Why have not more creek/channel service roads been converted to bike/ped paths?

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Erik Lindskog

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Sep 16, 2022, 2:16:09 PMSep 16
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Hi all,

Given that bike/ped paths along our creeks and channels are such amazing as well as amazingly popular paths for biking, walking, running, etc, along, is it not sort of weird that there are so many of them that yet have not been built out for this purpose?

Granted it costs some money but one would think we along these routes will get a lot of very useful car-separated bike/ped paths for comparably little money. I would also think more such paths would be immensely valuable as safe commute routes for a great many persons. Is is hard to argue that we don't need this.

Do we have a failure in allocating funds for these types of projects by any chance? Are we missing an opportunity here?

Erik

Erik Lindskog

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Sep 16, 2022, 2:59:32 PMSep 16
to Nick Brosnahan, SVBC San Jose Team, Bike Sunnyvale, SVBC Mountain View Team
Indeed, Sunnyvales plans to create a trail along the east and west channels are exellent projects. If I don't recall wrong though, so far we are still talking of relative short parts of the complete channel lengths. I guess I am thinking we may want to think bigger, and faster, here. :-)


On Friday, September 16, 2022 at 11:48:47 AM PDT, Nick Brosnahan <nbros...@gmail.com> wrote:


The city of Sunnyvale has a project for that.


It’s proceeding.  The updates look promising.

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Kevin Wang

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Sep 16, 2022, 3:39:39 PMSep 16
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Complications include residents who don't want the extras noise and traffic next to their back yards. General presumption of increased crime. 

Multiple agencies (city, county, county water) always makes negotiations and approvals harder/slower/longer. 

Many of the existing spaces are too small for a proper path. Iirc you need about 15 ft. For a bidirectional shared use path. 

Roads and bridges are in the way/ are expensive.

- kjw

On Fri, Sep 16, 2022, 12:26 Nick Brosnahan <nbros...@gmail.com> wrote:
Yes. Always faster. It does seem that the city is going too slowly. 

Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 16, 2022, at 11:59, Erik Lindskog <erikli...@yahoo.com> wrote:



Erik Lindskog

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Sep 16, 2022, 3:45:36 PMSep 16
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Indeed these are problems to overcome. Maybe we should ease solving these problems by allocating some real money towards these kinds of projects on the county/VTA level.


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Ari Feinsmith

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Sep 16, 2022, 4:32:30 PMSep 16
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The city just got the funding to study building the trail. You might be able to find more info about it on the city website. The city will likely look for funding at the state and county level. 
-Ari

Erik Lindskog

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Sep 16, 2022, 4:46:16 PMSep 16
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This is good, yet still miniscule compared to the funding we allocate to build and improve infrastructure for motor vehicles. I feel at this pace we'll all grow old(er), :-), before we can experience any real change. :-)

And yes, there are rules and regulations to satisfy and overcome. Yet, despite, I imagine similar rules in many cases, we don't seem to have had too much trouble building a massive amount of road infrastructure, and are continuing to add to it.

On Friday, September 16, 2022 at 01:30:44 PM PDT, Lauren Ledbetter <laurenb...@gmail.com> wrote:


"Multiple agencies (city, county, county water) always makes negotiations and approvals harder/slower/longer. "
This and funding are what I see as the biggest issue. It's not just Valley Water's regulations, but some waterways require state and Federal permitting and projects need to comply with these agency requirements. Many of these agencies have flood control and wildlife preservation as their primary responsibility. The agency priorities don't always align with getting great trails on the ground as soon as possible.

"allocating some real money"
In 2021, VTA awarded nearly $4.5M to Sunnyvale for creek trail work from 2016 Measure B. $3.5 M for extending Stevens Creek Trail and $830K (supported by additional funding) for a feasibility study for the East Channel Trail from Bay to south city limits

The East Channel Trail study presents a great opportunity to advocate. 

