Tag Archives: vulnerable user

Street Design as CPTED

As part of ongoing efforts to address crime, cities and neighborhood councils across the country and around the world have turned to the principles of an approach known as crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED). The CPTED approach puts a fair amount of emphasis into designing and constructing buildings and places in such a way that allows them to directly use the form of the built environment to deter crime and boost social safety. Similar to the urbanism measure of “eyes on the street” (which indeed can be considered a form of CPTED) that looks to provide lots of opportunity for people to observe an area, CPTED expands on it with measures aimed at many other areas of the built environment, from bathroom entrances to walls around houses to public spaces. Many people understand the basic goal of CPTED, as evidenced by its support in many corners.

school_zone
Is it hard to imagine why people might drive faster than 15 MPH here, even during school hours? Image: Google Streetview.

However, while it’s generally accepted that design can influence crime in society in general, many people continue to insist that when it comes to traffic crimes, people should be able to self-police and if they can’t, that law enforcement should target them. (Though automatic enforcement that would catch all lawbreakers, not just people from certain segments of society, is frequently strongly opposed.) As a result, road design and construction in this country for the better part of a century has resulted in what amounts to the antithesis of CPTED on our streets. While we don’t usually build buildings without locks and just expect people to not pay unauthorized visits, that’s exactly how we design roads. Places that should be quiet streets are often roads are built features like wide lanes, paved shoulders, and clear zones intent on enabling fast travel with minimal damage when things go wrong, even in areas where slow speeds are desired. Then we act surprised when people travel fast through those areas.

The cruel irony is that many of the practices were ostensibly driven by a desire to increase safety, not undermine it. Open road practices and designs made their way down to the local street level, where wide lanes, shoulders, and clear zones have decimated many neighborhoods. But while these features work to keep traffic moving safely on highways through the countryside, they haven’t brought the same safety to communities because unsurprisingly, designs meant to keep traffic moving along at 70 MPH don’t work so well on thoroughfares where people live, work, and play. The resulting environment continues to encourage drivers to tool along at as near to that highway speed as possible. Meanwhile, in communities all over the country, the people who have to deal with the fallout continue to ask for traffic calming measures to slow speeding drivers and deter traffic from cutting through what should be quiet streets.

While many more communities are now talking about the connection between street design and road user behavior, there has not been a lot of movement toward viewing it as a form of CEPTD, which might be helpful in gaining broader community support for more controversial treatments. That could be because too much traffic crime is viewed as inevitable or an individual problem that affects other people and if they would just follow the rules, things would be fine. That argument is frequently mentioned, but viewing the street design as a CEPTD issue helps connect the dots to realize that these aren’t just “accidents”, they are very much related to the design of the environment. This shift in thinking will save thousands of lives, so hastening that transition will mean that it happens not a moment too soon. Let’s all help make it a reality.

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Equitable Bike Advocacy Includes Bike Infrastructure

Even as mounting evidence such as a research report from Governing reminds everyone that bikes aren’t just for white urbanites, biking has continued to gather a reputation as a domain of hipsters. As a result, despite the diverse ridership, the folks actually advocating for bike improvements have continued to not exactly mirror the people majority of people who are doing the pedaling. Unsurprisingly, this has lead to some friction and calls for more diversity in bike advocacy. The advocacy organizations haven’t missed the memo and have begun efforts like LAB’s Equity and Women Bike initiatives. Additionally, more community-based groups like Slow Roll Detroit have taken a more active role in advocating for bikes as not just transportation alternatives, but vehicles for social change in the community.

Nevertheless, many bike advocacy organizations and staff might consistently not look very much like the largest class or group of people biking. But that might not be inherently a bad thing. The changes that they (usually) advocate for do stand to help disadvantaged communities (of color) just as much as they help MAMILs. There’s no denying the safety benefits of dedicated bikeways and few would argue that a comprehensive network of bikeways that connects a community together and to destinations where its residents can find work, school, recreational activities, and more is somehow detrimental to the communities in which it is located. With many disadvantaged communities already ticking off a higher number of people taking trips by bike, making those trips better and easier to undertake will almost certainly provide an improvement in numerous facets of their lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A man and woman ride salmon on Route 66 in San Bernardino, CA. Bike infrastructure would immensely improve the bikeability of this location.

