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Going green: Pleasanton's new bike lanes aim for safer, more cycle-friendly community

Councilman finds bicycling a tool for exercising, commuting, 'an invaluable part of everyday life'

For City Councilman Jerry Pentin, his bicycle is not just a tool for exercising or commuting; it is an invaluable part of his everyday life.

"I ride where I can ride. Whenever there's a family event, my wife would drive and I would bike there," he said with a chuckle.

"I've been tagged as the 'bike guy' on the council," Pentin added. "I ride these streets all the time, know the traffic patterns ... I've ridden about every street in town, one time or another, so it definitely helps me when we talk about bikes."

Pentin said whenever he rides around town, he is glad to see ongoing improvements to bike infrastructure, projects he and other city leaders have championed to improve safety and usability.

"I foresee in the future a great bicycle route in Pleasanton, where people can say, 'If I go here, here and here, I'll have safe bike routes,'" Pentin said.

Green lanes

One city effort to improve bike safety involves the 500-foot stretch of green-tinted bike lane completed in June on Sunol Boulevard under Interstate 680. That project followed the green bike lanes added to the new Stoneridge Drive extension in 2013.

"When we constructed the Stoneridge Drive extension, we had a pilot project for green bike lanes," Pleasanton city traffic engineer Mike Tassano said. "It was an up-and-coming idea to add visibility of cyclists for motor vehicles. Other larger municipalities, like San Francisco, New York that are bike friendly, had started doing that."

"We wanted to determine the effectiveness and to determine the cost and the life-cycle of these lanes," he said.

Bike safety is a focus for city traffic officials. The section of Sunol Boulevard now with a green lane is dubbed by some cyclists as "the Valley of Death" because of fast-moving vehicle traffic through the area, Pentin said.

In 2014, there were 33 bicycle-related collisions in Pleasanton, excluding solo bike crashes -- out of 416 total traffic collisions, according to city statistics. Most of those crashes involved bicyclists colliding with motor vehicles; bike-versus-pedestrian and bike-versus-bike collisions are rare in Pleasanton, Tassano said.

Since 2006, crashes between bikes and others have ranged from a low of 21 in 2013 to a high of 34 in 2010, according to Tassano. The last bicycle fatality occurred on Foothill Road in June 2013.

Looking at bike-vehicle crashes during the past nine years, "the last five years seem to trend higher than the first four years, so it seems there is a slight increase in bike crashes," Tassano said, while adding that he could not reach a definitive trend conclusion without specific information about the number of cyclists per year.

When Tassano and the city traffic engineering team studied the Stoneridge Drive green lanes a year after installation, they decided to expand the green-lane program.

"We determined they seemed to last, and we found that they were very visible," he said. "The police officers, city manager, city council also provided positive feedback. It's pretty clear for drivers that there's a bike lane out there and recognize that there's a cyclist. That alone is enough for us to determine if it's a worthwhile thing."

Some members of Pleasanton's cycling community share the enthusiasm.

"They make me feel safer," said Jim Van Dyke, board member of the region's bike advocacy group, Bike East Bay. "Visibility is everything to cycling safety, helping us 'cageless' riders feel a bit less risky when 3,500 pound SUVs are coming by right and left. They also give benefits to motorists, by keeping cyclists in a predictable place."

"We're just thrilled to see the green bike lanes and the city expand the mileage," added Steve McGinnis, organizer of the Pleasanton Pedalers cycling group and member of the city's Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Committee.

Upcoming bike lane plans

The green lanes are only a part of Tassano's vision to create a "more complete biking network and safer and more comfortable biking experience."

Since Tassano was named traffic engineer in 2006, the amount of on-street (or Class II) bike lanes in the city, including both traditional and green lanes, has nearly doubled from 36 miles to 65 miles.

The city is exploring ways to improve freeway overcrossings and major intersections for bicyclists, Tassano said. "Our goal is to put green bike lanes on all arterial intersections where it's not clear where the bike presence is."

