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Council Candidates on Safety on the Roads

In the week starting on Oct. 22, Albany Patch will publish responses to five questions on cycling and walking posed to Albany City Council Candidates.

Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.

Are you aware of the number of people that are injured on the roads in Albany each year? Do you think that conditions for bicycling or walking in our city could or should be improved?

ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)

In 2010 Albany had 12 bicycle injuries, 4 pedestrian injuries and one pedestrian fatality when a young man was hit while riding at night on his skate board. Our streets are safe but can be made safer. Striping of roads is in our Active Transportation Plan and we have already budgeted for it. Striping is a relatively quick and low-cost way to significantly improve our road safety for everyone.
Over the longer term I am a huge fan of Complete Streets (http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/complete-streets) and have worked with Planning and Zoning for years to create one on Dartmouth Street. Complete Streets are an excellent way to both create safer pathways and build community. What is not to love?

Pdf: http://www.chp.ca.gov/switrs/pdf/2010-sec8.pdf

PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)

According to the CHP, to which local jurisdictions send their reports, in 2010 Albany had 71 people injured in vehicles and one died; 12 bicyclists were injured; 3 motorcyclists were injured; and four pedestrians were injured and one died. As long as there are any injuries or deaths, we need to improve the record. I support a public information campaign by the city on its website and in written materials encouraging safer driver and cyclist practices. I would also encourage safe driving and biking classes with collaborative partners such as the Y, library, or the Senior Center using volunteers.

NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)

The Active Transportation Plan reports that 75 people walking were involved in collisions between 2001 and 2009, and 59 people biking. There were 2 pedestrian fatalities in 2007 and 2003. For 2010, there were 12 bicycle injuries, 4 pedestrian injuries, and 1 pedestrian fatality. This is the most recent compiled data from the state. http://www.chp.ca.gov/switrs/pdf/2010-sec8.pdf . This is more than a person a month in 2010.
Yes, conditions both can and should be improved. I do not believe Albany’s streets are sufficiently safe for people walking and biking currently. The Active Transportation Plan (ATP) identifies San Pablo and Solano as having the most accidents. The current complete streets study of San Pablo will hopefully refine the ATP’s proposal to significantly improve its safety, particularly at Brighton for people walking and Washington for people cycling. The City’s undertaking design of a new streetscape for Solano east of Masonic is an opportunity to make that stretch safer, which has a high concentration of people walking involved in collisions. I will seek to prioritize finding funding for implementation of these projects.

MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)

I am aware of the stats published in the Patch by Jonathan Walden and Preston Jordan, as I recall. Of course conditions should be approved, but that’s easier said than done. Getting measure F passed would help, and hustling some grants for safely improvements would be good, too. I suspect the city is doing that already. Alameda County’s Measure B1 would help, but it will require a 2/3 majority vote.
My priorities would be to improve crosswalk safety at night on Marin and San Pablo. Better street lighting would help, as would the recessed blinking lights that I’ve seen on crosswalks in places like downtown Petaluma.

TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)

There is always room for improvement. We are experiencing what many, many other communities are experiencing — encouraging active modes of getting around while maintaining the automobile infrastructure that already utilizes about all the land we have available for transportation. That means lots of interaction of modes, and that means conflict — one in which the bicyclist or pedestrian almost always comes out the worse. Safe biking programs in the schools and other programs are a start, but more visible bicycle and pedestrian protection features — especially at the places where the modes of transportation are in direct conflict — are also needed.
I do think there are ample opportunities for improving conditions for walking and biking in Albany. One is obvious. Get the darn sidewalks fixed. I’ve twisted my ankle many times while walking around the city.
And there are many areas that are just a pain to access via a bicycle (especially when traveling with children, which I am often doing). I can manage going West on Buchanan — but coming back East is a mess. I’m very much looking forward to the bicycle improvements in that stretch that Albany Strollers & Rollers worked so hard to develop.
Conditions absolutely have to be improved. If we are going to meet our Climate Action Plan goals we must get more people choosing to walk or bike rather than drive.

PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)

Absolutely. Many of our sidewalks are in terrible shape, and need to be torn up, redone and cleared of vegetation. Potholes in the roadways have a far greater effect on a cyclist then on driver. If separated bike paths were added to our main streets, I believe that bike use would increase dramatically.

SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)

This is a great question. The Albany Police Department does not keep statistics of traffic accidents, but I found the reported accidents on the CHP website. The most current information is from 2010. According to the CHP, in 2010 Albany had four collisions involving injured pedestrians and one that resulted in a pedestrian fatality. There were 12 collisions involving injured bicyclists and 0 bicyclist fatalities. Last spring I remember there being a fatal accident involving an 18 year-old skateboarder. I walk and bike regularly in Albany with my two young daughters. I think the biking is particularly dangerous. There is a large cycling community in Albany and I think we could (and should) do a lot to improve safety and accessibility of cycling here. The City Council has already approved some much needed measures in our ATP, which I strongly support funding and implementing.

Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Albany 2012 Election Guide here.

Tatter Salad October 24, 2012 at 02:50 PM
The Solano Avenue 'Squish' component needs mentioning. The new'ish design of the extended corners along Solano Avenue have a 'designed-in' accident-waiting-to-happen component for pedestrians. That is: while cars should be stopping well back of the marked pedestrian cross walks to clear pedestrians, stopping at that point doesNOT bring them in sight of cross traffic. Stopping for the intersection,entails rolling through the cross walks; pedestrians get squished! These promentaries are getting covered by 'esthetic elements' (planters, signs, bike racks) which further impede seeing moving pedestrians. This is a case of aesthetics (of the corner plantings) taking precedence over safe pedestrians. Another error of design is seen among non-bike riders that consider the Ohlone/Bart path to be a bike-commuter path... IT ISN'T! A normal bike commuter crusing E-W through Albany can beat, or easily match the speed of car; this sort of speed along the BART trail would be most unsafe for all. Maass and the ARS (Alb. Rollers and Strollers) whined and sued for more 'bicycle -connectedness' between the potential Monroe/Whole Foods development fiasco. Noble in theory, but there is NO existing bicycle-route 'infrastructure' for that area to connect; and worse, neighbors E. along Monroe want NO increased traffic. The Active Transportation Plan mentioned offers almost NOTHING that doesn't require the relinquishing of SUBSTANTIAL State Property in order to widen streets!
Tatter Salad October 24, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Further barking: Street lighting has changed and diminished markedly just over the past two years. What once were farily broad spectrum street lights are now pin-points of a a single bluish frequency. I'm sure this reduced lighting saves some utility company a bundle... but at the consequence of OUR safety. As mentioned, the Active Transportation Plan would indeed improve bicycle and pedestrian movement from the Target Store area towards San Pablo Avenue, but all the essential elements require the relinquishment of property along the Gill Tract, including the Ag- Department. Albany NEEDS to express all the cordiallty it can to these State Property holders, which represent almost 20% of Albany land! Ironically, individuals that have promoted the use of 'Bolt Cutter Diplomacy' and trespass of U.C. property are ALSO running for Council; or have facilitated lawsuits to impede the Whole Foods project. I'm sure U.C. and the Ag-Department would loathe seeing these same individuasl on our Council, which includes: Peter Maass, Sheri Spellwoman, Ulan McKnight and Nick Pilch.
Kei October 24, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Coincidentally, I saw this today on-line: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Students-experience-distracted-driving-3975596.php
Ulan McKnight October 24, 2012 at 04:58 PM
http://www.chp.ca.gov/switrs/pdf/2010-sec8.pdf In 2010 Albany had 12 bicycle injuries, 4 pedestrian injuries and one pedestrian fatality when a young man was hit while riding at night on his skate board. Our streets are safe but can be made safer. Striping of roads is in our Active Transportation Plan and we have already budgeted for it. Striping is a relatively quick and low-cost way to significantly improve our road safety for everyone. Over the longer term I am a huge fan of Complete Streets (http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/complete-streets) and have worked with Planning and Zoning for years to create one on Dartmouth Street. Complete Streets are an excellent way to both create safer pathways and build community. What is not to love?
Bart Grossman October 24, 2012 at 05:07 PM
The traffic lights on San Pablo are simply too short for elderly and disabled pedestrians. Combining walking, running and biking in one path as on the Bay trail is very dangerous. Given the constant reports in the police blotter of DUIs in the area surrounding the Club Mallard and other local bars why is it a surprise that there are pedestrian accidents on San Pablo Avenue? There are lots of problems for walkers in this City that get very little attention.
Sarah Oldershaw October 24, 2012 at 06:50 PM
