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Letters to the Editor

Urge to consider Alameda’s future, praise for biking infrastructure, concern for Active Transportation Plan, and support for moderate leadership.

Let your vote be a statement for change

To the Editor:

Do you remember what Alameda was like five to 10 years ago?  Traffic was less, our pavement was not filled with potholes, crime was less, and the future was more predictable for the quality of life that so many enjoyed.  Today as I travel around Alameda, I am discouraged by the congestion getting onto, off, and across the island.

Alameda Post - I voted stickerOur police force was reduced to minimal levels, which is one of the reasons that crime is up and there are so many speeding cars along the main arteries of the island. Our present City Council finally passed the license plate reader proposal, but did not give the department the full package to alert patrol cars that a potential thief was coming onto or leaving Alameda.

The State of California has mandated that Alameda build over 5,353 housing units in the next eight years, but has not allocated the necessary funds to accommodate the increase in traffic nor the critical need for increased use of roadways, electricity, water, and waste.

If you value the things that brought you to Alameda and kept you here, then you only have to look at what has happened in the last few years. There are three Councilmembers who consistently vote for more housing, “slow streets” that have outlasted their previous need, and the plan to seriously disrupt the flow of traffic on Grand and other streets when there are viable alternatives to ensure the safety of bicyclists over cars.

If you agree with some of the above statements, then let your vote be a statement for change. Please read the candidate statements and look who is funding those running for mayor and the two council seats. I hope you will then see why I am putting my trust in Trish Spencer, Tony Daysog, and Paul Beusterien. I feel that these three have the best chance to preserve the attributes that make Alameda one of the most desirable cities in the Bay Area in which to live.

Barry Parker
Resident of Alameda for 79 years

Active Transportation Plan invests in safety, only minor inconveniences to car users

To the Editor:

What will it take to convince Alamedans to begin using alternative means of transportation to get around? It will take an investment in infrastructure that cars currently enjoy. The Active Transportation Plan presents a vision of the infrastructure required to increase safety and convenience of non-vehicular transportation.

Alameda Post - a line of kids on bicycles
Children attend a bicycle education event at Alameda Point. Photo Alameda Active Transportation Plan.

Why are cars such a problem? Though they provide convenience and flexibility to those who can afford them, they simultaneously pollute the air, damage roads, and require immense amounts of space to store. Above all, they are dangerous. Pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists are killed regularly by vehicles and drivers. As the active transportation plan notes (p. 23), over 2200 people were injured or killed in collisions in Alameda between 2009 and 2018.

We have subsidized and prioritized cars as the dominant form of transportation with money, land, and ultimately, people’s lives. This has come at the detriment of any other form of transportation, which has further increased reliance on cars. When people argue that streets should be “enjoyed by all modes of transportation” they are arguing for the maintenance of the status quo, which continues to prioritize convenience and subsidies for drivers—and automatically excludes kids and seniors without licenses—at the expense of others’ safety.

At worst, bicycles, scooters, and other wheeled or active forms of transport require electricity for the electronic versions and some pavement. They do not produce emissions simply by their use and they have the added benefit of providing exercise. Moreover, people utilizing these modes of transportation are not causing the majority of life-changing injury collisions in Alameda. According to the ATP, people who are walking or biking are involved in 62 percent of life-changing injury crashes and the top two behaviors associated with those crashes were a result of failing to yield to pedestrians and traveling at unsafe speeds—presumably by cars, since even e-bicycles and scooters have difficulty going over 25mph.

Everyone in Alameda deserves safety whether they are driving, cycling, scooting, or walking. While I wouldn’t argue that the current system is safe even for cars, the system obviously continues to prioritize the safety of those in vehicles to the safety of others. The Active Transportation Plan is a great start at designing a system that will improve safety for all in Alameda and provide much needed separation from cars in the form of protected bicycle lanes and greenways, in addition to other infrastructure and programs.