Currently, Tassano and the committee eye developing a master plan to complete bike lanes on Foothill Road.

"The Foothill corridor has a lot of incomplete gaps in between completed bike lanes," he explained. "Since we have a hard time controlling the speed of cars there, it's better to put in a separate lane for bicyclists."

He is also considering protective barriers to separate bicyclists on some roads, and he is looking into signalized crosswalks for bicycles at freeway entrances where it is not feasible to design a safe route for cyclists to cross traffic

"Another thing we do is whenever we do overlays of roads, we add in new lanes whenever is feasible," Tassano added.

Challenges

New plans also bring in a set of new challenges. According to Tassano, "arguments have been going on for a long time" regarding whether bike lanes increase or decrease safety.

Nationally, some critics have advocated against separately painted bike lanes, contending cyclists should act and be treated the same as motorists to safely ride on the road.

But for Pleasanton and many major cities, separate bike lanes seem to be the favored solution.

"I prefer bike lanes," Tassano said. "Ultimately, I want that artificial buffer. I want to know the car's going to stay in its lane, and that if the drivers don't, they would be at fault."

Another factor is funding.

The newly painted green stretch of bike lanes on Sunol cost $3.75 per square foot. For a total of two coats over 2,900 square feet, the price was $10,000.

"That can be cost-prohibitive," Tassano said. "However, if we have a (pavement) overlay project and there's a contractor that's doing overlay, adding $20,000 of green paint for a $3 million project is not the same issue as using general money."

He said he plans to use the strategy of adding lanes in larger overlay projects in which federal, state and regional money is often available.

"We get money from Measure B to overlay, a half-cent sales tax, and Measure BB, another half-cent sales tax. Some of that money goes to the city for transportation while a portion goes to competitive grants offered by the Alameda County," he said.

Part of Tassano's job is to apply for these regional, state, and federal grants to help fund transportation projects.

"Our hope is that (green lanes) don't wear out yearly. It has not been the case yet. In two years, we haven't needed to refresh the Stoneridge extension," he said.

When asked if he thought bike lanes were worth the cost, councilman Pentin weighed safety over money.

"Yes, absolutely. It's a visibility thing," he said.

A 'Bike Friendly Community'

The percentage of cyclists who commute by bicycle in Pleasanton has doubled, from 1% to 2% of total respondents, from 2002 to 2013, according to residential and employer commute surveys conducted by the city every three years. The state average was 1.1% in 2012, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

"The bike community in Pleasanton, I'd say it's growing. It's a vibrant part of the community. Pleasanton Pedalers had no members when it started, and we have 135 people who joined since then," said McGinnis, who noted that he also sees growth in senior cycling.

Last fall, Pleasanton received its first bronze-level designation from the League of American Bicyclists "Bicycle Friendly Community" (BFC) program. The city received honorable mention three years earlier.

"The bronze designation signifies that Pleasanton is making it a priority to be a bike friendly community," said Lisa Adamos, city economic development specialist. "We are the first to receive this designation in the Tri-Valley, and it grows the awareness that people can bike in Pleasanton."

Adamos led the application process last year, working with the Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Committee, city traffic engineering and the police department.

"Going through the application was a learning process. We were really investigating the questions and finding out new ideas and that there was maybe something that we need to do later," she said.

The communities in the BFC program were scored in five categories: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation and planning. Biking has to be supported by the community, as well as by the municipal government and facilities.

"I think the green bike lanes helped considerably in the bronze designation," Tassano said. "I think what the League wanted to see was a focused effort to place higher priority on bikes and bike infrastructure. The addition of the green bike lanes helped show that commitment."

Adamos also directs the city's promotion of cycling and bike safety.

The city holds an annual Bike to School and Work Day, family cycling workshops for elementary school students, "bike-to-market" for farmers' markets, bike safety workshops for commuters, and "community rides" in which bicyclists can drop in and join.

