Future of Floyd Project Uncertain

9 Jan

Sorry that my first post of 2015 is a downer: as reported today by the RTD, Richmond’s Urban Design Committee voted yesterday to not recommend the Floyd Avenue bike-walk street project.  It still has to go to the Planning Commission and could end up in city council, but the 7-2 vote against it certainly doesn’t help.

The project has faced a number of challenges from early on.  On one side you have (according to polls) a numerical majority of neighborhood residents supporting the project, but a small number of vehement opponents who not surprisingly make their voices heard at every opportunity (note the number of posts from the same 3 people in response to today’s RTD article).  If that were not enough, you have city traffic engineers in charge of the project — who are neither very experienced with or deeply invested in creating good bicycle infrastructure — finding reasons to not include features that would make it a really good project.

Although the RTD coverage does not make it clear, the latter issue accounts for a good portion of UDC opposition.  In fact, back in September the commission sent traffic engineers back to the drawing board with several recommendations for changes (coverage here), none of which were included in the plans presented to the UDC on yesterday.

Those recommendations included using highlighted shared lane markings, more and clearer signage to “brand” Floyd as a bike-walk street, and lowering the speed limit to 20 mph.  Tom Flynn, the city’s chief traffic engineer, has insisted that he can’t lower the limit, but others have suggested that the city has the power to do so regardless of what the usual formulas would justify.  This is part of the problem we face in Richmond and elsewhere: laws and standards that were not intended or designed to take into account much of anything other than car traffic being used to block good ideas.

Special signage for a bicycle boulevard in Berkeley, CA.  This is one of several recommendations from the city's Urban Design Committee that traffic planners did not include in the final design.  From http://www.studiolimage.com.

Special signage for a bicycle boulevard in Berkeley, CA. This is one of several recommendations from the city’s Urban Design Committee that traffic planners did not include in the final design. From http://www.studiolimage.com.

I and some other advocates have been worried about this project being watered down by the traffic engineers, and that is essentially what has happened.  If there’s a way to force them to make at least some of the called-for changes, I’d love to see it happen.  BUT: what I really don’t want to see happen is that the engineers effectively kill it, and that’s what we’re facing at this point.

Given how hard it is to convince Richmonders to embrace something novel, I’m willing to take a watered-down project for now — with the knowledge that I and others will fight to make changes and make it better down the road.  If the Floyd project dies now, it’s not just that it will not be in place to show off for the 2015 crowds.  It could be many years before we could take it up again.  And all of the struggle and planning over the past couple of years will be down the tube.

I would love — and expect to eventually get — a great bike-walk street on Floyd.  But knowing Richmond, at this point I’m willing to take a far-from-perfect version.  Let’s hope the Planning Commission sees it that way too.

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One Response to “Future of Floyd Project Uncertain”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Have You Signed the Floyd Avenue Petition? | Bikeable Richmond - February 3, 2015

    […] hoping that what Public Works can do will be enough.  As I’ve argued in earlier posts (here and here), it makes sense to make this project as good as it can be.  At the same time, unlike […]

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