Angry at the Active Transportation Plan

Angry at the Active Transportation Plan

When does the city exceed its authority to make choices that are not chosen by its citizens? Three of five city councilmembers advocate for pro-bicycle and pro-pedestrian positions and authorized city staff to embark on a plan to prioritize bicycle and pedestrian wishes. It has a city-appointed Transportation Commission that mostly favors bicycle and pedestrian desires over those of motorists.

In 2020, the city created the Active Transportation Plan (ATP.) ATP’s listed goals are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prioritize biking infrastructure, and increase the percentage of walking and biking. But when does one minor segment of the population get to dictate “what everyone else must do and enjoy?”
I have two issues the ATP involving Versailles Avenue and Gibbons Drive.

Versailles Avenue
Versailles Avenue is one of just a few routes that facilitates travel to and from the north to the south of the island. Versailles Avenue is one of the few direct routes for vehicles to get from Oakland to the Versailles business district. By closing off Versailles, vehicles, particularly delivery vehicles, going to and from Oakland, must travel further out of their way to use side streets, High Street or Broadway to get to that business district. That diversion actually increases greenhouse gas emissions thus defeating one of the city’s stated goals.

When a survey of slow streets was announced six months ago, 49 percent of those polled said that they disliked Versailles Avenue as a slow street. No other slow street had such a high negative rating. That 49% displeasure was brought to the attention of the Alameda Transportation Commission, which voted to recommend the City Council drop Versailles as a slow street and even consider Pearl Street as an alternative. The City Council ignored the recommendation from the Transportation Commission and has continued to keep Versailles as a slow street. With the ATP, slow streets are candidates to be neighborhood greenways (commonly known as bicycle boulevards in other cities). Versailles Avenue might become permanently closed to through traffic.

Gibbons Drive
Before Tilden Way was opened, Gibbons Drive was designated as a major street segment because vehicles coming from Oakland along High Street could get to downtown Alameda more easily using Gibbons Drive. It is no longer a major street, but confusion exists within the city. A recently distributed Street Designation chart listed Gibbons as a local street, yet the ATP considers Gibbons as a “local connector.” I agree that it is more of a connector to the other streets and therefore should be enjoyed by all modes of transportation.

The ATP will put a stop to that. For some reason, Gibbons has been selected to also be a neighborhood greenway (bicycle boulevard.) Closing the street (uncertain how as it is included currently in the street light traffic signal at High Street-Fernside-Gibbons) to through traffic is bound to be controversial. Some residents might think that encouraging fewer vehicles along Gibbons will make it more lovely to them while others think that the bicyclists are trying to make claim to Gibbons by denying vehicles. If the city closes off Gibbons at High Street in either or both directions, it only encourages drivers to divert to neighboring streets to then get back to Gibbons, which increases greenhouse gas emissions and only angers the adjacent streets.

Who gets to make that decision: the homeowners who live on Versailles or Gibbons, the homeowners on the adjacent streets who also enjoy Gibbons, or city staff who have targeted Gibbons to be enjoyed only by bicyclists and pedestrians?

At its virtual workshop on Wednesday, October 5, there were just about 30 participants (many city staff and consultants) in a city of more than 70,000.

ATP’s draft plan has a very short time frame for review as it will go to the Alameda Transportation Commission at its Thursday, Oct. 20 meeting. The commission usually meets once every two months on a Wednesday.

The current Alameda City Council is scheduled to discuss and approve the ATP at its December 4 meeting. I encourage those both in favor and against the ATP to participate in that City Council meeting.

Jim Strehlow is an Alameda resident.