The Pleasanton City Council voted this week to update the city’s bicycle master plan to provide funding and strategies for making streets and pathways safer for cycling.
The action came after the death last June of cyclist Gail Turner, 72, who died after being struck by a vehicle as she crossed Stanley Boulevard at its intersection with Valley and Bernal avenues.
Members of several bicycle organizations addressed the council a few weeks later asking that designated bikeways in Pleasanton be improved and extended, with one speaker calling the city one of the most dangerous in the Bay Area.
These groups and other cyclists were back last Tuesday as the council considered bicycle safety at a special meeting.
Michael Tassano, the city’s traffic engineer, said there were 32 miles of designated bike lanes on major streets in Pleasanton in 2006, and that there are more than 70 miles of bike lanes today.
“That’s more than double the number 10 years ago,” Tassano told the council.
Still, he agreed with cyclists that more needs to be done, pointing out that the width of traffic lanes at the newly-paved section of Bernal Avenue leading towards downtown from I-680 have been narrowed to accommodate bike lanes.
He said the extensive list of improvements completed in recent years led to the city receiving the League of American Bicyclist Bronze award.
However, the Pedestrian & Bicycle Master Plan adopted in 2010 lacks a focus regarding which projects and improvement the city should pursue in order to create a usable network of safe sidewalks and bike lanes, Tassano said.
A report signed by Gerry Beaudin, director of community development; Tina Olson, director of finance, and Nelson Fialho, city manager, provided to the City Council at its special meeting, states that “gaps exist along the bicycle network on nearly every corridor, resulting in continued obstacles when trying to ‘get from there to here.’”
According to the report, the master plan should be updated every five years. The update approved by the council will be handled by steering committee which will now shift the focus to complete the network of lanes, sidewalks and pathways. Its new goals will be to:
• Create a “low stress” bicycle and pedestrian network that may be enjoyed by all users and abilities.
• Focus on completing corridors.
Tassano said that in terms of priorities, his research shows West Las Positas Boulevard as needing attention first to provide both better safety for bicyclists and more clearly marked and extended designated lanes. At the council’s insistence, however, the busy and least protected intersection at Valley/Bernal/Stanley, where Ms. Turner was killed, should come first.
Tassano showed graphics of proposed changes at that intersection that will include abolishing the designated right-turn lane on eastbound Stanley for traffic turning onto Bernal Avenue and forcing southbound traffic on Valley Avenue to maneuver around an extended concrete curb to make right turns onto westbound Stanley.
Green-painted bike lanes would allow cyclists to ride in a new right-hand bike lane on Valley to the intersection, with a green lane marked across Stanley, and then again across Bernal to ride in an eastward direction.
Of the estimated 175 mostly cyclists in the chamber, 25 addressed the council, including a number of elementary and middle school students who read from written remarks urging the council to make city streets safer.
Steve McGinnis of the 262-member Pleasanton Peddlers organization called on the council to adopt a plan for improving bicycle safety and implement it quickly.
“There have been 35 bike-vehicle collisions at the intersection of Valley Avenue and Santa Rita Road,” he said. “We need protected bike lanes there.”
In voting to move forward on a pedestrian and bicycle master plan, which would open the door to various funds to help add new, extended and wider bike lanes and sidewalks, Councilman Arne Olson said he was distressed to see 2021 as the earliest date for completing these projects.
“This needs to be pushed up,” Olson said. “We need to see what to do and get it done.”
He suggested using money given to the city by developers to fund these improvements so some of them could get started immediately.
Work will start Monday and again on Oct. 24 at the next meetings of the Pedestrian, Bicycle and Trails committee, with the City Council planning to review that effort at another public workshop in November.
Mayor Jerry Thorne, in closing the two-hour public meeting on Sept. 13 to loud applause, said he hopes to that the council will have an updated master plan ready for adoption in December.