The crosswalk at Masonic and Solano is really bad. I've almost been taken out there a few times. Turning left from Solano to Masonic, even though the sign says it's okay to walk, some drivers don't understand that the pedestrian has the right of say. The other intersection that's bad is Jackson and Buchanon, which I have traversed for years because my two sons go to Ocean View. There have been some improvements made, but a key one that needs to happen is no right turn on red, from Jackson onto Buchanon. Another thought is to make Jackson one-way from Solano to the other side of the village where you turn up Monroe. That would be really helpful.
Tatter Salad October 24, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Bicycle path designs (and 'thinking') as applied in Davis Ca would be my advice, and Lighting as used in Petaluma. Both these ideas were told to me with emotion, by an Albany cop. So that would be key: Planning and Zoning should ask for advice from the Albany Police Department. I see El Cerrito has 'beautified' (with islands) their strip of San Pablo Avenue, which is a project on our 'grand plan' too; but El Cerrito's islands accomplishes NADA for bike riders... I hope we can do better.
Paul D October 24, 2012 at 07:39 PM
A strange question to ask somebody running for public office. Do you expect any of them to be a contrarian and say something like nah, there aren't enough accidents and by the way I really don't care much about the subject. How about questions that don't answer themselves?
Stewart Gooderman October 24, 2012 at 10:14 PM
I complained about the LED lighting at the next City Council meeting after they began putting them up. It is my understanding that they were put up because PG&E gave Albany a good deal on them and that the Board was told they would save mucho bucks on electricity consumption and bulb replacement. The problem is is that the fixtures were attached to the old lamp posts and the separation between them is inappropriate for the lamp that was used. So now you get areas of complete darkness because the lamps don't have a wide enough spread. And as I complained at the meeting, the light's spectrum is biased to the short end (blue, like the old mercury vapor lamps of long ago), and the eye is far less sensitive in this part of the spectrum.
Albany Resident October 24, 2012 at 10:51 PM
All the answers are rediculess. First of all your stats have nothing to do with deeming our streets safe they clearly are not. My family and I have walked numeras times and we almost been hit while in the crosswalk. (jumped out of the way several times) Safety doesn't mean paint lines, or look at stats. Just simply walk the streets and observe drivers that run stop signs and speed. Look at our police force they patrol San Pablo because they get bad guys from our adjoining cities, meanwhile cars are speeding down our streets at speeds reaching 80+ every day. Look start having the police write tickets for people running stop signs and speeding. Then perhaps I/you may feel safer
Ulan McKnight October 25, 2012 at 05:00 AM
I agree that our answers are of little value. We are given 200 words and are supposed to say things that are political. I believe in Complete Streets. By definition they are designed to incorporate the needs of all travelers. Safety of pedestrians and bike/skaters and the enjoyment of those out of motor vehicles are prioritized. Cars can get through but are not the primary focus. The central tenant is to slow cars down as slower cars are safer for everyone (even drivers). The problem is that you can't design a city with just Complete Streets because traffic would not flow. We need of a mix of streets with efficient traffic flow while designing others for optimal pedestrian and non-motored travel. Albany can accomplish the goal of making our streets safer without spending a ton of money. For what it's worth, if you add 10,000 new car trips through Albany by encouraging massive new development on the Gill Tract… all bets are off. As the traffic study in the EIR clearly states, traffic jams will be unavoidable and drivers will spill into previously quiet streets to get off San Pablo. I want to improve the safety of Albany streets, not dump more cars onto them and make safety worse. I believe in smart growth that benefits Albany… not growth driven by outside interests that have little concern for the quality of life here.
Caryl O'Keefe October 25, 2012 at 06:11 AM
Ulan, where does the EIR for the UC mixed use project state, "traffic jams will be unavoidable and drivers will spill into previously quiet streets to get off San Pablo?" I may have missed this reference - it's a big EIR - and would appreciate knowing where you found that. While hunting I did find in the Summary of the draft EIR (which is part of the entire EIR) for the Marin/San Pablo intersection, "This mitigation measure would IMPROVE (emphasis added) intersection operations to LOS D during both AM and PM peak hours." (this intersection's current grade at some times is F). Other intersections identified as having problems are outside of Albany, tho the EIR requires some mitigations for those intersections too).
Old MacDonald October 25, 2012 at 06:38 AM
At a recent City Council meeting , which you attended, Mayor Javandel cited the projected minimum number of vehicle trips: an additional 5,000 per day. Anyone who read the EIR and has common sense can perceive the consequences to the neighborhood. Of course the EIR is not going to tell us what those consequences are-it's a professional snow job, paid for by UC Capital Projects. Can we send 5,000 cars by your house?
