A request by council members Brock and de la Torre to “enhance vehicular movements while not compromising bicycle and pedestrian safety” on the new – not yet completed – 17th Street Protected Bikeway. ie. let cars go faster at intersections where the data shows conflicts leading to crashes and injuries happen. If that sounds strange to you we’d have to agree.
There is no need to “study” this, the documentation on how protected bike lanes and intersections improve safety is widely disseminated and accepted worldwide – this YouTube video on the topic was posted over 12 years ago. The “gold” standard implementations on 17th were years in the planning and follow national and international design standards for safety and were designed by experts in the field. Repeated studies consistently show that adding protected bike lanes increases the safety of all road users – people driving cars, walking, and biking. Research shows that adding protected bike lanes reduces all collisions and injuries by 30-50%. The simple fact is research and experience shows again and again and again the same thing: protected bike lanes are good for everyone. The 2018 CalBike report notes that – among other benefits – protected bike lanes “improve safety for bicyclists, car drivers, and pedestrians” and “Get more people to ride bikes by providing the safety, comfort, and separation most people want and need to consider bicycling.” The 17th Street Protected Bikeway configuration fulfills an international “gold” standard for safety referred to as a â€œDutch crossing.â€Â
There is no argument that useful information is a good thing. However it is important to note – this important safety project – after years of planning and outreach – is not yet even complete having suffered many unavoidable delays during construction due to an exceptional rainy season that no doubt led to confusion. Until recently when the work was nearing completion there was legitimate confusion and concerns that arose in the community from both motorists and cyclists. We all know change is hard. It is a given that – although the changes are an improvement – there will be a certain amount of discomfort and confusion when implementing new and unfamiliar road design standards. It is also understandable that concerns are often generated during construction when new street safety projects are partially implemented. However, now that the project is near-finished it has clearly become evident – supported by the overwhelming feedback received – that the configuration fulfills the world class safety standards that were envisioned by the community. So, do we now switch back to choosing speed over safety to “enhance vehicular movements” at intersections? Is this just the beginning? Where will the vehicle prioritizing corrosive changes end?
These sorts of Council member requests are almost routinely passed. We have no doubt an Information Item on the 17th Street protected bikeway improvements will detail the project’s resounding successes and include Staffâ€™s attentiveness throughout the project and into the final stages of completion. Just recently, as the project nears the finish line, City Mobility staff have made adjustments in response to community feedback and regular onsite inspections to accommodate disability parking, signage and potential conflicts with concrete lips. We ask the Council to remove the counterproductive second half of the 16-D request from any motion being considered. Council needs to choose to prioritize safety over speed modifications that “enhance vehicular movements.” Choosing safety and equity for all road users over â€œenhanc[ing] vehicular movements.â€ We know vehicle speed is a key factor in traffic violence that results in serious injuries and traffic fatalities. We urge Council to stop prioritizing vehicles over people and to affirm prior commitments to protect our most vulnerable road users, people walking and biking. Prioritize people, kids to seniors, and our collective future for a livable climate.
Why 17th Street?
17th Street connects local neighborhoods to transit facilities, bikeways, schools, employment opportunities, and entertainment. 17th Street was identified in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), Bicycle Action Plan (BAP), and Pedestrian Action Plan to include safety improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists. With the opening of the Metro Expo light rail station — by 2018 there had already been anÂ 1160% increase in pedestrian traffic and anÂ 82%Â increase in bicycle traffic.