"It benefits by attracting visitors and definitely for people to come live here. The bike-friendly community designation definitely has a positive impact," Adamos said.

Future of Pleasanton's bike community

On the horizon is the new Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan update process, set to be completed by September 2016.

The master plan outlines the various pedestrian and bike projects in the city and establishes a system to prioritize future projects.

"Just a list doesn't help," said Tassano, pointing to the weak prioritizing mechanism of the 2010 master plan. "Next year after this is completed, we'll have a direction of where to go."

"One of my goals on the master plan is turn some of the terminology from should to shall," Pentin added. "There is a significant difference between should and shall. Should leaves a lot of leeway while shall means you're required to do so."

The city is also exploring other new bike facilities, such as protected bike lanes, a bike sharing program and bike corrals -- on-street bicycle parking facilities that can accommodate more bikes than sidewalk racks.

"I also want to see bike corrals down on Main Street somewhere where bikes are visible, not shoved somewhere else," Pentin said. "If you see a safe place to park your bicycle and a safe place to ride, that will encourage more people to bike than drive."

To the councilman, bike corrals are just one new strategy to accomplish an overarching goal: changing the driving culture of Pleasanton to a healthier, more active lifestyle.

"It's a culture thing. We're used to our cars. We have to change the culture of Pleasanton from a car-centric one to a running, biking, hiking and healthy community," he said. "It should be definitely the direction we're going, and the city staff are all on the same page."

Comments

17 people like this
Posted by Patriot
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 14, 2015 at 9:19 am

Now if we could find some courteous , well mannered bicyclist that would help...no lights, no bells to warn pedestrians..speeding..riding side by side blocking traffic,when single file is safer,.are just a few observed poor safety practices.. Time to test and educate bicyclists! Just like boats and cars....


14 people like this
Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 9:23 am

Couldn't agree with you more. It appears most cyclists are unaware that traffic laws apply to them too. I see cyclists run stop signs regularly, and sometimes even run red lights. Amazing that they feel they are above the law, and invincible.


5 people like this
Posted by Ennis
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:02 am

Mike Tassano,
I've emailed the city about this with no response. The new development across from McD's at the corner of Stanley-Valley -the solid, temporary green fences completely block any visibility of pedestrians or cyclists coming west on Stanley. I stopped at the corner on my bike, wearing a red cycling top to see if people were looking right- not one (out of 18) looked right to see what might be coming, and the majority didn't stop. There are families with young children coming back from SCliffs or the BMX park and it's an accident waiting to happen. Can the city please put signs up to make drivers aware that there may be cyclists or pedestrians coming? Thank you.

And to Patriot and Get the Facts -it goes both ways. Wouldn't disagree about some cyclists but the lack of awareness due to distracted driving and those who have no business being behind the wheel of a car (and I'll include the 75 year old woman who having overtaken me, suddenly and with no signal, decided I didn't exist and turned right and cut me off-I'm glad the telephone pole that I just missed wasn't 12 inches further to the right.) Again, it goes both ways...Happy cycling...


Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:35 am

I appreciate and encourage more green bike lanes as a safety measure but the fact remains - when you mix cars and bikes on the same road there's going to be trouble once in a while, no matter what you try to do about it. And of course, the bike rider will get the worst of it in a collision.

Showing my age here - I grew up in a time when only kids rode bikes. We rode in the street but knew to be very careful. As we grew up we shucked the bike in favor of a car.


7 people like this
Posted by also a rider
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:42 am

I also ride and know the rules. I have to agree with the previous posts that most cyclists are rude and violate the traffic laws constantly. Never one day goes by that I am not at risk of being hit by a cyclist on the sidewalk running me down or the cyclist running the red lights because they get away with it in town all the time. The guy who comes flying westbound on Stanley to southbound on Main early in the morning without even slowing down, let alone stopping for red lights, has a death wish that someone is going to grant very soon.

Share the road? Not even close, they want to own the entire road. Cyclists should be held accountable for following the rules and cited when they don't. So single up, stop for all traffic lights and stay off the sidewalks.