Also that knack website Nick shared - I've never seen that before. It's great. Is it city-maintained? Or someone else?

Lauren



Serge Bonte

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Sep 16, 2022, 4:48:05 PMSep 16
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One of the main issues is that cities don't control the creeks nor the channels and that the agencies that control them can be difficult to work with.  There are also serious environmental constraints for building anything close to a creek.

An example of  the former has been the Hetch Hetchy ROW which is controlled by the San Francisco PUC  Somewhat recently and after years of planning and lobbying, they finally allowed Mountain View (for a fee) to build a park on a portion of that ROW....but with a prohibition on biking :)


Doesn't mean it's not worth trying, Mountain View has had some successes with Stevens Creek, Permanente Creek and even the Hetch Hetchy (in other parts of town). It just takes a lot of time and effort.

Serge



 


Erik Lindskog

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Sep 16, 2022, 5:16:39 PMSep 16
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In most cases, there are already service roads along these creeks. In many cases really not much building to do. My impression is that Valley Water is reasonably positive to converting their service roads to trails. By the way, is it not also the case that Valley Water is governed by a publically elected board?


James Kuszmaul

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Sep 16, 2022, 5:24:43 PMSep 16
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Being publicly elected and accountable does not necessarily mean "easy to work with". E.g., the water district's constraints on light pollution prevent legal night riding on the steven's creek trail (despite copious light pollution from nearby freeways and properties...). SFPUC is publicly accountable, but only within San Francisco, and has no mandate around public access, making access to Hetch-Hetchy and their other lands incredibly difficult.

Similarly, as Kevin mentioned, a huge percentage of the cost is managing roadway crossings. Especially since, without those crossings, the benefit from these sorts of trails reduces substantially (especially since in many places there are barriers where there is no at-grade crossing option, e.g. going under Central Expressway, the railroad tracks, US-101, etc.).

There's actually a decent discussion of some of the issues associated with this from the city of Santa Clara regarding, e.g., Calabazas Creek at https://www.santaclaraca.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/10152/635713044859030000 .

Personally, my inclination is that expanding the trail networks where appropriate is great, but in many cases the money and staff resources should be prioritized for making existing roadways safer and/or reclaiming them from cars entirely. But it's all dependent on the project and circumstances in question, and sometimes funding isn't entirely fungible.



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Bruce England

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Sep 16, 2022, 10:16:37 PMSep 16
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On " Also, as these are environmentally sensitive riparian areas, for the most part, there is a lot of environmental review as well."
Yes, in Mountain View, this is a big deal, and details like lighting need to balance between needs of those using the trails and wildlife in the area. Not as easy as it might seem!
Cheers,
Bruce England

On Fri, Sep 16, 2022 at 1:34 PM Leia <erudi...@gmail.com> wrote:
Most of the channels and suchlike are not under ownership of the city, or even the county in some instances,  are under the ownership of the water district or PG&E for the right of way. Technically, these are easement agreements, and so there are legal issues with respect to repurposing them for bicycle and pedestrian pathways. Not to mention the impediments that Kevin cited. There is infrastructure which must be kept secure.
 Also, as these are environmentally sensitive riparian areas, for the most part, there is a lot of environmental review as well.

Santa Clara made concessions to close part of the San Thomas Aquino Creek Trail section next to Levi stadium on game days or during events, so even if it's a public right of way, it's not available to use for the entire time.
And yes, the neighbors who back on to such open spaces are reluctant to change over perceived increases in crime (likely because they see unhoused encampments along the other trails) and don't want to have changes for what they view as 'their' space. (Much like streets directly in front of their houses).

The wheels grind slowly in Sunnyvale for change, and every request has pretty much an automatic two-year delay due to the requirement for a study issue. We do have changes for the East/West channels already in motion, but I'm not sure whether funding has been secured yet.

It's too bad we don't have an old narrow-gauge railroad right-of-way we could easily convert, because it would be the right size, cross over or under streets and generally cost less to convert.

