Action Alert: Support Bike Lanes on Escuela

by Cherie Walkowiak

On Tuesday, September 20th, Mountain View City Council will be voting on whether Anton Development should install bike lanes on Escuela Avenue from Latham Street to California Avenue.

This road is currently too dangerous for most people to feel comfortable riding on.  Installing bike lanes will make it possible for students to bike to Mistral and Castro elementary schools, both located on this block of Escuela Ave.  However, it will require the removal of 17 parking spaces.  The neighbors are understandably concerned about those parking spots.  And parents are understandably concerned that without bike lanes, they have no choice but to drive their children school.

This vote is going to be controversial, and especially hard for the two council members running for re-election this year.  The only way they can vote to move the project forward without committing political suicide is with the backing of huge community support.  You can help in three ways, listed below beginning with the most effective:

1) Come to the city council meeting.  Wear green or blue.
  Tuesday, September 20th, 6:30
  City Hall, Council Chambers
  500 Castro Street

Agenda - Item 6.1 (394 Ortega Avenue Residential Project).  The more people in the room who support the project, the better chances council will move this forward.  If you choose to speak, you will have two or three minutes to give comments.  The most effective comments tell a personal story. What is it like here for you now?  What will change with bike lanes?  Please come, especially if you are a parent of a Castro or Mistral student.

If you prefer not to speak, that's fine.  One of us will ask all those in favor of bike lanes to raise their hand.  Even just showing up in green or blue will demonstrate your alliance with Safe Mountain View and Great Streets Mountain View, who have both been working to make Escuela and the surrounding streets safe.

2) Email city council by Monday: citycouncil@mountainview.gov

3) Sign our petition by Tuesday, 5pm: We want bike lanes on Escuela

 

Reference material:

  • Agenda for September 20th city council meeting.  The project is part of Item 6.1, called 394 Ortega Avenue Residential Project
  • Staff report for the project

 

MORE INFO

Bike lanes on Escuela is part of a much larger plan for improving bicycle and pedestrian conditions along Escuela Avenue, California Avenue and Shoreline Boulevard (feasibility study here).  In October 2015, Mountain View City Council approved the conceptual designs laid out in the Study, and prioritized Escuela from El Camino to Crisanto as the most important first step.  The section of Escuela that Anton proposes to build, from Latham to California, is the first bite out of implementing the visionary plan.

The hitch: staff is recommending against this first leg.  This sets a bad precedent for the rest of the improvements.  From the staff report:

Based on the neighborhood outreach meeting and the EPC’s direction, staff recommends that Anton construct only the crosswalk enhancements at Castro/Mistral Elementary School, and provide the remainder of their public benefits as funds in lieu of improvements. This would mean not installing bike lanes along Escuela Avenue and not installing bulb-outs at the three intersections at this time, thereby preserving all of the existing parking.
This recommendation is based on the following reasons:
  • The crosswalk will immediately enhance safety for school access and provide traffic-calming, without incurring loss of street parking.
  • The developer can contribute funds which will be available to the City Council to program and allocate during the development of the next 5-year Capital Improvement Program in spring 2017.
  • The City can continue to analyze options for Escuela Avenue, without impacting the schedule for consideration of entitlements or building permits for the Anton development.
If the City Council agrees with staff’s recommendation, staff will work with Anton on the specific design of the crosswalk, including lighting, pavement markings and signage. 

The good news is, staff provides this alternate recommendation the council could vote for:

Approve the Escuela Avenue public benefit improvements, including bulb-outs and bicycle lanes, and no funds in lieu of improvements; or approve a different public benefit.

We are hoping council goes for the bike lane recommendation.  Alternatively, perhaps council can direct staff to bring this project back during next year's Capital Improvement Program, when they can hopefully find a parking solution for the school's neighbors.