But what if the community isn’t asking for bike infrastructure? Certainly, there is a concern that advocating for infrastructure in underserved communities that aren’t asking for them is forcing something on the community that they don’t want. Thanks to both the lingering after effects of the highway building era then decades of disinvestment and neglect and because of a concern that bikeways bring gentrification, some advocates are even going so far as to say that disadvantaged communities should not get bike infrastructure and that focusing on “northern European” designs and solutions is out-of-place in communities that frequently have mostly non-white populations. But there are two major issues with the strategy of advocating for bikes by not advocating for bikes that will ultimately do more harm than good.

First and foremost, there’s the safety aspect. Where good, quality bike infrastructure exists, biking tends to be safer. As such, it really sounds extremely backwards to suggest that in the areas that often already have some of the most dangerous streets of a region, safety improvements shouldn’t be undertaken because the community hasn’t asked for them. At the end of the day, people still will continue to have to ride in those areas, often in conditions that are embarrassingly deplorable on many different measures. Not only do they deserve to have a safe place to ride, but it is they who need it most as they frequently have few travel alternatives and many have already been victims of traffic violence too. This is a heightened issue in regards to projects that involve once-in-a-generation opportunities to change the layout of a thoroughfare. Those should not be passed.

kennedylaan intersection
A bikeway in Utrecht provides connections for all to the city center and train station.

Additionally, the backlash against bike solutions that are primarily Danish and Dutch as being inappropriate in communities of color is misguided. There are some things that are just done better in some places than in others and as it so happens, those two countries do bikes well. Not only do they tick off the highest rates of biking in the world, but the stellar provisioning for bikes provides those at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder a viable affordable option for transportation so the poor aren’t forced to own a car. That’s crucial because while certainly there are plenty of disadvantaged households in America that don’t own a car, many more are practically forced to because it’s the only realistic option in their community, something that’s really becoming a problem in suburbs.

Secondly, bikeways are a commodity and like all commodities, follow the general principles of economics. Students of the discipline know that the availability of something is directly related to its price. In this case, the fact that good, quality bikeways are still relatively scarce in this country means that the few places that they do exist attract a premium in price as people and businesses seek out locations near them. The best way to counter that is not by keeping bikeways out of some neighborhoods, but to instead make sure that they’re everywhere. Ideally, that means that the plan should not be just single lanes here and there, but entire networks that form a comprehensive grid of LTS2 bikeways that are installed as completely and quickly as possible.

However, bike infrastructure is obviously also becoming a victim of its own success. As early advocates undoubtedly had to find a way to justify to their communities why money should be spent on infrastructure that “no one uses“, study after study was undertaken in relation to the economic impact of bikeways. Most of these studies have shown that bike infrastructure can bring positive economic change to a corridor or area. But those improvements do not happen in a vacuum. Increased receipts and especially values lead to higher rents. Once again, the solution isn’t found in not building, but in building everywhere. But, that does mean that going forward, it is perhaps time to lessen the focus on the potential financial benefits of any single project in favor of safety benefits that it would provide (though people also seek to live in places that are “safe”, so that makes it a similar driver of demand).

So with that in mind, organizations interested in engaging in equitable advocacy should do one of two things. When faced with substantial projects, such as placing or moving curbs, the bike aspect absolutely should not be compromised. In many communities, projects like that only happen once a generation or less. It is imperative that whenever they occur, that the very best designs for both safety and efficiency are used because redoing it later would be costly in not just monetary terms, but also lives and political capital. However, for projects that are less involved, it might be better to take some time to further engage the community to develop a concept that truly works for them instead of just ferrying outsiders through.

As more bikeways get built, more communities are asking for them. We need to make sure that they’re able to access those changes and benefit from them. While bikeways do bring change to a community, that change doesn’t have to be bad if the community gets involved to make sure that it works for them, including by broaching other topics that go beyond the bike aspect. Communities need to get in front of change and embrace it instead of waiting for it to arrive and trying to delay it. Doing so will bring many benefits for all.