Le sigh.

Leia


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Bruce England

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Sep 16, 2022, 10:22:10 PMSep 16
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For some context on the Stevens Creek Trail, as one local trail examples from the Friends of Stevens Creek Trail website:
"For over 50 years, a multi-use trail has been envisioned along the creek corridor of Stevens Creek. The cities and the counties have wisely reserved over 100 acres along the creek for public access, and have rejected previous plans to replace the natural creek bed with a cemented channel. In 1961 a brochure was even published by Santa Clara County describing the "Stevens Creek Park Chain" and showing much of the route on the land as it still exists today. This accompanied the construction of Highway 85 between Hwy 101 in Mountain View and Hwy 280 in Cupertino."
Yeah, patience of saints can be necessary!
Bruce England

Kevin Wang

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Sep 17, 2022, 12:20:48 AMSep 17
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In Santa Clara, the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail (STACT) has the same long term design problem. The oldest reference I can find to it is 1995, and 27 years later it still hasn't been finished.

I cannot recall clearly, but there was a blog post ~2-3 yrs ago I think by the Walk Bike Cupertino group. They had organized a section of trail to be opened (i.e. the access gates) for a half day trial, and only after doing that realized it was too small. 

The long design period for the Sunnyvale project shows how complicated it is to thoroughly put a project together like that.

   - Kevin

Erik Lindskog

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Sep 17, 2022, 4:25:27 AMSep 17
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Are you referring to the Regnar Creek Trail project in Cupertino? Yes, the opposition claimed it was too narrow in places. Nevertheless the project is now more or less finished and should soon open.


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Kevin Wang

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Sep 17, 2022, 10:46:56 AMSep 17
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I reread all the Regnart related blog posts, but didn't find the "after-tour-report" I was thinking about.

However, I did come across this gem of a resource:

Erik Lindskog

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Sep 21, 2022, 4:44:30 AMSep 21
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Sounds like they have the right idea in Belgium. Once we recover from the pandemic mode we'll soon be back to our usual traffic congestions in the Bay Area, which over time only is going to get worse. As such, it may not be that long time until commuting by bike will be faster that going by car. However, we need a network of car separated smooth flowing bicycle paths, call them bicycle highways, to facilitate this. Our creeks are obviously solutions for our North-South connections. Our East-West connections are more tricky. Building better bicycle infrastructure along Central Expressway comes to mind as a good bicycle highway in the East-West direction.

On Tue, Sep 20, 2022 at 13:39, Tim Claes
In Flanders access roads next to water (canals, rivers,...), train tracks, HV lines,... have been systematically converted to bicycle expressway network

In San Jose a lot of waterways have been converted but some are not or are missing links. Such as Ross Creek, PG&E easement by Doerr park, or the extension of Joe's trail in Saratoga,...

From: san...@bikesiliconvalley.org <san...@bikesiliconvalley.org> on behalf of Kevin Wang <k...@leftsock.com>
Sent: Saturday, September 17, 2022 7:46 AM
To: Erik Lindskog <erikli...@yahoo.com>
Cc: san...@bikesiliconvalley.org <san...@bikesiliconvalley.org>; Bruce England <bken...@gmail.com>; Lauren Ledbetter <laurenb...@gmail.com>; Nick Brosnahan <nbros...@gmail.com>; Bike Sunnyvale <sunn...@bikesiliconvalley.org>; SVBC Mountain View Team <mounta...@bikesiliconvalley.org>
Subject: Re: [SAN JOSE] Re: [SVBC Mountain View] Re: [Bike Sunnyvale] Why have not more creek/channel service roads been converted to bike/ped paths?
 