Ulan McKnight October 25, 2012 at 07:06 AM
Caryl, you didn't miss it. The section was so large you probably just assumed they were joking ;) http://www.albanyca.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=9472 Document page 6 (on the page itself it is listed at 52) is where they define how they will rank traffic. An "F" grade is just like in school, failing. "Extreme traffic delays with intersection capacity exceeded." "D" and "E" are not very nice either. Now jump down to page 28 in the document (number 74) and read for a page or two until you get a good feel for the language. Page 41 (87) defines when an impact is significant. The real info is begins on Page 49 (95). Please understand that I do not agree with these findings. I don't agree that only 1 additional car per hour will travel along Dartmouth Street. Can I prove it? Nope. But that doesn't mean I accept it. What I do accept is that the entire street of Gilman will be operating at an "F" (page 50). And by entire they mean from the freeway all the way up to Hopkins. If that is true, why wouldn't it also be true that Marin would become congested? Oh, because it has more lanes? But it doesn't. Buchannan does. As such, it makes sense to me that MORE people will take the Albany exit and then squeeze onto Marin. And when people get tired of sitting on Marin, where are they going to go?
Ulan McKnight October 25, 2012 at 07:17 AM
What I find amazing is not my reaction to this project. I think anyone who says they love our safe streets and advocates for bicyclists and pedestrians (by last count, that includes all 7 folks running for City Council) would have the same reaction Sheri and I do. What I find amazing is that folks who are FOR this development spend zero time explaining how they plan to deal with the increased traffic. They spend a lot of time talking about how we may, possibly, if everything goes right, get up to 2% of our budget in new revenue. But this thread is all about traffic safety. I am real confused why no one who advocates for this development spent ANY of their 200 words explaining how they will deal with the minimum of 5,000 (I heard 10,000 is a better estimate) new car trips through Albany. We all want safer streets. Can someone (maybe you Caryl, since you ran for City Council and are on record as supporting this project) explain how building it will increase safety on Albany streets. I seriously would like to know. I am confused. Please... educate me.
Paul D October 25, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Albany Resident... people who look at pedestrian traffic from their vehicles probably don't see the reality of the situation. I'm sure they all think "I'm a safe driver and I always stop for pedestrians". Unfortunately very few actually do so. I walk Solano top to bottom at least three times a week. Its probably keeping me young, facing off against cars ignoring me as I cross the street. This place is a haven for self-absorbed drivers who ignore anything that isn't another automobile. The worst places are the small side-streets feeding into Solano, the ones coming off the quiet residential neighborhoods. Its a rarity if they even stop for the stop sign. Most of these cars never stop, they just slow to about 5~8 mph and then continue on thru or onto Solano. Cops never write them tickets. Let me repeat that because enforcement is key here. COPS NEVER WRITE THEM TICKETS. EVER. In over five years of my walks I have NEVER seen a cop stop a vehicle for a stop sign or pedestrian in crosswalk violation. Yet I experience these close-calls every single time I walk up/down Solano. Forget all the fancy responses, studies, etc... get on the back of the Chief and force him to tell his guys to write some goddamm tickets for Albany residents who violate these simple yet very dangerous rules.
Brian Parsley October 25, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Ulan how do you plan on dealing with increased traffic now the Whole Foods is going in on Gilman St?
Robert Smith October 25, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Mr. Gooderman, thank you for mentioning the spacing of the light poles with the 'moonglow' lights. The darkness in my neighborhood, (Portland Flats) and the difference between the pools of glare and the seas of darkness, makes biking at night unnerving.
Paul D October 25, 2012 at 08:34 PM
How about instead of grinding away for a few more years 'discussing' traffic safety plans which never come to fruition some forward-thinking person on the council writes a memo to the Chief insisting he treat pedestrian/traffic violations with the personal injury/life & death seriousness they deserve right now. And if he won't, then get him to officially respond on the record as to why he won't. Complex pie-in-the-sky traffic schemes and plans or actual enforcement today? Is this a tough choice?
Caryl O'Keefe October 26, 2012 at 01:13 AM