What If: Priorities

Where do your community’s priorities lie? That’s a question that we should all be asking ourselves as we prepare to make infrastructure investments that will have an effect for decades into the future.

Nowhere is this more evident and important than in our transportation decisions. In many communities, the transportation network rests on a backbone of arterial roads. However, decades of

A typical arterial cross-section being used in many newer developments all around the country dedicates all space to cars.
A typical arterial cross-section popular in the region dedicates the majority of space to cars.

car-centric planning and design have resulted in facilities that are increasingly referred to as “stroads“. They’re not good streets, but they’re not good roads either and in the end, everyone gets the short end of the stick. The result is a facility that suffers from “peak hour” congestion and that doesn’t serve those who aren’t driving.

But there’s a better way. With a little shift in thinking, it becomes easier to design a transportation network that is good for the mobility of all, whether they be on a bike, in a car, walking, or using transit. When viewed as a corridor and principles of complete streets are applied, these facilities can be optimized to provide maximum movement of goods and people, not just cars.

An arterial dedicated to moving people takes on a different form.

With that understanding, it becomes evident that the current system is grossly inefficient and needs to change. But what does the alternative look like? Using the same room as before, a redesign of the corridor assigns each mode its own dedicated space optimized for its specific travel needs. Cars and trucks don’t slow down transit, transit doesn’t block lanes to load its patrons, and bicyclists are free to pass along on their own separate path optimized for biking. For roads that access industrial facilities, it can even be tweaked a bit more to offer a dedicated truckway in the corridor that is reinforced to handle the axle loads of trucks.

Far from just musings, this design is in use already in The

Archimedeslaan in Utrecht includes a roadway for motorists, a busway (bus times shown), and a bikeway.
Archimedeslaan in Utrecht includes a roadway for motorists, a busway (including a bus information screen at stops), and a bikeway. This corridor has the capacity to move triple the amount of people as the “Major Arterial” above.

Netherlands, where mobility in numerous cities is provided for all in a manner optimized for their needs. The same model can be used in the existing cities and especially new developments here in the Inland Empire. Instead of building the biggest roads today in anticipation of “future demand”, they can be built with all modes in mind in a method that greatly increases the efficiency of all the systems for all.

This is vitally important as despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the transportation infrastructure in the Inland Empire region has shown no improvement in recent years, barely maining a D+ rating in both the 2005 and 2010 assessments from the local branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers, but requiring  a whopping 67% increase in annual investment during that time. If we are going to ever truly see signs of improvement on not just the roads, but many other local issues, there needs to be some real change in priorities. Switching the focus to the movement of goods and people over just cars will set the Inland Empire up for a more robust and resilient future.

Consequences of “Draconian” Bikeways: Improved Left Turns

A couple days ago as I approached an intersection, I prepared for my left turn the normal way: merged out of the buffered bike lane and continued over to the left turn pocket. While I sat there in the queue waiting for the light to change, it struck me that the turn would’ve been faster if I’d been able to go straight then made the turn at the corner. This is the type of turn, also known as the “Copenhagen left“, is all but forced by the design of protected bike lanes that prevent people on bikes from leaving them away from intersections. That’s not a major problem, but it has resulted in the protected intersection finally getting recognized as a sensible way to deal with bikeways by Americans. (Though they’re also a great option for intersections even when the roads in question don’t have protected bikeways.)

Many folks bemoan that fact and assume that it would be slower and more inconvenient than being able to turn by merging across traffic to do so. However, most traffic signals are timed in a manner as above whereby missing a light often means a lengthy wait in a stew of exhaust fumes. (Or worse yet, not being detected at all if no cars are already waiting.) At that point, making a Copenhagen left instead would at worst, require just half the waiting of the “proper” left. If all-directions green signaling is used and phased favorably, bikes would have guaranteed faster travel through the intersection almost every single time.