I recognize that it’s impossible to eliminate all trips made by car in Alameda, but we should at a minimum try to decrease the number of trips that cost the most to our infrastructure, environment, and citizens’ safety. Replacing a few trips to the shopping center, school, or work, will go a long way towards increasing safety in general, increasing health, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But in order for folks to feel comfortable making this shift, we need to make it safer. That may require folks who prefer cars to “suffer” a few inconveniences that non-drivers have been dealing with for decades.

I want to encourage folks to read through the active transportation plan yourself and send your feedback as letters to the editor and to city officials as well. I hope you’ll agree that these investments in infrastructure and safety are well worth the minor inconveniences to car users.

Maria Piper
Alameda Resident

Alameda City staff wants to change Gibbons Drive without notifying residents

To the Editor:

The City of Alameda’s staff recently drafted Active Transportation Plan (ATP) plans to reduce access to Gibbons Drive at High Street.  The ATP’s stated goal is: “The Alameda community’s need for expanded and improved transportation options, the need to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on the City’s roadways, and the need to address climate change all require that the City of Alameda continue its ongoing efforts to build and maintain safe and connected bicycle and pedestrian networks.”

Alameda Post - ATP Page 38
“Figure 6. Bikeway Vision Network” found on page 38. Image Alameda Active Transportation Plan.

Under the guise of “Active Alameda,” activists have created a clever method of reducing access to Gibbons Drive at High Street.  You can download and read the Draft Plan (pdf) online. On page 38 of the 64-page document there is a map  labeled “ALAMEDA ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION PLAN | DRAFT 10/3/2022.” On it, Gibbons Drive has an orange dashed line. (Lincoln and Garfield along with Versailles are also so marked.) The key to the 2030 Low Stress Backbone Network labels that orange dashed line as a Neighborhood Greenway (Class III.)

On page 60 you may find as part of Table 10 “2030 Infrastructure Plan” project number 19 Lincoln Avenue/Garfield Avenue (Park to Fernside), but nowhere in the document is the text for Gibbons Drive. Only if you happened to see the dashed line along page 38 is the City staff’s proposal for Gibbons Drive. That is to say, if you were to text search the Internet for projects involving Gibbons Drive, you would not find the ATP in your search results.

Before Tilden Way was constructed and opened in the mid-1960s, Gibbons Drive was a highly used street as it was a direct route to downtown Alameda. Out-of-town drivers to Alameda would take the High Street exit off of the Nimitz Freeway (now Highway 880) and drive downtown via Gibbons Drive. Having lived on Gibbons Drive for over 65 years, I remember vehicles backed up from the High Street stop sign for Gibbons Drive to Northwood Drive and further southeast. To this date, drivers enjoy the beauty of Gibbons Drive’s liquidambar tree-lined street, either arriving to Alameda or leaving Alameda via Gibbons Drive to the High Street Bridge. Denying direct access to out-of-town vehicle drivers is a public relations mistake.

Gibbons Drive had been a major street until that designation was removed in the 2010s. On page 28 is a pedestrian street type of “Neighborhood Connector.” Per page 31, Neighborhood Connectors serve primarily residential areas. They are typically cross-town routes with higher motor vehicle volumes. Gibbons Drive qualifies as a Neighborhood Connector. Gibbons Drive has a higher volume of traffic than the streets that connect to it. It is a street that should be multi-modal, shared amongst vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

If Gibbons Drive is not a Neighborhood Connector and is just a local street, then what injury, accidents, and speeding ticket statistics does the City have that raise Gibbons Drive to such a level that it must become a bicycle boulevard over other local streets? It appears that City Staff has unfairly, without justification, decided that Gibbons Drive should be a bicycle boulevard and reduce vehicle access to it. Who on Staff has the authority to propose Gibbons Drive for a neighborhood greenway without supporting statistics?

A “Neighborhood Greenway” (page 39 of the draft ATP) is a way to obfuscate the fact that it is a renamed “bicycle boulevard,” a street that is to have “special treatment” for bicyclists. In 2009, the City Council officially declared all streets in Alameda to be bikeable and walkable. But now bicyclists want more. Although a Neighborhood Greenway has nice features of traffic calming (speed bumps, speed cushions, traffic circles,) a street is entitled to have such treatments without needing to be labeled as a Neighborhood Greenway (bicycle boulevard.)

