Safe Streets – GreenTown “Completely” Likes That!
by Gary Hedden and Arnold Ambiel
Arnold Ambiel, Gary Hedden, Ryan McClain, Lauren Ledbetter, Sarah Peters and Cedric Novenario at the talk on Complete Streets.
On Nov. 16 at the Los Altos Library, GreenTown hosted a talk “What’s a Complete Street?” Four speakers addressed the state of complete streets in Los Altos, Santa Clara County and the Bay Area and Cedric Novenario with the City of Los Altos had an answer, “It’s a street that encourages more walking and biking.”
It’s more than that of course, and Sarah Peters with the transportation consulting firm Fehr and Peers made the point that complete streets must address all modes and all users and not be based on just strong riders and fast walkers. There are children and seniors as well as environmental concerns to be considered. Importantly, there is never enough space for everything so there will always be trade-offs.
Novenario brought that home with three examples.
On Truman Avenue by simply adding shoulder striping, the narrowing of the lanes slowed the traffic and provided more space to walk and ride bicycles. Some neighbors objected to the loss of the rural look, but most approved.
On Covington Road at Blach Intermediate School, there is not enough space for both a bike lane and street car parking to coexist 24/7. A creative solution is timed parking. The kids have a safe bike lane when they need it, and the residents have street parking for most of the day and at night.
On Loucks Avenue, a local street with significant traffic volume, the solution was speed humps and shoulder striping which was accomplished through the city’s Neighborhood Traffic Management Program. This slowed traffic and gave some separate space for cyclists and pedestrians.
Novenario mentioned some other innovations such as bulb-outs to slow traffic, provide a better line of sight and shorten the crossing distance for walkers. In addition, the use of green paint is planned in areas where cars and bikes are in conflict along Foothill Expressway.
Zebra stripes like these are a bold statement about commitment to safe streets.
Lauren Ledbetter with the Valley Transportation Authority reported on her work on the first ever Pedestrian Access to Transit Plan. Since 71% of the people using transit services walk, safe access is essential. She described the effort to set priorities by using mapping tools to identify physical barriers, locate housing density and locate major destinations.
Armed with these facts, they walked the likely target areas and looked at actual conditions. They also did surveys to find out what people like, don’t like and want. The final plan will guide grant making. Remember, she cautioned, the VTA doesn’t own the land for these projects, it is up to the cities to apply.
Peters offered some additional good ideas – changing crosswalks from two stripes to zebra stripes to make a stronger visual impact, changing on/off ramp angles to ensure better line of sight, and changing signal timing to give pedestrians a small head-start.
Ryan McClain, also with Fehr and Peers, described pop-up events to try out improvements. These one-day experiments, often on Bike-to-Work Day, let engineers and the public try changes without a lot of cost. One in El Cerrito resulted in adding permanent barriers and moving a crosswalk to make a challenging situation much safer.
That’s the innovation that GreenTown likes, changes to allow safer street use by all – that’s how we make a complete street. GreenTown will continue these discussions and talk about the impact of Measure B in Los Altos during Bike Month next May.