These sorts of improvements and enhancements are what need to be brought up in planning and design discussions to build a transportation system where the bicycle is not just a tool of the poorest of the poor or those who “enjoy” biking, but available to all users regardless of skill level. These infrastructural changes can promote that by not just offering facilities that score high on the safety scorecard, but that also are vital in creating  an environment where a bicycle is timely alternative to driving not just for racers, but for normal people too.

SANBAG’s Poor Design Leaves Pedestrians Scrambling for Alternatives

A couple months ago, SANBAG announced the completion of the Hunts Lane grade separation project and had a little shindig to celebrate. At that time, I commented that the project is a net benefit for pedestrian access in the area. I spoke too soon.

You had one job! But seriously. These 'shark teeth' are backwards.
The ‘shark teeth’ on opening week. They’ve since been reoriented to the correct direction.

When the bridge opened, the construction crews were still working on a couple other things, such as the ‘shark teeth’ that had been installed wrong as well as ornamental plants. At that time, I also commented on some other potential issues with various other design details that were causing line-of-sight problems.

The crosswalks at the intersections have been purged from the final design.
The crosswalks at the intersections have been purged from the final design.

SANBAG has addressed some of the issues that were brought up in the last post, especially the line-of-sight problems.  This has been accomplished by removing all pedestrian elements that were in place. And while it may have been part of the original plan that had yet to be implemented when the initial review was done, they’ve added insult to injury by installing barriers to prohibit (CVC 275) pedestrians from crossing east or west across Hunts Ln. So while pedestrians wishing to cross the river of speeding cars must detour nearly a quarter of a mile to legally do so, drivers get to sprint across 135 feet, made all the more easier by the improved sight lines courtesy of the removed crosswalks.

This comes as a double slap in the face because efforts were made to open a cul-de-sac with a nice landscaped path that connects to the very corner in question. Needless to say, the majority of people would prefer a straight crossing over a landscaped meandering path that takes them out of the way as can be seen by the people who cross anyway.

IMG_3738
All hope is not lost, though. SANBAG can fix the issue by redesigning the intersection. At a minimum, a pedestrian island should be installed that allows pedestrians a safe passage across Hunts Ln. in the place of the current painted island (pictured above) with at least rectangular rapid flashing beacons. Ideally, that island should also be designed to only allow left turns onto Commercial and Riverwood and remove the ability to turn left or cut across the intersection for cars. This will likely have the added effect of keeping the communities from being effective ‘rat runs’ like they currently are.

It’s unfortunate to see this level of disregard to practical mobility options for those who are not in a car. With these latest developments in the final design, I am forced to downgrade my initial perceptions of the project’s impacts to pedestrians from favorable to unfavorable. The new sidewalks to cross the tracks are nice, but access in general has actually been decreased because though it was a river a cars, there was no actual prohibition on crossing Hunts Lane before, which could potentially be really easy when traffic was stopped for due to any of the dozens of daily trains that passed through there. Hopefully, SANBAG takes up the challenge and remedies the discrepancy for the better.

More photos available on flickr.

The New Tools that Will Help Protected Bike Lanes Flourish in the Inland Empire (and the rest of California too!)

All across the country, cities are rolling out protected bike lanes in unprecedented numbers. Early adopters like New York City and Chicago have been joined by a bevy of contenders as metropolises race to provide a better riding environment for all users from 8 to 88. These facilities have been hugely popular and have resulted in phenomenal gains in ridership numbers and often have increased safety of their respective corridors.

This curb-protected cycletrack on the campus of UCR is the only real protected bikeway the Inland Empire saw get installed last year.
This curb-protected cycletrack on the campus of UCR is the only real protected bikeway installed in the Inland Empire last year, but more could be on the way thanks to new legislation.

However, the benefits of safer bikeways continue to largely elude the residents of the Inland Empire. After years of being the most sprawled region in the nation and having the worst street environment for vulnerable road users in the state of California, leaving that legacy behind has been a long, drawn-out process. Thus far, the response has been what are largely meaningless token efforts in the grand scheme of things.

