On Deadline: Will huge new bicycle plan generate enthusiasm or a revolution?
Original post made by Jay Thorwaldson, editor emeritus, on Aug 5, 2011
It was over bicycles.
Specifically, the resident revolt occurred when the City Council formally adopted a plan in late January 1972 that would have created a 66.6-mile bike-lane system with parking banned on both sides of the street for nearly two thirds of the lanes.
By late February council members were wildly backpedaling in the face of a burst of anger, outrage, protest and concern. They discovered a basic fact of urban life: Residents consider their on-street parking spaces as "mine!"
Most council members said they passed the initial plan just to stimulate citizen awareness and feedback.
Boy did they get it. As trial balloons go, the plan crashed and burned like the Hindenburg. It also signaled the end of "trial-balloon testing" of city projects.
The final 1972 plan was for 43 miles of bike lanes with parking banned on only about 13 miles and then only on one side of the street. That plan, hastily worked out by city Traffic Engineer Ted Noguchi, mollified residents and is essentially the system in Palo Alto today, with some additions and tweaks.
But the new plan (see story at www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=21945) goes much further than envisioned by even the most ambitious bike-lane visionaries of 1972, or even those who put forth a renewed proposal in 2003 to double the number of bike lanes throughout the city (being wary of parking spaces).
And costs have ballooned also.
The original 1972 project cost about $132,000, reduced from $172,000 by removal of a new bike underpass under the railroad tracks.
The 2003 plan was estimated at $37 million, about $20 million of which would go to construct four track undercrossings. It was a separate project from the bicycle corridors that were part of a "safe routes to school" program. (See column at www.paloaltoonline.com/weekly/morgue/2003/2003_05_28.ondead28bike.html)
There is no fixed cost estimate for the current plan. A cost-estimate appendix is laced with TBDs, for "to be determined."
But it's many millions of dollars, as indicated by a list of potential outside funding possibilities that exceeds $86 million. There also is no timeframe for implementing the plan, so in one sense there's no rush. Plenty of time for a bike ride or two.
But the clock is ticking for residents who want to have some input on the complex web of bike lanes, a new bike boulevard, undercrossings and traffic changes to accommodate bicyclists and perhaps encourage a doubling of bikers by 2020.
The City Council has set two months for citizen and business input, and some people are already voicing their opinions, some more stridently than others.
The draft plan is by Alta Planning & Design. It is available for download from the CityofPaloAlto.org website (if you can find it). It's called the "Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation Plan," or BPTP for short.
If and when it is implemented, it will affect virtually every neighborhood and business district in town. But protests years from now will be greeted with a response something like: "Well, that's been part of the plan the city adopted in 2011, and you should have protested then." Right.
Former Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
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