The Council last night approved on a 4-1 vote (I opposed) establishing a temporary/experimental bike loop near the downtown core.
I’m not opposed to giving people a chance to ride their bikes. In fact, I had just voted to approve the Pedestrian/Bicycle Master Plan (with the caveat it be quickly augmented to cover more of the city).
No, what’s concerned me throughout the several reviews we’ve had of this pandemic-inspired experiment is it misses the mark. What we should do is implement a “Slow Streets” program.
“Slow Streets” is about much more than providing recreational opportunities although it does that, too, and generally closer to home. It’s based on a recognition the pandemic, by forcing people to shelter-in-place and stay near home, has increased the use of residential streets by pedestrians, kids playing and bicyclists.
That fundamentally changes, IMHO, the way our streets are being used. And in such a way I would expect the risk of accidents to increase…unless we do something about it.
That’s where “Slow Streets” can play a role. All a “slow street” is, is a regular (generally residential) street with “passable barricades” at each intersection that announce “Slow Streets Zone. Proceed with Caution”. The barricades, while passable, are sized and positioned such that you can’t just drive past them; you have to slow down and maneuver around them. At which point, hopefully, you’ve read the sign and modified your driving behavior/speed.
The “bike loop” doesn’t do that, except, perhaps, by accident. Moreover, as you can see from this map:
much of the area encompassed by the loop is one of the most densely populated, heavily traveled and highly parked up areas of San Carlos. Because it’s right next to our downtown core.
I invite you to think about all of the interactions that could take place as bicyclists deal with traffic, cars pulling in and out of parking spaces, etc. Because the loop won’t be closed to vehicular traffic while it’s in operation as a recreational venue.
Some have argued the bike loop will give us valuable information we can use to consider a future “Slow Streets” program. To which I ask, in the words of a famous football running back: “Why go side to side when you can just run down the field?”
While that isn’t always the best choice for a running back (unless you’re really fast) it does highlight something important. If you want to see how a program works, run the program you want to evaluate. If you can. Which we certainly could’ve chosen to do in the case of “Slow Streets”.
I hope the bike loop succeeds and people enjoy it. But we could’ve done so much more, on a wider basis, with more longer-term benefits if we’d been willing to dream a bit bigger, and worked to make our dream a reality.