Regional Planning

Both SANBAG and WRCOG maintain non-motorized transportation plans, though they’re slightly different. The SANBAG document is mostly a snapshot at the city level and includes information on what each city and town has done and will be doing, but doesn’t include a lot of regional connectivity. Meanwhile, the WRCOG document [PDF] is primarily focused on establishing non-motorized corridors, many of them located along flood control channels, but doesn’t really give much information on what is occurring at the local levels. Those county-level documents are augmented by Bike and Trails Master Plans that have been completed by various cities.

But when it comes down to it, much of that planning has turned out to be useless. Hardly any of the Riverside trails have been completed and while several cities have been working on the stuff that is contained in their local Bike/Trails Master Plans, a lot of it is also just fluff. Most of those documents take the easy way out and put bikeways where it would be convenient and they usually disappear completely at intersections and other conflict points. Much of the stuff that might be better either doesn’t connect anywhere or is waiting for funding.

Class II bike lanes in the Inland Empire often are not even wide enough to fully fit the words.
Class II bike lanes in the Inland Empire often are not even wide enough to fully fit the words.

The result is a bunch of Class II ‘BIK LANs’* next to four- and six-lane arterials, hardly an 8-88 environment. That is standard even in new developments, while older ones are left with sharrows if anything at all.

Bike lanes give way to poorly-positioned 'sharrows' along 6th St. in Corona.
Bike lanes give way to poorly-positioned ‘sharrows’ along 6th St. in Corona.

Furthermore, compromises in design to meet LOS (level of service) requirements was often at the detriment of planned bikeways. Does an intersection “need” a dedicated turn lane? No problem, just end the bike lane sooner!

Change is Afoot

All of that is about to change. The passage of SB 743 in 2013 ripped out measuring traffic impacts using LOS from an environmental review done under CEQA. In its stead, a new metric of VMT (vehicle miles traveled) has been proposed. While LOS measures how fast cars can move through a segment of road or an intersection, VMT measures how many more miles a development would add to the average for the region.

As an area with few high-paying/skilled jobs, the Inland Empire would be particularly impacted as many of the residents working in such industries make daily treks to LA/OC/SD counties for employment. Until more skilled jobs start coming this direction, it will be exceedingly hard for a developer looking to build anything but “affordable” housing to show that the residents are likely to not drive 40 miles each way each day for work. Which is fine. Trips to work of that magnitude will likely not be mitigated effectively for years to come.

Actual Mitigation

But SB 743 is a powerful tool for local bikeway and livable streets advocates. While local residents may continue to drive to surrounding counties for work, that’s not all the driving they do. It is estimated that as high as 40% of all driving is done to destinations that are two or fewer miles away. That is a distance that can be biked easily by the vast majority of people, but they aren’t going to do it in the presence of lots of motorized traffic that is traveling anywhere from five to ten times as fast as they are.

That’s where protected bike lanes and other next generation bikeways become crucial. Under the LOS-based CEQA, traffic was accommodated, not mitigated. That resulted in wide, fast roads and vast wastelands where they meet. Under the new rules being finalized, developers would be required to provide actual mitigation measures that would make sure that VMT is not raised. Protected bikeways allow them to still build while lowering local VMT to counter the added VMT of residents driving to the surrounding counties for work. That offers incredible opportunities for great bikeway connections within cities and the region.

New Standards of Excellence

There has been some progress on toward getting better bikeways in that AB 1358, California’s Complete Streets Act, does require all users, including bicyclists, to be considered in General Plan Circulation Elements as an integral part of the transport network. Unfortunately, many of those standards coming out of those plans are still not adequate for providing a network of protected bikeways usable by all aged 8-88.

Last year’s passage of AB 1193 changes all of that. With Caltrans being required to finish standards for protected bike lanes within the next year, agencies in the region and indeed the entire state will soon have the life-saving option of protected bikeways at their disposal. Hopefully, Caltrans goes a step beyond the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide and includes separation criteria in the standards. A Class II bike lane might be a decent choice for somewhere like a neighborhood street, but it really shouldn’t even enter consideration for arterials showing traffic counts of 35000 pce and a speed limit of 50 MPH.

