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Walking & Biking - Here we go again?

One of the great myths about our forgotten community is that it is "pedestrian and bicycle friendly". The County either claims that or has someone else make the assertion when saying so helps a developer's project defeat actual residents' input - as was the case when the Anton Butano apartments and the Arden Creek Town Center were rammed through. People who live here know the bus service is inadequate and are well-aware of the area's lack of sidewalks and safe bike routes. Still, hope springs eternal. Which is a reason to pay attention to the County's new intitiative, the "2020-2021 Active Transportation Plan Update", which is enthusiastically declared by the project's web site as the County's "very first Active Transportation Plan!" While we're not sure how  the "very first" Plan is also a "Plan Update", we are certainly intrigued by the project web site's assertion that "Input from community members (like you!) will help us develop this Plan." That would be a first, wouldn't it? What an interesting concept.

It's particularly an interesting concept in that the project timeline shows it has been underway during the pandemic and has already conducted a needs analysis via a community survey and community workshops - with people like you (!), apparently.  (Though, actually, if you look at the list of commenting organizations so far you will see there has not really been much of a connection to those of us who live and/or work here.)  And now the project is part way through the "recommendations" phase that will culminate with two more workshops this month - presumably also with people like you (!). And then there will be a draft plan (in mid-August 2021 when people like you (!) will be preoccupied with school reopenings) and a final plan sometime around Halloween.

"Good" planning requires an inclusive planning process which consults and involves the community throughout is essential. So, is this an inclusive project? No. Does it consult and involve the community continuously throughout the process? No. Should you participate anyway? Yes, please. You see, the  County runs the show around here and pretty much does whatever it wants to do. But unless we show up and speak up, the "solutions" the County comes up with will have even greater potential for missing the obvious.

May contain: plan, diagram, and plot
Active Transportation Plan map of Arden Arcade sidewalk gaps

Take, for example, the interactive map of "sidewalk gaps". Let's start by saying it is it's a good thing that the project web site lets people comment about our community's pedestrian-unfriendliness. Yes, we DO have "sidewalk gaps" and they are indeed significant. OK, but what's it like when people have to cross the street? Consider El Camino all the way from Ethan to Mission. Or Arden, all the way from Howe to Eastern. There are many, many streets that run north and south for which crossing Arden or El Camino is a dangerous challenge. Stoplights and crosswalks are far apart, with perhaps a 1/2 mile or more between them. And what about the design of the sidewalks? Are they wide enough so two wheelchairs could pass? Do they have obstacles like telephone poles that block passage? Are the curbs roll-ups (won't stop a car) or perpendicular (might impede a car)? Attention to detail can make all the difference.

So here's the bottom line: our transit service is marginal at best, our bicycle facilities are mostly non-existent or unsafe, and our sidewalks either do not exist or are only minimally functional. The Active Transportation Plan has potential to move the needle in the right direction, but only if we - those of us who actually live and/or work here speak up. Our next opportunities are the May 18th (6pm-7:30pm) and 20th (noon-1:30pm) community workshops listed on the project's web site. You can attend via your phone or your computer.

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