Have You Signed the Floyd Avenue Petition?

3 Feb
Bike boulevard with traffic diverters in San Luis Obispo, CA.  From labikas.com.

Bike boulevard with traffic diverters in San Luis Obispo, CA. From labikas.com.

This is a quick reminder that BikeWalk RVA has a petition drive going to help nudge the Planning Commission in the direction of approving the plans for the Floyd Avenue bike-walk street project.  If you haven’t yet done so and would like to express support, click here.

At the last meeting the commission postponed a decision for 30 days to give Public Works traffic engineers time to address commission members’ concerns in more detail.  My understanding is that Public Works is really trying to do this, although some of the things may be hard to incorporate into the plan officially because it is being financed through a federal program that is specifically about traffic calming.

I’m 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 some other projects, this one can involve assessment and further adjustments or additions if it doesn’t work as well as intended.  I’m fine with delaying the implementation of other similar projects until we see how this works and possibly put in place general design standards for future projects of this kind.

Here’s What We’re Dealing With

This is also a matter of accepting some political realities.  There is a small but very vocal group vehemently opposed to this that will appear vindicated by a rejection of the project — even if the reasons the commission might do so are not related much to the critics’ concerns.

In addition, some of the more robust measures that were considered in early discussions, such as more bump-outs (that narrow the roadway at intersections and prevent cars from parking too close to the corner, which is illegal anyway) and diverters (which would have channeled cars to other streets at a couple of key intersections) were seen by council members and engineers as not having enough public support.  And apparently the fire department sees Floyd as a major route and will not accept speed bumps or anything of that sort.

Council members have the ultimate say about such projects, and they also get antsy if they think too many constituents (especially neighborhood associations) are opposed to something.  In a case like this I’m convinced that it would have been worth the risk, since people very often end up liking such things once they actually see them working.  But then I’m not trying to stay in office.  The point is that the engineers have opted to not include some things that would have done more to reduce speeds and traffic volumes because they were told to.  I’m not usually the biggest defender of our traffic engineers, but I think in this case they are being squeezed between cautious council members and skeptical residents on the one hand, and commission members who want more on the other.

So here’s the way I see it: with something decent in place, we can look carefully at how well it works or not over the first few months as people get used to it, and then if it’s not working as well as we would like, try out diverters or other measures at a couple of intersections on a temporary basis using traffic cones.  Working to convince residents and their representatives to accept this sort of addition would be easier than starting from scratch a couple of years down the road.

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