Those two changes are the foundation to getting the best bikeways included from the very beginning without having to beg for it. Planning is certainly good, but bikeways shouldn’t be limited to only those included in a plan and certainly not be seen as “extras” contingent on all the stars aligning. Fortunately, it is now easy for agencies to make sure that protected bikeways are automatically included. Building an road where traffic counts will warrant multiple lanes? There should be no question that a Class II bike lane is no longer a viable option. Likewise, it should be obvious that if there is a protected bikeway on the street, then it needs to continue as a protected intersection whenever the parallel road has signals too.

 A Future of Better Biking

Bicycles should play a crucial role in the future of the Inland Empire and it is hoped that the updating of standards plays a pivotal role in that endeavor. However, it is still important that IE residents stay vigilant and make sure that the public officials are fulfilling their duties. Active involvement is needed to ensure that the standards truly provide the best biking environment. Several cities have master plans for bikeways/trails as well as various goals and policies seeking to support biking. It’s time to make sure that those promises become action.

*A ‘BIK LAN’ is a bike lane that is so narrow that the words “bike” and “lane” can’t even fit without some parts, generally the letter “e”, ending up in the gutter pan.

Weekly Review

With a new year comes new plans and development. As we head into the second full week of the year, a lot of exciting things are already shaping up for you to get involved in. Here go a couple.

Jurupa Valley General Plan
The City of Jurupa Valley is holding several meetings concerning the completion of an Interim General Plan.

The City of Jurupa Valley has had a challenging history in its short life. Right after coming into existence, Jerry Brown yanked a major funding source from them and there was concern that the City might be quickly dissolved back into a pocket of Riverside County. Nevertheless, they’ve managed to survive and as they look to celebrate a fifth birthday soon, they’re al looking to become more permanent and want to plan what they’ll be in the future. The City is looking for guidance and input as they seek to develop an Interim General Plan. They will be holding several meetings over the next four weeks, so check out the list [PDF] and attend the one that works best for you.

Perris Optimus Logistics Center DEIR

TODAY [PDF] is the last day to submit any comments you might have to the City of Perris that pertain to the planned Perris Logistics Center in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Report [PDF] for the project. In typical fashion, the plan is to scatter stoplights, dedicated turn lanes, and other similar “improvements”. Stuff that is patently bad for bicycling. Of great concern are the intersections where the roads will balloon in size. That’s not good for speeds and definitely not good for fostering a comfortable riding environment.

But even more concerning is the callous disregard for the City’s Trails Master Plan [PDF], which includes bikeways on many of the streets identified in the EIR analysis as needing widening improvements. What’s more, the traffic analysis was done by the same consultant group that did the Trails Master Plan. It seems like they should have the files on their computer still since the City approved it not even two years ago. All they had to do was look back at the document to realize “oh crap, maybe this isn’t a great idea” for the majority of the stuff that they put in the Traffic Analysis of the EIR.

No surprise, that conversation apparently didn’t occur and without robust standards, we have to fight to get anything beyond BIK LANs next to an expressway. Hopefully, Caltrans develops competent standards for Class IV cycletracks, especially for applications when one is necessary versus using a painted Class II lane. The VMT-based traffic analysis standards are also something to look forward to and will hopefully help alleviate this kind of nonsense for future projects.

Share Info!

That’s all for today, but there’s almost certainly more going on. If there are any projects or planning that you know is occurring, get in touch and share it! One that we’re looking out for is the  Draft Environmental Impact Report for the forthcoming World Logistics Center project that is under consideration for the City of Moreno Valley. That document is due within the next month or so. At that time, it will be interesting to see what comes out of that as far as traffic mitigation goes, though history hasn’t shown the consultants who do most of the traffic analyses for this area to be particularly inclined to do anything beyond throw around traffic signals and turn lanes. But we’ll see for sure soon. Until then, ciao!

Update: The City of Chino is also preparing to prepare an Environmental Impact Report for a project being dubbed the “Brewer Site”. More information on that project is to be found at the link above. This is an exciting new time for projects like this since the traffic impacts must now  be evaluated using VMT instead of LOS and plopping houses in the IE for people to drive to LA/OC/(SD) will require far stronger mitigation measures for local trips and really an opportunity to get some innovative new solutions. So check it out and get some comments in, even if only a few lines.