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Shiloh Ballard

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Sep 22, 2022, 5:19:39 PMSep 22
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Hi All, 

This is a big topic and so I'll add some history/context from SVBC's POV. There are organizations that exist to build new trails and convert these areas, which is great. That said, because what seems like a no-brainer (open up all these areas so we can use them) is actually equivalent to moving mountains, SVBC submitted an official grant to the Knight Cities Challenge in 2015 to fund advocacy work on this. We were a finalist but not ultimately selected. Regardless, I highlight this to emphasize that the lobbying and effort needed to open up service roads along riparian corridors would take a lot of dedicated resources and staff over a sustained time horizon. 

I also wanted to highlight that there have been conversations on this over the years, most recently one convened by the Land Use Subgroup of the Watershed Management Initiative. I've attached the slides from that presentation. Panelists included myself along with Lauren Ledbetter at VTA, Shani Kleinhau at Audobon and Liz Sewell at CSJ.

Last, here's a link to VW's trail policy guidance. This policy was put in place after years of vetting that involved a push and pull between folks like SVBC who would like to see greater access to the areas along our riparian corridors for active transportation purposes and environmentalists who wish to keep humans far from riparian corridors. 


Shiloh Ballard
Executive Director
Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition



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Eric Armstrong

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Oct 3, 2022, 3:04:14 PMOct 3
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Erik Lindskog wrote:
Sounds like they have the right idea in Belgium....we need a network
of car-separated, smooth-flowing bicycle paths. 

Darn straight. They're next door to Amsterdam, where the "daily pedaling"
movement started. (They have some "cyclists", but nearly everyone pedals
for transportation. I call them "pedalers".)

Of course, their original goal was simply safety. That was in the 70's. In
the intervening 5 decades, they've made massive improvements in pedaling
infrastructure.

One of the key principles is this: Bikes go straight. Cars go around
(Of course, walkers go straight, too. But I like my pithy phrasing.)

Interestingly, suburban layouts are designed to minimize car traffic through
the neighborhood. (Nobody likes cars on their street.) But in the process, 
they destroyed walk-ability and pedal-ability. That's where the street planning
model broke down. We're paying for it now.

What we need are short streets that are connected.

With short streets, there's little traffic and only rarely anyone going at speed.
With connections, bikes and walkers get a straight shot.

It's a simple idea, but hard to retrofit into the fenced-in housing complexes
we have now. But the benefits of making breaks in the fences would be huge.
(For one thing, kids could visit each other without going near the street!)

Right now, the "bike highways" have lots of jogs and turns. They work, but
mostly for someone with a good visual memory and sense of direction. 
(People have different skills. Not everyone has those.)

Los Altos Hills had the right idea. They have horse paths everywhere. They
go between houses and along roads. (I used to use them for trail running.)
Mountain bikes could still use them, but paved paths are needed for most bikes.

Additional point:
This is a prime example of how pedalers and walkers differ. Most pedalers
need paved surfaces. But "hikers" and runners benefit from unpaved
surfaces--they're a heck of a lot easier on the hips and knees.

To deal with mud, those surfaces are ideally covered in some form of "mulch"
(Long-lasting rubber mulch, wood chips refreshed yearly, or something else.)

But the important point is that those two kinds of surfaces should be placed 
side by side. Pedalers and walkers would then become naturally separated,
without signs, color coding, or a massive education program.

eric
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Erik Lindskog

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Oct 3, 2022, 3:04:18 PMOct 3
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"Interestingly, suburban layouts are designed to minimize car traffic through the neighborhood. (Nobody likes cars on their street.) But in the process, 
they destroyed walk-ability and pedal-ability. That's where the street planning model broke down. We're paying for it now."

Indeed! Maybe should start to think about starting programs to as houses come up for sale, have the cities buy properties that can be used to open up connections between neighborhoods.

"Los Altos Hills had the right idea. They have horse paths everywhere. They go between houses and along roads. (I used to use them for trail running.) Mountain bikes could still use them, but paved paths are needed for most bikes."

