This article is in reference to the following posts:
12/15/2015 Four-Cities Coordinated Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Presentation.
I attended the Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Study Meeting on December 15 in the hopes that there would be a nice and safe bicycle and walking trail from Cupertino all the way up to the Shoreline in Mountain view. A consultant hired by the joint Park and Recreation Commission and Bicycle Pedestrian Commission gave a presentation of the results of the 2-3 year Stevens Creek Trail feasibility study and presented a number of route options in three sections around neighborhoods where the trail had to deviate from the creek to residential streets due to restrictions or property lines preventing the trail from going along the creek. There was also an area where Freeway 280 intersected the trail that required either a bridge or tunnel to connect the trail sections. No route recommendations were given.
There were a large number of residents, mostly living in the impacted streets who spoke against the trail running in their neighborhoods. I spent several hours going over the video recording of the proceedings and tallied up categories of comments made by the public. I generalized some of the categories for simplification:
- Support Improving Mary Avenue bridge and street and Foothill Expressway and Stevens Creek Blvd (15)
- Dangerous of backing cars out of driveways (10)
- No Sidewalks and dangerous for bicyclist and pedestrians sharing streets with cars (10)
- Trail should not be along residential streets (7)
- Piece and Privacy (7)
- Trail reduces on-street car parking (4)
- Fiscal responsibility – no bridge over 280 – using existing infrastructure (4)
- Keep all options open – Long term view of decades (4)
- Increase crime (3)
- Support of Class 4 cycle tracks (3)
- Bicycles Dangerous for kids playing on streets (2)
- Spend millions building bridge at Homestead High School (2)
- High Speed bicycle trail unsafe (2)
- Property Values will Decrease (2)
- Liability (2)
- Reject Working teams report (1)
- Strangers – not feel safe for kids (1)
- Kid abductions (1)
- Bicycles during heavy traffic from nearby schools (1)
- Residential streets become commuter thoroughfares (1)
- Cannot have Class 1 trails on residential streets (1)
- Heavy Traffic already. Adding bicycles will be worst (1)
- Pelotone – large groups of bikes riding together (1)
- Trail is outdated – now highly residential (1)
A total of 29 people spoke during the public comments, 26 being strongly against the tail going through their neighborhoods:
10 speakers lived on Phar Lap Drive;
4 speakers lived on Barranca Drive/Homestead Villa;
3 speakers lived on Maxine Avenue;
The remainder lived elsewhere or their residence could not be identified.
It should be noted that most comments made about bicycle traffic could have easily been applied to cars. In fact cars are the major cause of traffic congestion, accidents, serious injuries, and fatalities. More kids are hit by cars backing out of driveways than have ever struck bikes. Kids playing in streets have been stuck and sometimes killed when a speeding car suddenly appeared. That cannot be said for bikes. More crime has been perpetrated by people in cars than ever on bikes. Cars are the cause of traffic congestion around schools not bike which can alleviate it. As for large groups of speeding bicycles these groups are a means of making bicycling safer for weekend bikers on our unprotected streets. Bicycles on trails are largely away from major car traffic where safety in number is not necessary. The strongest argument I found against bicycle trails in many of these neighborhoods is the lack of sidewalks. That means that pedestrians and bicycles will have to share the same lanes. But separate walking paths can be marked on these streets as well. There are solutions.
It was the consensus of most of the speakers that bicycle trails had no place through their residential neighborhoods due to privacy and safety issues. The consensus was that the trail should go along the Mary Avenue Bridge and nearby streets as well as along Foothill expressway and that a bridge/tunnel across Hwy 280 was a waste of money. However this would no longer be a Stevens Creek trail since these alternatives are a mile or more away from the creek and in heavy traffic which defeats the purpose of a trail away from the distractions and hazards of heavily trafficked roads and nearby the creek.
The Park and Recreation Commissioners (4) seem in the greatest support of the trail but were sensitive to the comments made by the public. They viewed this as a long-term project of several decades. The Bicycle Pedestrian Commissioners (3) were generally more supportive of the public’s commenters. But everyone was supportive of better bicycle lanes along Stevens Creek Blvd. and Foothill Expressway which is not part of the trail. It seemed evident to me that the Park and Recreation Commissioners were more used to facing a hostile public.
The purpose of bicycle trails is to keep bicycles some distance away from the distractions and hazards of car traffic and close to a safe trail-like atmosphere. Bicycle trails through residential neighborhoods to connect segments of the bicycle trail along the creek are the next best thing to a true trail. Running bicycle trails around long detours along major trafficked streets simply defeats the purpose of a trail. The reason bicycle trails are so important for communities is that they provide people a safe route away from the dangers and distractions of car traffic thus encouraging more people to use their bicycles which in turn reduces car traffic which is the real problem and getting worst throughout this region. Diverting the trail onto Mary Avenue, Foothill Expressway, and Stevens Creek Blvd. essentially negates such a trail through Cupertino. There were even objections of having Cupertino’s portion of the Stevens Creek trail by Black Berry Farm become part of that trail so anti-bicycle trails were some residents.
The city and this entire region is getting overly congested with car traffic and upcoming developments will make things far worst as the final speaker indicated and pleaded to the commissions. One of the easiest ways to reduce traffic is by providing more avenues for bicyclists to SAFELY bicycle around town. By limiting these routs fewer people will bicycle and car traffic will simply get heavier and far more dangerous than bicycles can ever be. Residents don’t seem to realize that They and their reluctance to be part of the solution are in essence part of the problem, that driving their cars from their driveways onto their streets then around their town adds more cars onto their congested roads and only makes streets that much more dangerous for them as well as everyone else getting around town. The city’s long-term plan is to get everyone riding their bikes more to help mitigate traffic. To do that effectively safer routes away from the distractions and hazards of car traffic are needed. But in order for this to happen safer bicycle infrastructures such as this 4 city trail are essential.
In our urban sprawl neighborhoods there is little hope of relief by public transportation for mobility out from homes. There are simply too many mazes of streets and cul-de-sac to make this practical. Bicycle are the least expensive means to get us around our city. It is short-sighted to prevent such trail avenues of travel while residents continue complaining about traffic. Just focusing on major streets for bicycle infrastructure will only solve part of the problem. But if this is what residents want then they should not complain about traffic around schools and other areas of the city since they contribute to the very problem they complain about and refuse to participate in its mitigations.
Though I was somewhat disappointed with the outcome of the meeting it wasn’t a completely loss. Most residents seemed to support bicycle lanes along major streets to reduce traffic. So at least most acknowledged that traffic is an issue and that bicycles will help reduce traffic. But without the 4 city trail it will be that much more difficult to realize. It is unfortunate that citizens cannot see the larger picture as part of their own solution in reducing their overall traffic concerns. If the trail detours to Mary Avenue they and others may likely not bike there due to traffic. But if the trail runs through their neighborhoods they and their entire family can easily use the trail so conveniently located where they live and they will when they realize its advantages to them to cycle long distances away from distracting and dangerous traffic. But alas it may never be.