The Festival of Outrageous

Riverside’s Festival of Lights is an annual event that draws tens of thousands of people downtown to see it. In addition to the lights, there are other attractions including shops, Santa, and an ice skating rink. It’s so popular that it was voted the best public light display this year by readers of USA Today.

While the lights were pretty, the way the influx of people was handled was not. This year, Mission Inn Ave. that borders the Mission Inn was closed and Main St. has been pedestrianized for years. Thus, there was no problem at the intersection of Main and Mission Inn, which is normally a signalized crosswalk. However, University Ave. remained open as the vehicular access through the area. It also has a signalized crosswalk and it was strained to the max.

This video showed up of the City’s comical, yet sad response to the situation. Instead of adjusting the timing to give pedestrians adequate time to cross (or even just closing it completely), police are out enforcing “crosswalk safety” by way of publicly shaming those seeking to cross the street. I guess we should be glad that they didn’t stoop all the way to the level of the LAPD and start ticketing people entering the crossing once the hand and countdown started. Still, it is a telling sign of the culture of the City, which is one of the anchors of the region with the worst pedestrian safety record in the state. Stuff like this shows why that is.

What if? – Baseline and California

How can things be improved? That’s part of the philosophy behind this blog and the Inland Empire offers plenty of opportunity in that department. There is no shortage of places that can be transformed to provide a better experience for all. This is about thinking outside the box and finding solutions to make the area a more inviting place to not just sleep, but also work and play in.

Baseline Road
Basic approximation of the current conditions of Baseline St. looking west. Image by author via Streetmix.

One such opportunity exists in the City of San Bernardino where Baseline Rd., California St., and University Ave. meet. Bordered on the south side by the ball fields/parking lot of Arroyo Valley High School and the north side by more empty lots, there’s really not much going on. This presents the perfect opportunity to upgrade the intersection and improve access to the school for students walking/biking.

But the real benefit will be the improvement of the intersection for traffic flow. Currently, University Ave. is the entrance to AVHS and is located approximately 360′ west of California St. and both intersections are signalized. A significant portion of the students of the school come from the Muscoy area to the north and many arrive by car. As a result, several hundred cars attempt to essentially go straight across between 07:00 and 07:30 every morning. This leads to significant blockage of the road, especially the westbound direction because the left turn phase to turn onto University Ave. from westbound Baseline St. simply can’t be long enough. Additionally, there are also still people attempting to turn left onto California St. from eastbound Baseline, which is a problem since the center turn lane is already full of westbound cars/buses attempting to turn onto University Ave. This charade is repeated in the afternoon, though to a lesser degree.

There might be a tiny bit of relief coming in the next year or two. Many people turning north onto California St. are undoubtedly simply using the neighborhood as a shortcut to access CA-210 at University Ave. Many of these people would likely be able to use Pepper Ave. to get on CA-210 if it were connected. To that end, Rialto and SanBAG are continuing work on extending Pepper Ave. to CA-210 and finish the access ramps. However, there will still be the problem of a significant volume of cars attempting to cross Baseline to access AVHS and there are also a lot of pedestrians.

Roundabout up top.
The upper part of the “roundabout” can feature better bus stops with bike parking and cycletracks. Image by author via Streetmix.

To alleviate the issue of the cross flow of traffic, a grade separation is the best option. That would allow the traffic on Baseline to flow uninterrupted by the crossing of school traffic and vice versa. The idea is conceptually similar to this intersection, where a roundabout situation on top provides access to the crossing road while the main traffic continues straight. This intersection provides the same opportunity and would provide a good option for a bus stop and bike parking as well as a cycletrack. But most importantly, it removes the conflict between the crossing streams of traffic.

Baseline Rd. through lanes
Two through lanes should be enough to handle the relatively low traffic of Baseline Rd. Image by author via Streetmix.