1 person likes this
Posted by Not a cyclist
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:51 am

... but in my experience, most P-town cyclists are pretty courteous. But like anything, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch--like the cyclist who took aim at the vehicle in front of me on Foothill last week. That being said, while these green lanes look a little garish, if nothing else they clearly define the cycle path. I hope they help drivers understand where they can drive and where they cannot. I routinely see vehicles driving and passing in the loading zone lane along Foothill from Muirwood south to WLP. Foothill is a 2-lane road folks-- not 3. That white solid line is there for a reason.


5 people like this
Posted by Dave Campbell
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:10 pm

As Advocacy Director for Bike East Bay, a non-profit working with many East Bay cities to improve bicycling, I want to underscore the importance of redesigning roadways so that it is safe to walk and bicycle. Streets redesigned for people to bicycle will encourage courteous and safe behavior, as other cities have learned where a large portion of the population gets around on bikes. That said, we also wish people driving would follow the rules too. Speeding and texting are just as dangerous. Bottom line, everyone needs to slow down, be watchful, and be thoughtful toward fellow residents out on the road.

As for people bicycling unsafely, we know that it is also important to educate Pleasanton residents about safe bicycling, which we do. We have one of the larger bicycle education programs in the state, and regularly offer free classes in Pleasanton and Dublin, with one coming up September 26 in Dublin. www.bikeeastbay.org/UC101

Thanks Pleasanton for taking a lead on adding safer bicycle facilities--it is going to make Pleasanton a nicer city to live and work.


1 person likes this
Posted by Ennis
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 15, 2015 at 11:36 am

Dave,
Thanks for the post and your on-going efforts. Not sure where this sits on the list of priorities but where do cities/counties, with their efforts to create bicycle friendly communities, rank sweeping the bike lanes? They seem to get progressively more hazardous as the summer goes on, and there seems to be little interest in cleaning up after accidents.


3 people like this
Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Dave,

I too appreciate your post, and I agree with you that texting and driving are much more dangerous. But I invite you to pull up a chair and watch the stop sign near my house. It is a well-traveled route for cyclists. I guarantee that if we sit there for a few hours and watch 100 cyclists, that at least 98 will run the stop sign, and over 90 of them will not even slow down and barely give a cursory glance in either direction.

Yet during that time, you will see 95 percent of the cars giving a complete and legal stop, and of the other 5 percent, most will at least give a Hollywood stop before going through.

So Dave and all, here is what I see is the problem. Bikes are vehicles, and have the same laws as other vehicles, but cyclists feel that they shouldn't have to stop at stop signs. I have said things about not stopping to cyclists as they cruise by, and I have been sworn at, flipped off, shrugged off, and most simply ignore me.

So Dave, I know you don't think this is okay. Do you stop at stop signs? This is a big image problem for cyclists. What is the solution? And please don't tell me education. They know it's against the law, but it's a matter of convenience. (FYI, I think the solution is a Pleasanton police crackdown on cyclists breaking the law. I don't think this will happen though, as bicycle groups will advocate for not picking on them, for instead concentrating on the real problems, the cars. Here's a link to an article about just this, how misguided the SFPD's bike violation crackdown is. My favorite part is the 4th paragraph.) Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Mike T.
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2015 at 9:42 am

Mike T. is a registered user.

Ennis - I am sorry that you didn't receive a response from us at the City regarding the fencing at the corner of Stanley at Valley/Bernal. I will see what changes we can make at that location. The only comment I have received for that construction project was the placement of the "share the road" sign, that was ironically placed in the bike lane. That has since been moved to a more appropriate location.

Please contact me directly if you have comments, concerns or questions (it sometimes takes me a while to find them through things like this forum).