Well, people riding are respectable people - not the type of riffraff that travel by bicycle. :-)



Isaac Stone

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Oct 3, 2022, 3:41:04 PMOct 3
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"Cars Go Around"

reminds me of this life-sized city video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAEYUQAe9Gc

talks about this at the 10-minute mark


screenshot of
        vidoe


In Mountain View the city is trying to create a system of paseos, or ped/bike only shortcuts. This is good but could be improved.

The system works by getting concessions from new development to add ped paths (for example the new underpass from Villa).
But because if this it relies on (1) developer's willingness to add the paths and (2) Properties actually getting developed. Between Chiquita and Ortega there are some huge blocks that really need to be subdivided, but as they are already high-density and full of "naturally affordable" housing I am not sure I want there to be too much development there. Additionally most useful paths would need multiple lots to connect, and the likelihood of two such lots being redeveloped together is very very small.

So we got the new paseo from ECR to Latham, but we will never get it to continue to California. Double frustrating because the parking lots for those developments are right next to each other. All that is needed is a public access easement and a gap in the fence...

I would really like to see some standards around active transit that explicitly improve this situation. Not sure what they would be though. A dedicated fund to purchase land? Some public access requirements for developments in areas with larger block sizes?

Serge Bonte

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Oct 3, 2022, 4:03:20 PMOct 3
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I think Mountain View did a good job in the El Camino Precise Plan to require easements for passages from El Camino Real to Latham or other parallel streets (there are a couple of them available already); hopefully similar requirements were put in place in other Precise Plans. 

But as you point out it's contingent on redevelopment. Without redevelopment, getting these easements on private parcels  would most likely require eminent domain (legally complex and onerous process).

Outside of Precise Plans areas,  there are also opportunities when a parcel redevelops. We managed to get cut-through path when the Water District built a flood basin at McKelvey (a path now connects Mountain View Avenue and Mramonte) but that required a lot of lobbying despite it being all public land.

Kevin Wang

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Oct 3, 2022, 6:02:29 PMOct 3
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On Mon, Oct 3, 2022 at 1:03 PM Serge Bonte <sbo...@gmail.com> wrote:
I think Mountain View did a good job in the El Camino Precise Plan to require easements for passages from El Camino Real to Latham or other parallel streets (there are a couple of them available already); hopefully similar requirements were put in place in other Precise Plans. 

But as you point out it's contingent on redevelopment. Without redevelopment, getting these easements on private parcels  would most likely require eminent domain (legally complex and onerous process).

Outside of Precise Plans areas,  there are also opportunities when a parcel redevelops. We managed to get cut-through path when the Water District built a flood basin at McKelvey (a path now connects Mountain View Avenue and Mramonte) but that required a lot of lobbying despite it being all public land.

For example, here are a few cut-throughs that turn these "U"s into "THRU"s for bicycles and pedestrians:

This last one sucks because of the "chicayne" fences. My recumbent cannot fit through there; I must pick it up and "roll" it 45 degrees in order to squeeze through.

What other little cut-through are you aware of?


And new subdivisions can be bike/ped friendly:


Kids can walk directly to Los Paseos Elementary School and Martin Murphy Middle School with no cars to worry about.

Note that I haven't actually been here to see what it's actually like, but it sure looks good to me. 


I wonder if we could do this in redeveloping existing neighborhoods by closing down one street, converting it to bike/ped like this. Picked completely at random. An example of what I mean: https://www.google.com/maps/dir/37.3466572,-121.9820417/37.3517469,-121.9806229/@37.3465425,-121.9819966,16.25z/data=!4m2!4m1!3e2

Except for that middle part of El Sobrante St (you could still close it to through traffic, just not the whole length; local homeowners would still need to get to their homes!), convert it to bike/ped only. On one end you have Santa Clara high school. On the other there's a bunch of (currently fairly "low rent") mini mall, but still it has restaurants, shopping, etc. i.e. a destination on both ends, and you close the roads to through traffic.

This sort of thing doesn't work everywhere, but imho has potential.

   - Kevin

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