Currently, the center turn lane and two inside lanes are all 14′ wide, which Streetmix doesn’t like at all (see picture above). The proposal would narrow them a foot each and use the extra space for a bollard treatment of some sort instead to remind people to not cross the lines. A single lane would continue straight through the intersection area in each direction below the roundabout. Traffic counts for this exact intersection are proving elusive. However, the intersection with Pepper Ave. in Rialto a little over a mile to the west was seeing a V/C ratio of less than 0.5 in 2010 while the intersection with Mt. Vernon Ave. around a mile east is seeing volumes of ~600 vehicles/hour/direction for peak hour flows which also corresponds to a V/C ratio of less than 0.5 . Consequently, a single lane should be adequate to carry the current traffic on Baseline Rd. and for many years to come, but the space is potentially available to include a second through lane if it’s felt that it would be absolutely necessary.

What makes this project relatively simple might also prove to be the biggest headache. The intersection is on the top of a flood control berm. The grade separation would be accomplished by tunneling through it more than digging down. However, that raises the issue of keeping Lytle  Creek at bay. It certainly isn’t impossible and solutions exist, but the real question is if they’re worth the cost. Although this design means that access to the school wouldn’t be cut off in the event of a flood, but water high enough to threaten the underpass/force its closure means that water in the wash is at a phenomenal level and that it’s impassible.

Still, it would be great to see this project come about. The intersection is not getting any better and signal timing can only go so far. The same goes for widening, though continuing California St. and closing the University Ave. spur could achieve similar goals. Alternatively, the empty lot(s) on the north side of Baseline can be made into a drop off point for Arroyo Valley and the kids can just walk the rest of the way into campus. Something needs to be done soon.

Get Assessed: Two FREE Opportunities to Improve the Streets

Often, the “high cost” of bike/ped infrastructure is thrown out as a reason why it doesn’t need to or can’t be included on a project.  This is almost always a patently false assertion and data continues to come to the rescue. Nevertheless, many agencies do not allocate their funds properly, resulting in an imbalance in priorities. As a result, bike/ped funding receives mere pittances, especially here in the Inland Empire. That is particularly glaring when receipts are low. While there are plenty opportunities to combine bike/ped projects into others, that often requires having a vision and plan.

Planning isn’t cheap, but doing stuff without a plan isn’t necessarily a good way to go about things. However, that acts as a barrier to agencies that don’t do a good job of allocating the funds correctly because it would take prohibitively long just to gather the funds for the planning, to say nothing of anything beyond that. Fortunately, there are two opportunities now open to California agencies to help get some stuff done for their communities at no charge to them. Yes, they’re free. Just apply.

The first is for technical assistance available from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. This opportunity appears to be mainly geared toward policy and programming side. However, with the recent influx of SRTS monies into the region from the ATP, there will be many opportunities to get some stuff going in several of the communities in the area and this grant could be a godsend to those agencies. There is so much to be done around here that the influx of money will probably have the usual players in the arena worn down to the bone. The focus is on fostering cooperation, so it appears that all groups can apply as long as they’re working a SRTS program. Applications are due by September 26th, 2014, so definitely get on your elected officials, staff, non-profits, etc. to get in an application ASAP.

The second opportunity is from the State of California’s Office of Traffic Safety. Administered by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies., they send out two experts who conduct a Bike/Ped Safety Assessment. It can be either targeted to specific problems (i.e. lots of kids or elderly pedestrians get hit, resident complaints about unsafe crosswalk,) or just have them paint a broad brush. The City of Murrieta was one local agency that was the beneficiary earlier this year of a visit from them. This opportunity has no hard deadline. However, the assessments are conducted on a first come, first served basis, though it appears that they also take the standings in the Office of Traffic Safety rankings into account and give priority to places that aren’t doing well. The opportunity is open to any agency too, so it’s important to ask as soon as possible.

Many of the cities in the region unfortunately do not score well at all, so let’s make sure that they are putting forth an effort to right that. Several scored big in the ATP funding cycle, so many of them are slightly ahead of the pack. However, there are still many more opportunities for local agencies to put forth an effort toward bettering their streets, regardless of if they won. A better tomorrow can’t come soon enough, with this being a potentially important first step. Don’t let it slip away.