage bike and car sharing similar to what has been done in other metropolitan areas.
With this being said, the whole concept of traffic quieting scares me.
In taking account of making new priorities for future development it is important that moderation by all sides of various urban planning models. This is not a Republican vs. Democratic deal where partisan politics are involved. It is what our city and community will look like when most existing residents of the area will be long gone in circa 2050 that counts.
This is why I think it is important that the public understands the concepts advocated by Adam Foster and others who are proponents of life style changes; even if these views differ greatly from mine.
While I favor an environment where the suburban character of Contra Costa can be preserved, perhaps this is a Fantasy Island hallucination on my part. I just don’t think there is sufficient will or physical fitness on the part of largely apathetic Americans to make Foster’s vision of a Global Bike Village come true.
One thing is certain. Changes will come to the urban landscape of tomorrow whether we like them or not.