Adam Foster favors bike and pedestrian byways

It was a relatively routine evening for the Concord City Council on April 8th 2014. During the public comment period community activists of all political persuasions gave their recommendations on saving the world including the place they called home.

Adam Foster at Lafayette workplace. Photo courtesy Lovelafayette.

Adam Foster at Lafayette workplace. Photo courtesy Lovelafayette.

Among them could be found Adam Foster, who works by day in the Planning Division for the City of Lafayette and as a green life-style proponent in his spare time. In making recommendations to the City Council, he spoke in favor of parking maximums, increased density for downtown commercial development, and larger secondary dwelling units.

Make no mistake about it, Adam Foster wants to reduce the public’s dependence on the automobile for both ecological and lifestyle reasons. He and his family, who reside in the Wisteria development near BART, definitely walk the talk.

Foster commutes to work each day on his bike and his family shops with a specially outfitted transport (with a large box) that can pick-up larger parcels at nearby stores. They own but one car and are the poster child for being able to survive without being a slave to the combustion engine.

In bringing forth this arguably enlightened point of view, Foster served on the Downtown Ad Hoc Steering Committee, and was recently appointed by Caltrans to be a member of its Bike Advisory Committee. At the Thursday evening Farmers Market/Music Extravaganza at Todos Santos, Foster can be found providing free repair services for those bringing a two wheeled conveyances to the park.

Taking this advocacy one step further, the Progressive Adam Foster has filed papers to run for the Concord City Council this November.

When it comes to building the Concord of tomorrow he does not hesitate to recommend a much different world than exists today favoring a large transit village that utilizes BART to commute to work and having close by businesses to decrease the necessity for using cars. In the deliberations of the Concord Downtown Ad Hoc Steering Committee, Foster favored implementing a study (that was turned down) that recommended:

On Willow Pass Road, a road diet has been identified as a potential measure at several community meetings. Road diets are ideal on four-lane roadways carrying upwards of 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day. On roadways with average daily traffic volumes between 20,000 and 25,000 there is a greater likelihood that traffic would divert to alternate routes. Based on the level of daily traffic on Willow Pass Road, a road diet would likely result in traffic diverting to parallel roadways, including Clayton Road and Concord Boulevard. With a road diet, Willow Pass Road would have limited ability to accommodate traffic growth, whether from the SPA or regional growth.

Benefits of the road diet would be the ability to provide bike lanes or on-street parking, decreased pedestrian crossing distances across Willow Pass Road, potential for decreased vehicle speeds, and the potential for increased sidewalk width. Additional analysis would be needed to determine the extents of a road diet, such as from East Street to Galindo Street (or further west to Fry Way or Gateway Boulevard), the expected traffic diversion to alternate routes and intersection operations with reduced capacity on Willow Pass Road. It is expected that peak hour analysis for vehicles would show degraded operations for vehicles, with off-peak operations likely remaining about the same for vehicles. Benefits for other travel modes would be experienced at all times of day.”

It can be expected that with $200,000 being spent for a bicycle and pedestrian safety study for Concord’s future, will  likely bring this issue up once again. It is certain the grant funds are going to do more than recommend building a few special lanes and bike racks to adorn parks and public gathering places.

The bike lobby has become a powerful special interest group whose accomplishments include the creation of special lanes thru the Caldecott Tunnel and Bay Bridge built at a cost of mega millions of dollars. In short this group wants to alter the way most of us live.

Key to bike enthusiast’s plans is changing the way people get to and from major transportation hubs like Concord BART and the Todos Santos District. Building high density residential developments that limit those living in them use of cars as well as others in the community is the cornerstone of the strategy.

From such a concept is where the expression listed above as a “road diet”  or “traffic quieting” comes from. With this way of thinking increased congestion is mitigated by reducing traffic flow to encourage people not to be dependent on personal motorized vehicles for their primary transportation needs.

This strategy has proven to be successful in such diverse places as Barcelona Spain, Venice Italy, and closer to home in Portland Oregon.  All of these locales were already gridlocked before bike lanes, public transit only areas, and more pedestrian friendly walkways were installed.   How the road diet concept would apply to a less congested suburban landscape in Concord and the cities along the Hwy 680-4 corridor remains to be seen.

CONCORD BIKE STUDY SHOWS BIKE-AUTO ACCIDENT ZONES

concord-bike-study

This is what is to be expected to be discussed with the freebie grant money that is financing the bike and pedestrian study. As might be expected, I am apprehensive of this having immigrated over 30 years ago to the Diablo Valley from congested San Francisco.” There is no way I want to make my home environment a replica of the “City by the Bay.”

While in general I am vehemently opposed to the San Francisco-ization of the region, I am not entirely against making improvements for pedestrians and those who ride bicycles. Among concepts I favor exploring are:

  • Alternative routes of bicycles away from congested arteries such as the Monument Corridor, Clayton Road and Willow Pass.
  • Consider closing off street in the downtown area to motorized traffic during selected hours to encourage so called “walk able streets”
  • Improve the quality of bike paths (not so many rough spots) and to build more of them in new developments such as the new Concord Naval Weapons lands.
  • Construct new bike paths to connect up with existing ones.
  • Try to build a safe path parallel to BART lines for pedestrians and bikes as suggested by the Downtown Ad Hoc Steering Committee.
  • Encourage bike and car sharing similar to what has been done in other metropolitan areas.

