Tuesday, June 19, 2012

4th St. Meeting Fallout!

As I said earlier, I wasn't able to stay for the vote on the future of 4th St.  However, Scott Hall did a really thorough write up and I wanted to post it.  Remember, even in the worst case scenario we will have new facilities coming to 4th St. in one form or another.


Congratulations on the passionate support for bicycling on 4th Street and in Reno at the RTC Board meeting last Thursday! I think we broke every record for public comment and number of people attending any RTC meeting in support of bicycling. I was proud that so many people made a significant effort to attend the meeting and speak up for the safety of bicyclists and the future of our city. I know it's difficult for many people to speak publicly (myself included), but our impact was impressive. I think we were polite, emotional and convincing, so much so that some of our friends at RTC were having a difficult time coming up with the data to support their position.

As far as the results of the meeting go, I think they were varied. Many of our ideas from just a couple of weeks ago were included in Amy Cumming's 4th Street Corridor Plan. She put in more emphasis on bicycle facilities, and less detraction's such as diversions to 6th Street and the river path. As Jeff pointed out, the process is still fluid and can be changed at any moment. At least as fluid as any glacier can be.

The bigger surprise was when Dave Aiazzi proposed the road diet on East 4th from Evans to Sutro. This is a key portion of the corridor for many of us, but strategically it starts to cut into the downtown urban freeway idea, and puts two lanes on the doorstep of downtown. Once two lanes connect to the casino core, there won't be the supply for traffic lanes to fill up and cause congestion. I just read about a study, from ten years ago, that demonstrates that once streets are converted, the traffic disappears and doesn't cause congestion.http://www2.cege.ucl.ac.uk/cts/tsu/disapp.pdf People modify their driving behavior by combining trips, or riding their bikes. Unfortunately most engineers still think more traffic lanes are better.

One issue that wasn't mentioned was West 4th, from Keystone to Sierra. This section has about the same traffic as East 4th, but wasn't planned to have a road diet. It should be fair to consider it as similar to E.4th. The road diet is practically the only way to reduce speeds and congestion from cars and trucks, and give bicyclists and pedestrians space and safety. We can use the space for a buffered bike lane at first, then add in greenery or a landscaped parkway down the road in the future.

Of course the biggest surprise was Bonnie Weber proposing a complete biking/walking mall with transit that would blow the minds of the RTC. The funny thing is that this is not so far fetched, and other cities regularly close their major corridors for weekend or holiday street parties. Check out http://www.activetrans.org/openstreets and http://www.ciclavia.org/ It seems Reno can do this, and we can start with the 4th of July on 4th Street Bike Rally. Bonnie seems to be a great supporter for community development, and her term lasts until 2014. We will need to engage her more in the bike advocacy process.

So in the end we had a good outcome on many points, and some struggles in other places. The plan was voted on and passed with amendments and the RTC has already published the complete Corridor Plan. It's a good read, and shows how much can change within the two years of study. The funding, technical guidance and national transportation issues all favor bicycling and creating safe and healthy corridors for riding. But as Dave pointed out, Reno might not be ready yet for a complete bicycle highway through the downtown casinos. So we are up against the political and cultural resistance to bicycling in the public, and we will need to use many tactics to change this mindset. We made a good effort with the 4th Street campaign, and can continue there and on other streets around town.

We can also influence public opinion by supporting bicyclists, encouraging new cyclists to ride to work or around town, and trying as much as possible to follow the traffic rules. Much of the backlash against bicyclists is from the perception of us as lawless, mentally ill lunatics causing chaos on the streets. (Sometimes it's true, but we just need to dial it down a notch.) Other cities such as Portland and Boulder have already experienced this, but have progressed when bicyclists become part of normal traffic and allow everyone to enjoy their own right-of-way.

So I look forward to continuing the process, and if anyone wants to sit down and plan out the next strategy session let me know. There are still many issues to work on, and more contacts to make in the business community.

I also didn't hear everyone's comments at the RTC Meeting, so please remind me of your concerns and how we might be able to manage them. I think RTC's main complaint was trying to balance all the users' needs, and it's apparent that it is indeed difficult.

Thanks again for all the support, and we'll continue to campaign for a safer and better New 4th Street!

Scott Hall
Committee for Bicyclists on 4th Street

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