@Ulan, thanks for link. I did not find support in it for your conclusions, nor anything that addressed my request for a cite for what you had characterized "as the traffic study in the EIR clearly states..." You are of course entitled to your conclusions, but not to label them as "..EIR clearly states" without a cite. I infer you do not dispute the EIR summary I quoted, that with mitigations, some LOS (level of service) for the Marin - San Pablo intersection would IMPROVE WITH this project. And the link you provided for Gilman St identifies mitigations that will IMPROVE already bad intersections. Note that even with improvements from mitigations, some intersection impacts are labeled in the EIR as "Significant and unavoidable" even when they would be BETTER with the project, because Albany does not control the locations (Berkeley or CALTRANS control). However UC would have to pay for those mitigations; why would Berkeley or CALTRANS say no to UC paying? You ask how building this project could increase safety on Albany streets. UC agreed to pay for a study of safety and other aspects of a cycle track proposed by AS&R, also pay for a safer Dartmouth/San Pablo crossing.
tr October 26, 2012 at 08:35 PM
agreed, you've got my vote. vehicles hitting pedestrians and cyclists account for more injuries and deaths in albany than other crimes. with the new bulb out at santa fe and marin, the vehicles regularly making the illegal rights on red, including waste management trucks, are even more dangerous as they squeeze by in the bike lane. law enforcement please.
Tatter Salad October 26, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Law enforcement used to be at the behest of an ELECTED Police Chief. Most everyone knew his name, and he answered his phone if he were at his desk. Around 2008 the City Manager (and cronies) eliminated the Elected Chief, and now we have one that is an excellent guy, BUT he must dance to the whims of the City Manager; an individual with NO background in law enforcement. The result?: Marked increase in the homelss population at the Bulb; Marked increase in 'failing to move your car' citations (on debris free streets!?) on 'clean the street'-days; Marked increase in break-in crimes upon cars parked at the foot of Buchanan. Higher turn-over of officers; because they are WAY under-payed in contrast to neighboring cities. The previous Chief backed his men to USE THEIR OWN judgement on making 'contacts' or enforcing 'no parking signs', or responding to the Octogenarian near the High School that phones in complaints 5-times per week. His goal was keeping Albany safe, not in keeping his job by playing 'nice-nice' with the Council and the City Manager. Albany citizens did not know how good we had it when the Police Chief was an elected individual!
Caryl O'Keefe October 27, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Tatter, on Nov 6, 2001 Albany voted to amend the City of Albany's Charter to appoint, no longer elect, our Police Chief. That decision was made by a majority of the voters. Here's a link to the list of Albany charter amendments: http://clerkshq.com/default.ashx?clientsite=albany-ca . Could you delete your post above to remove incorrect statements, then repost? Thanks
Tatter Salad October 27, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Sorry Caryl; I stand by my statement that Albany didn't know how good they had it when there was an elected Chief of Police. Prey tell: WHO put the change to the City charter on the ballot?
Caryl O'Keefe October 27, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Hi Tatter, I believe Council placed the measure on the ballot based on recommendation from Albany's Charter Review Committee. Apparently 2001 was not the first time it had been on the ballot. But the voters did approve it then.
Amy Smolens October 27, 2012 at 05:56 PM
@Bart Grossman, you said "Combining walking, running and biking in one path as on the Bay trail is very dangerous." You're right. For that reason the new and improved Ohlone Greenway will be 14 ft wide and separated into two one-way cycling lanes (4 1/2 ft wide each) and a five-foot wide ped lane. There will also be a decomposed granite shoulder on each side for runners and walkers to use. Some segments of the Bay Trail have this configuration as does the Crissy Field multi-use path, and the compliance rate is very high. AS&R created a petition (both electronic and paper) to show that this configuration was the preference of users. I personally got all the signatures on the Ohlone Greenway itself and I'd say that over 95% of all users (walkers, runners, dog-walkers, wheelchair users, cyclists, stroller pushers) said that this configuration would enhance safety. @Tatter, you express concern here and on other Patch posts that speeds of fast commuters "along the BART trail would be most unsafe for all." Agreed, which is part of the reason we advocated for narrower (4 1/2 ft) bike lanes there. As with roads for motorists, narrower lanes tend to facilitate slower speeds. Many fast cyclists will opt to use Masonic, especially during busy times on the Greenway. The Sharrows on Masonic mean that motorists should expect to share the roads with cyclists, so that helps create safer riding conditions. I hope the new configuration is implemented on the finished Greenway segments soon!
Brian Parsley October 27, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Maybe Nick, Ulan, and Sheri can explain how they support "Safety on the Roads" all the while placing dozens of their law signs in Berkeley, along the public median on Sacramento St, adding to driver distraction.
Kenneth October 27, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Tatter Salad, your comment reminds me of Dic Tuck's famous election concession "The people have spoken, the bastards."

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