Why are Citizens Against More Housing But Not Traffic Congestion?

There is a very strong movement against Housing Growth and where to place mandated housing in Cupertino fueled in part because of traffic congestion around their neighborhoods and schools.  But few are addressing traffic directly which is the real problem.  People are also concerned about overcrowded schools but the two school district superintendents indicated at last year’s General Plan Amendment workshop that with the exception of a few schools there is room for growth using funds generated from Measures J & K.

So the real problem is traffic congestion which can be solved by means other than simply banning further housing growth or moving housing to or away from certain locations.  Stopping growth may stop the increase in traffic but will in itself not improve it where it is bad.  But due to RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) represented in the Bay Area by ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) every Bay Area city must take on its fair share of housing as the Bay Area grows.  So growth is inevitable.

The problem is the General Plan and its most recent amendment only deal with commercial and housing development.  It does not address traffic which gets worst with such developments.  As explained in the post Cupertino General Plan – There is no Mobility Element! there is a framework for a Mobility Element that directly addresses traffic but neither the City nor those up in arms against growth have addressed this directly as an issue on its own merits.  Instead everyone is fighting over where to place housing as part of the General Plan Amendment.  There is a battle whether to place more housing to the east or west of town

Why don’t people address the real problem, namely Traffic?  Wouldn’t the city be a nicer and safer place to live without having to worry about auto traffic?  Residents currently have to adjust their schedules to the ever increasing traffic patterns like we adjust our travel plans due to weather patterns.  However unlike weather, traffic can be fixed by reducing it.  For example if far more children rode their bikes to school traffic jams around schools would clear up making streets easier to drive and safer to bike.  But since streets are so crowded with cars and dangerous to bike parents will not allow their kids to bicycle to school and instead drive them causing the problem to worsen.  So if the city could make the streets safer for biking more parents would allow their children to bike breaking the cycle of increased car traffic.  The safer the street are made for bikes the more kids will bicycle to school further reducing traffic.  Schools could also get involved in encouraging more cycling supplemented with educational programs to foster safer bicycling habits.  The same applies for streets around town and residents riding their bikes.  It has been proven throughout the United States and around the world that safer bike routes encourage more people to cycle.

So the vicious cycle of more and more cars taking kids to school can be reversed by devising safer routes for biking to schools as well as around town.  This can only happen if citizens insist that this become a city priority by convincing City Council to have the Political Will to set this as a priority and that significant funds and resources are allocated towards this goal.  This can be effictively done if it is incorporated into the General Plan Amendment as a countermeasure to the consequences of growth.  So where is the public outcry making it clear to the city that it needs to make bicycle rouse part of the General Plan to make streets safe for students going to school and residents riding around town?  Painting bicycle lanes neon green and making more laws for drivers to follow isn’t going to make the streets any safer for kids as long as drivers can ignore the laws and painted bike lanes.  It takes a commitment by the city and some ideas such as expressed in the posts Protected Bike Lanes and Best Practices in Bicycle Lane Designs or illustrated in other Videos Clips of Bicycle Lane Designs.

But bicycles are not the only solution.  There are also Public Transportation alternatives offered by VTA and a shuttle bus that the City could run such as in Los Gatos and Palo Alto as well as school buses like in the good old days.  It will likely involve a combination of Mobility options to solve the problem in the long term but we must first realize that Traffic is far more of an issue than inevitable commercial/housing growth.

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About Frank G

Sustainable Bicycle Advocate
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