Some of the worst things about Emeryville were on display on Monday night when the city held its Horton Bicycle Boulevard Special Meeting. Unlike the “goal-setting” workshop that was barely noticed and sparsely attended, the organizers blanketed the area with signs mounted to A-Frame barricades. The turnout of an estimated 30+ people were broken out into groups and asked to provide their feedback on four traffic calming options created by Alta Planning & Design.
Also on display was the seemingly increasing aggressive behavior of founding RULE member (Residents United for a Livable Emeryville) and Emeryville Tattler editor Brian Donahue. Donahue has a recent history of disrupting Council & School Board meetings in addition to continued online personal attacks and harassment of Emeryville businesses.
No clear agenda for the meeting was provided prior and neighborhood concerns were that the city was going to attempt a Level 5 blockade of car traffic at Horton/45th as the city had previously proposed as an option. This shortsighted approach would have come at the expense of squeezing cars onto more heavily pedestrian-trafficked roads like Park Avenue. The established intent of the meeting was to determine public preference for which traffic calming measures would deter cars from using the boulevard and ultimately recommended to council for implementation.
Speed feedback signs were implemented last year as a level 4 traffic calming measure.
Emeryville’s 166 page Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan [30MB PDF] that Alta prepared outlines milestones to initiate traffic calming measures like above. Some cities use the 3,000 car-trip designation on their bike boulevards, while neighboring cities like Berkeley do not. Surpassing 3,000 car-trips is what is supposed to trigger additional traffic-calming measures and thus initiate the community discussions that we were having. “In 2009, the BPAC recommended the 3,000 car threshold for bike boulevards, and it was ultimately decided at that time that staff should study this issue, but not make a specific requirement” according to City Environmental Programs Technician and BPAC secretary Marcy Greenhut. In September 2015 (The last full month of data available), there were an average of 3,358 vehicles per day (VPD) on Horton (2,062 northbound and 1,296 southbound), with an average speed of 23 MPH.
The plan itself states as follows:
There is a wide variation in vehicle volume goals for bicycle boulevards considered by different jurisdictions, shown in Table 6-2. Goals range from 1,000 to 3,000 vpd, with the majority of jurisdictions lacking a volume goal. No jurisdiction has a specific set threshold that triggers implementation of volume control treatments. Instead, the decision to implement volume control treatments is based on the context of the bicycle boulevard, and engineering judgment plays heavily in the decision.
Tattler Editor Brian Donahue disrupts another meeting
Public comment was reserved for after the meeting but this didn’t stop the younger Donahue from inserting himself into the presentation several times. Donahue challenged moderator Jeff Knowles on what defined a Bike Boulevard insisting that the reported 3,000+ car-trips had disqualified the designation. Knowles & Environmental Programs Supervisor Nancy Humphrey attempted several times to move the meeting along but Donahue persisted.
Things finally came to a head [26:08 in video above] when Donahue was allowed to make a comment but then insisted on several follow-up comments that were putting the meeting off track and misrepresenting city information. “Brian, that’s not true, you know that’s not true” chided Humphrey. “We’re not going to put up with this today!” Humphrey is familiar with Donahue’s antics as he had previously undermined Humphrey & Public Works Director Maurice Kaufman at a 2014 council meting by misstating the results of an impromptu straw poll stating the community “voted” to implement Level 5 traffic calming measures.
Tempers flared as Donahue tried to talk over Humphrey several times. “You’ve been shouting down every woman that speaks!” noted a another in attendance trying to defend Humphrey and defuse the tense moment. After a heated and uncomfortable exchange, Donahue got up in a huff and stormed away amid some tempered clapping. Donahue has been known for expressing black & white views on many subject matters and labeling those that disagree with him as “Right-Wing”.
Donahue is a central figure in the current Emeryville political scene. He is the brother of City Councilmember Scott Donahue, a “good friend” of Councilmember Jac Asher and played a pivotal role in the election of Councilmember Dianne Martinez through his involvement in RULE. Mr. Donahue was recently removed from the neighborhood social media site Nextdoor.com after levying personal attacks against residents and the neighborhood lead. It should also be noted that he was also temporarily suspended from commenting on this site after several warnings for violating our comment policy including posting off-topic links to promote his own site and other trolling behavior.
No Clear Consensus Reached
Participants were asked to rank their favorite bike & pedestrian option and favorite/least favorite calming features among chicanes, speed tables and striped lanes. The plans also outlined the amount of parking spaces that would be eliminated as a result in the already jammed mix-use area that is home to the Peet’s headquarters, a growing Plum Organics and soon to be massive Sherwin-Williams Development. Participants were then asked to label features in a convoluted process that involved adhering a series of color-coded dots.
Not surprisingly, a clear consensus was not achieved and the next steps will be for Alta to somehow decipher the results. The results will be reported to city staff and scheduled to be presented to the Emeryville BPAC (Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Subcommittee) on March 7th. Recommendations will ultimately be brought before council for recommendation and approval. A construction budget has not been outlined but depending on how many features are implemented could easily surpass $100,000.
Is the City Getting the Bicycle Boulevard wrong?
As a freelance web designer who works from home, I ride the Horton Blvd. daily and have never had an issue on the strip in question between 53rd & 45th. I conferred with the folks at the East Bay bike courier service Pedal Express (who in fact have their offices on Horton) and they agreed that section wasn’t an issue for them. While the data and any observational evidence clearly point to issues at 40th and near the Amtrak station, no proposals for remedying these were presented. Again, every bicycle & pedestrian collision in the last 6 years has occurred at these two intersections (none have occurred between 53rd & 45th). If this is about Bicycle Safety (which it should be), the city is clearly missing the mark.
Many I’ve spoken with agree that if the City wanted to reduce car-trips on Horton, more should be done to discourage vehicle traffic from the East Bay Bridge Shopping area besides the ineffective sign shown above. Meanwhile, improvements to the blind intersection at Horton & Sherwin shown below were completely left out of their plans and not even addressed.
While I applaud Humphrey and Alta for their efforts to make our city more Bike-Friendly, it didn’t appear to come from a perspective of someone who is familiar with and rides the road on a regular basis. Planning this while ignoring the forthcoming Sherwin-Williams project is a huge waste of time and money (I’m of the personal opinion that the Sherwin Developers should foot the bill for this!). Our City has taken a strong stance on integrating Bike-ability in our town and is on track to improve this with the inclusion of Bike Share and the soon to be finished path to Treasure Island.
When we previously polled residents, 69% thought we should either wait until the Sherwin plans were clearer or that there were no problems at all:
Meanwhile, areas that clearly need more attention get overlooked like the Halleck-Beach Dog Park under the 40th street bridge:
And the Peladeau Park strip of the Greenway that is now three years behind schedule:
Video provided by Ken Bukowski’s EPOA YouTube Channel.