Sincerely,
Mike Tassano
Deputy Director of Community Development, Transportation
mtassano@cityofpleasantonca.gov


1 person likes this
Posted by Jim Van Dyke
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 17, 2015 at 11:41 am

I was among the local bicycling advocate leaders quoted in the excellent Pleasanton Weekly article, and it's good to see a variety of viewpoints in this thread. Bicycle use for everyday trips is growing across the US, to address problems like air quality, personal fitness and crowded roads while being good for taxpayers too (ever hear of a bike creating a pothole or flattening a signpost?)

For anyone with additional interest in following (and hopefully contributing to) conversations related to everyday bicycling in and around Pleasanton, you are warmly invited to join the 100+ people on the Facebook site 'Bike Ptown', which is one of many local working groups affiliated with Bike East Bay.


1 person likes this
Posted by Ennis
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 17, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Mike,
Thanks for the follow-up. Greatly appreciated!
Ennis


3 people like this
Posted by Preventing Near Misses
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2015 at 11:52 pm

As many before have noted, it is nearly impossible for a bicycle to stop at a stop sign or traffic signal. They routinely sail through these, putting their very lives at risk.

This has motivated me to promote safety by always hugging the curb at any intersection that I stop at, even if I am waiting to proceed straight and not turn right. This prevents a bicyclist from attempting to slide pass me on the right without at least pausing. Bicyclists are easy to miss when they are whizzing past stopped cars. Same goes for motor cyclists that lane split, especially when traveling much faster than the cars.

In a related manner, my wife was surprised recently when she was at the intersection of Stanley and Bernal/Valley. Proceeding north on Bernal/Valley as the light turned green, when she approached the northwest corner, a bicyclist flew by the stopped cars on Stanley heading west, and made a right turn into her lane. In addition to violating the yield regulations for cars in a similar situation, the bicyclist was hidden from view by the stopped cars. The bicycle lane ends at that corner, so this person must merge into traffic in order to proceed north on Valley, but even if their was a bike lane, it would be impossible for the bicyclist to turn into it without slowing down considerably.

I only wish the Pleasanton police would start issuing warning citations to bicyclist and then tickets. Why do we have to wait for a bicyclist to get killed before this gets taken seriously.


Like this comment
Posted by Jim Van Dyke
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 20, 2015 at 8:33 am

"Preventing Near Misses', please don't take the law into your own hands like that. It's not your call to re-interpret laws to your own imagination or preference. If I see you moving your 3,000 pound weapon into a bike lane, I'll flag down the first police officer I see and do my best to see that you get cited with a moving violation. The bike lanes are there for a reason, and you're neither judge nor police officer, so obey the law (just like most cyclists and motorists do).


4 people like this
Posted by Sirena
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 20, 2015 at 12:37 pm

I was driving down Valley Ave and the bicyclist went through 2 stop signs. I beeped at him as I was making a right hand turn onto Hopyard Rd. He flipped me off. I don't mind sharing the road but they need to obey all traffic laws. Last year a bicyclist blew through the stop sign at Division and Del Valle Parkway. He hit the car making a left hand turn. He jumped off his back in time and rolled in the road. Downtown Pleasanton is worse as people walk across Main Street against red lights. I'm all for sharing the road but there seems that some bicyclist and pedestrians don't think they have to obey the laws. Laws should be enforced for everyone.


2 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 20, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Personally I'd be too scared to ride a bike on a city street. I don't really see how others do this frankly. Our bodies are just flimsy bags of bones and riding a bike alongside cars and trucks is just asking for it in my opinion. Eventually something bad will happen and I'll be injured, or I'll have a close call and nearly have a heart attack from it.
If it were me I'd want to ride out in the country and relax rather than mix it up with vehicles in a city and have to constantly be aware of who is around me front, side and back. Not my idea of fun.


Like this comment
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2015 at 4:51 pm

The other day as I was driving on Valley toward Santa Rita, a cyclist was riding in the middle of right hand lane, at about 10 mph. Every vehicle in that lane had to slow down to 10mph and wait for a turn to get into the left lane to safely pass him. He knew what he was doing and he was smiling the whole time.