If the City proceeds to declare Gibbons Drive as a renamed bicycle boulevard, it will not take long thereafter to declare that it is unsafe for bicyclists to share the road with vehicles and demand a two-way protected bikeway. That would take away parking on one side of Gibbons Drive. Then where will delivery trucks, moving vans, contractors, and the disabled park?

On page 33 is Table 5 Pedestrian Design Matrix containing Design Treatments (toolkit) for various street designations. During the specially called Alameda Transportation Commission virtual-only meeting on Thursday, October 20, both the consultant and a bicycle advocate spoke about adding right-turn-only access to Neighborhood Greenway design treatments for the final document. That sounds as if it were an intentional strategy—not to mention such in the draft plan, two people offer it in the meeting, and I expect that to appear in the final plan.

For Gibbons Drive that would mean no access to Gibbons Drive to and from the High Street Bridge. “Closing off” Gibbons Drive at High Street for right-turns only would not be liked by out-of-town visitors. They would need to use other local streets to get to and from Gibbons Drive. That diverted traffic, discouraged during lip service but regularly employed in project details, would increase greenhouse gasses and traffic volumes on otherwise lesser used neighborhood streets. Also, those who live on Gibbons Drive between High Street and Cornell Drive would have to drive extra distance to get to and from the High Street Bridge, thus increasing the use of greenhouse gasses.

Gibbons Drive is currently an emergency gateway exit off of the island. It is short-sighted for the City to close off one access to the High Street Bridge for purposes of emergency evacuation of the island.

There has been no petition distributed and no public notification to Gibbons Drive residents that the City proposes to make drastic changes to Gibbons Drive. The text name Gibbons nowhere appears in searchable text in the document. Why is the proposed change buried in a diagram on page 38 of a 64-page document and Gibbons not mentioned anywhere else? It is deceitful to hide such a change in your document. That is not how Alamedans want business conducted. It is shameful.

The first two meetings for the ATP were in 2019 and 2020, with no public meetings until 2022. The draft plan was just published three weeks ago. There were 30 people at its October 5 virtual meeting, only a handful of people at the library on October 16, and only about 29 attendees at the Transportation Commission’s October 20 virtual meeting with only three public speakers. The city-wide plan has not been marketed well. The “thousands of surveys” submitted are over a four-year period. For a citywide project, I would have expected hundreds if not thousands of Alamedans to have participated. Not so.

In the past when the City wanted to make changes to a neighborhood street, it would directly notify the residents of the street being affected. That is a fair process to solicit input from those directly affected by proposed City changes. This ATP is an example of how not to get the input of residents who will be directly affected by proposed changes. Reprehensible.

A final draft of Alameda’s ATP should be published November 7, goes to the Alameda Transportation Commission on November 16, and should go to Alameda City Council for approval on Tuesday, December 6.

Jim Strehlow
65-year resident of Gibbons Drive

Alameda voters should reward competent, moderate leadership

To the Editor:

I’m submitting this letter in support of the reelection of Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft. Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft has demonstrated calm and fact-based leadership, communicated clear and consistent messages to the people of Alameda, helped run a competent City  government response to the challenges of the pandemic, and avoided the out-of-touch politics and actions of Alameda’s more extreme Left and Right. Moderation doesn’t always drive voter turnout, but it’s likely where most Alamedans would quietly define themselves, politically.

Voters should reward politicians who do a good, boring, I don’t-need-to-worry-about-our-city governance job. That’s a very valuable thing for Alameda to have. I like it when politicians aren’t doctrinaire in one direction or the other. I like it when politicians don’t 100 percent agree with the opinions of their natural constituencies. I even like it when a politician doesn’t 100 percent agree with my opinions. Convince me I’m wrong!

Alameda voters should reward the basic competence and thoughtful leadership of the last four years, performed under extremely challenging conditions. Vote for Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft.

Scott Weitze

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