City Council approves blueprint to move people through south Richmond
on September 26, 2015
Pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists clash throughout south Richmond—the streets simply cannot handle them all. Last Tuesday night, the Richmond City Council unanimously approved a peace plan.
The plan is meant to help channel everyone—whether they are riding a bike, riding public transit, driving a minivan or 18-wheeler or hoofing it—through an industrial mess chock-full of obstacles and poorly designed intersections.
City planners said one of the main goals of the newly approved South Richmond Transportation Connectivity Plan is to make it easier for residents to reach the city’s picturesque shoreline.
South Richmond is so disconnected from the rest of town that it might as well be its own city, which the planners underscored at the City Council meeting by talking about multiple “Richmonds.”
“This plan is the next step … in the process of connecting the Richmonds together a bit better,” said Richard Mitchell, director of planning and building for the city.
The multifaceted blueprint has many goals and proposals, all of which feed into its primary objective of making travel to, from and through south Richmond simpler, faster and safer. It looks at all modes of transportation.
Although the plan addresses countless problem areas, the planners highlighted some of the most challenging intersections. (See map.) None of them is equipped to handle a lot of people traveling a number of different ways.
For example, the intersection of Central Avenue and San Joaquin Street puts pedestrians and bicyclists at the mercy of high-speed traffic surging on and off of Interstate 80. Even drivers struggle to navigate through the I-80 push.
Bicyclists trying to make their way through Hoffman Boulevard and Harbor Way are forced to turn onto streets teeming with trucks.
Three other crossings—Cutting Boulevard and Carlson Boulevard, 23rd Street and Marina Bay Parkway and Bayview Avenue and Carlson Boulevard—all share one of the region’s most troubling hangups: They do not give those on bike or foot enough room to move through safely.
The Connectivity Plan lays out many possible ways to tackle south Richmond’s transportation woes. These include fixing signals to speed up traffic; expanding public transit; and putting up barriers on some streets to separate bicyclists and motorists.
That last idea did not sit well with Councilmember Nathaniel Bates, who said he disapproves of the alleged preference the plan gives to bicyclists, suggesting dedicated bike lanes are unnecessary at best and troublesome at worst.
Bates said there aren’t enough cyclists to justify dedicated lanes, pointing to 23rd and Barrett streets as an example where, he said, you would be “lucky if you see ten bikes all day.” He also suggested the bike lanes could slow traffic down, leading to higher levels of pollution from backed-up cars.
He nevertheless joined his colleagues when the time came to vote for the plan as a whole.
Last week’s approval is an important step in the planning process, but it may be a very long time before major changes start happening on the streets . Some parts of the long-term vision won’t happen until 2030 or beyond. Even for the more immediate changes, the city would need to secure funds and, in some cases, conduct additional research.
The plan came about after the California Department of Transportation awarded the city a Community-Based Transportation Planning Grant in 2012. It highlights a few potential sources of funding, but there are no guarantees.
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