As I walk a lot around the city(ha!) I have had some very close calls with cyclists riding on the side walk on the wrong side of the street, cyclists who ride straight toward pedestrians in crosswalks, cyclists who ride on the white line on the left side of the bike lane intentionally to mess with drivers, cyclists who set up their lights toward people's face height, etc, etc.


Like this comment
Posted by Jtjh
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 21, 2015 at 5:39 am

I sometimes see Pleasanton children riding without helmets. I see even more (especially teenagers riding with others) wearing their helmets unfastened - possibly because they are afraid of looking uncool. It scares me and I wish Pleasanton PD would work on enforcing the helmet-wearing law. Though I think that a straight-talking educational program, with real-life examples of what happens when heads, with and without helmets, meet the ground in bicycle accidents, would be even more effective.

A lot of people in this area still ride without lights at night. Even on quiet residential roads, it's a very dangerous practice. Mere reflectors are not usually visible to drivers from the distance needed for a bicyclist to be safe.

As a bicyclist, too, I wish that more of the lights at Pleasanton intersections were easily triggered by bicycles. (e.g. The left-turn lane on Bernal at the Vineyard intersection and at least some on Stoneridge.) Often, the triggering-cross covers only the outside part of a lane, so to activate the lights when there are no cars in their lane, bicyclists have to swerve across to the outer section of the lane, or, if they realize only once they've stopped that the lights are not going to change, move their bicycles backwards and across to do so. I'm sure it's confusing for other drivers, and sometimes hazardous for all, especially if a car suddenly approaches from the same direction, just as the bicyclist is attempting to trigger the lights.


Like this comment
Posted by Alameda County Native
a resident of Foothill Farms
on Aug 21, 2015 at 8:45 am

Area Police have told me that one problem they face in dealing with the bike situation is that cyclists don't always carry identification making it difficult to issue citations. With no ID the police could only lock them up. Which is harsh for running a stop sign.


2 people like this
Posted by Scott Walsh
a resident of Avila
on Aug 21, 2015 at 9:03 am

I think bikes should be tested, examined for safe operation and registered, licensed and required to have insurance like a vehicle for over 18 y/o. RIDERS SHOULD HAVE TO CARRY THEIR LICENSE WITH THEM. These bikes that run stop signs, and I see many do it, should be aggressively ticketed. Bike education should be increased, etc. My two cents.


Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 21, 2015 at 10:47 am

Scott - Shhhh don't tell Uncle Jerry this would mean more fee income for the state!
Great idea though


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood

on Aug 22, 2015 at 1:12 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


4 people like this
Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2015 at 3:46 pm

"Area Police have told me that one problem they face in dealing with the bike situation is that cyclists don't always carry identification making it difficult to issue citations"

There's a simple solution for this: impound the bike. When the cyclist comes back with proper ID to get his/her bike, then issue a citation and also charge an impound fee.


1 person likes this
Posted by Ennis
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 23, 2015 at 4:04 pm

If a cyclist is riding without an ID and insurance info in their bag, they are not doing themselves any favors if they are hit -it's just an excuse.

Impounding bikes - might work for a single bike but I'm wondering what a PPD car with $30,000 worth of bikes in the back might look like....

And finally, a shout out to Mike Tassano - green tarps on the fencing on the corner of Stanley have been removed- visibility improved and much safer -thanks!

Happy riding...


Like this comment
Posted by also a rider
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 23, 2015 at 5:17 pm

"Impounding bikes - might work for a single bike but I'm wondering what a PPD car with $30,000 worth of bikes in the back might look like....

Not necessary. The PD could call a towing company to take the bike to wherever it would be held. That cost would also be added to the charges to the cyclist. It is simply ridiculous that riders use any excuse at all to break the laws and the PD has not been enforcing them.


Like this comment
Posted by Ennis
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 23, 2015 at 8:12 pm

Also a rider - next time I'll hold up the sign that says 'tongue in cheek' humor...


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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