With this being said, the whole concept of traffic quieting scares me.

In taking account of making new priorities for future development it is important that moderation by all sides of various urban planning models. This is not a Republican vs. Democratic deal where partisan politics are involved. It is what our city and community will look like when most existing residents of the area will be long gone in circa 2050 that counts.

This is why I think it is important that the public understands the concepts advocated by Adam Foster and others who are proponents of life style changes; even if these views differ greatly from mine.

While I favor an environment where the suburban character of Contra Costa can be preserved, perhaps this is a Fantasy Island hallucination on my part.   I just don’t think there is sufficient will or physical fitness on the part of largely apathetic Americans to make Foster’s vision of a Global Bike Village come true.

One thing is certain. Changes will come to the urban landscape of tomorrow whether we like them or not.

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Comments

  1. says

    What about my additional development paragraph is pie-in-the-sky?

    I mentioned parking management, in general, not any specific policies.

    Projects that will increase the density of downtown Concord are allowed under current zoning and the current general plan. Absent amending those documents, the next step would be reacting to any project that is proposed and mitigating perceived negative impacts to the community. Better yet, we can structure our Downtown Specific Plan, Housing Element and Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan to proactively address some of the items that the community is concerned about.

    And again, I’m happy to discuss any specific projects and policies or questions about my background with you.

  2. says

    Bill, people are free to live how they want. That’s why we choose to live in the US, isn’t it?

    When it comes to common resources, like public right-of-ways, decision makers have been challenged by the state to strike a balance between all modes of transit (cars, pedestrians, bikes, mass,..ect.). You have to have a transportation plan, a vision. We’re in the early stages of forming that vision and it will be great to hear from the interested parties in our community as that vision is being formed.

    I’ve seen roads that safely accommodate pedestrians and bikes along with cars and transit. Good street design can improve traffic flows, reduce crime, increase property values and encourage development of vacant and blighted properties. Done right, it’s a win-win-win-win.

    Most of the people in my downtown neighborhood walk to Safeway. In looking at walking in Downtown Concord, you have to consider how difficult it is to walk through Downtown Concord. Wide intersections are accompanied by narrow sidewalks and cars travelling at high speeds. Additionally, pedestrians are constantly having to push buttons to request to cross the street. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are interested in walking and biking downtown for Farmer’s Markets, dining, retail and other attractions. If we can encourage more people to walk or bike, we’ll have less traffic, more parking spaces available and potentially mitigated environmental impacts — you brought up air quality ;).

    Many of the families that live in my downtown neighborhood also have less than one car per household member over 18. It’s far from a given that additional development downtown will lead to unbearable traffic and air pollution. And this is in the city’s control. The city could condition for parking maximums to be associated with projects, rather than parking minumums. That would, by design, limit the number of vehicles associated with development. Then residents who choose to own a car could pay for a monthly parking space at their complex and surrounding on-street parking could be managed to prevent residents and their guests from monopolizing on-street parking in the downtown. Is there any opposition to educated, diverse members of the work force residing in Concord, spending money in Concord, diversifying Concord’s schools and potentially attracting employers to Concord?

    I understand that change can evoke fear. We live in an evolving world and property development rights (through economics) as well as demographic changes (the Millennials are coming and Baby Boomers are retiring) will result in opportunities for Concord. Some amount of change is inevitable, as Richard mentions in his article. Do we grab this opportunity by the horns and make sure it betters our city, or do we watch change occur and not capitalize on its potential positive externalities?

    I’d be happy to discuss any of your concerns with you further Bill. I’ll be at the Farmer’s Market every Thursday night this month. And that goes for anyone reading this, too.

    We can even get into the competitive processes I’ve gone through to get to where I am today and the lengthy conversations that Richard and I have had on this topic in serving our community together.

    • says

      Fearful? Hardly. More like realistic. Your pie-in-the-sky paragraph about “additional downtown development” featuring draconian parking enforcement policies is hilarious. You make out uber dense housing to be the savior of Concord and salve for all social ills. Hilarious. How about you pump that sunshine up Lafayette’s planning ass and see if it works there first.

  3. says

    Richard, why do you uncritically accept Foster’s point of view as arguably enlightened? Far from it. I’m sure he loves his kids but this reads like one more busybody telling people how they should live based on his nth sample personal preferences. And why is it these watermelons seem to always have some safe sinecure (planning department in Lafayette) paid for by taxpayers?

    Concord is not Barcelona. You’ve got a Safeway in downtown Concord that only the homeless walk too. Put thousands more apartments and cluster homes in downtown Concord and you will just create gridlock and thermal inversion haze from the traffic. Bikers will be wearing gas masks if they ride at all.

    Why bother to run for Concord City Council? Sounds like a shoo-in candidate for a seat on the ABAG Board that isn’t elected either.