North Central Bike Lane Project
Reflections & Next Steps
This February, a majority of council voted to approve the North Central Bike Lane Project. I truly wished to support this project, however I voted to oppose.... This may come as a surprise to those who have seen me and my kids scooting downtown and heard the story about witnessing a student get hit by a car right in front us in North Central.
On the council, I've been a strong voice for multi-modal transit policies including lowering speed limits around schools, prioritizing funding to implement the Bicycle Master Plan, creating a pedestrian mall downtown, and the Slow Streets Program during the early stages of the pandemic.
I grew up biking and taking public transit, and first learned to drive at 30 years old when I moved to California.
I'm also a bike collision survivor. When I was 18 years old, I'd bike 5 miles each way to night school. I was knocked down into on-coming traffic by a car pulling out of a parking space. My bike was bent, I was bruised, but the scariest part is that I was so shocked that I let my guard down and got into the car with a complete stranger when he offered to drive me to class.
Fortunately, I lived to tell that story, still there are too many others who have suffered permanent injuries and even fatal losses on our roads. My North Central neighborhood has the highest collision rate in the entire city. My family experiences the lack of safety every day. I never allow my kids to scoot or bike on the streets.
There's an urgent need for infrastructure investments and safety improvements so that we can walk, scoot, bike, and drive in North Central.
While I voted to adopt the Bicycle Master Plan and am committed to delivering a safe and bike-friendly network throughout the City, I opposed this project because it was a divisive, zero-sum solution. I thought we needed to slow down to create a better project with greater community consensus. In my remarks, I noted the following concerns:
The design was based on a flawed Master Planning process that didn't analyze trade-offs and offered limited analysis and community input on design alternatives.
The parking analysis was based on incomplete data that didn't adequately factor in necessary red striping at intersections and driveways.
The project implementation plan was backwards because it didn't prioritize mitigations like pedestrian safety, increased parking enforcement and parking programs before the bike lanes removed 200+ parking spaces.
I appealed to my fellow council to commit resources and further study for North Central, a neighborhood that has long deserved equitable investment and consideration. We are the oldest, densest neighborhood. The legacy of red-lining is present today with unhealthy and over-crowding homes, poor conditions of our sidewalks and roads, and the worst parking deficit compared to any other neighborhood.
I strongly believed there were other design alternatives that the neighborhood and broader community could have supported and we might have been delivered a better project in the next fiscal year. This would have allowed the City to sequence the parking mitigations and other safety improvements and enhanced enforcement in advance of the Bike Lane Project and loss of parking.
As I sit with community members in North Central, I'm acutely aware that one of the immeasurable costs of this project is the weight of disempowerment and cynicism. Hundreds of North Central residents who are directly impacted by this project felt ignored, left out and even lied to. Our City has a long way to go repairing the trust and confidence in our processes.
Moving forward, my hope is for the biketavists and North Central residents to find common ground advocating for a multimodal transit study of North Central, critical safety infrastructure, parking supply programs, and increased enforcement dedicated to our neighborhood.
We need to continue to work together to hold the City accountable to the promised mitigations, safety improvements, and parking programs that are so desperately needed in North Central. A North Central community meeting is being planned. If you'd like to get involved or receive information about the community event, please subscribe.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the dedication of North Central community leaders: Ms. Trina Pierce, Ms. Gloria Brown, Ms. Claire Stephens, Hon. Claire Mack, Ms. Irene Vega, Ms. Leia Austin, Pastor Jen Plantenberg, Rev. Henry Adams, the board members of the Home Association of North Central San Mateo, and many more who spoke up for North Central.
Visit the North Central Bike Lane Project webpage for more information.
Editorial by Jon Mays, "Of bike lanes..."