Public Workshop: The Future of Downtown SLO

The City of San Luis Obispo has announced that the Draft Downtown Concept Plan is available for review. After 13 months of work by staff, consultants, the public, and the Council-appointed Creative Vision Team (CVT), the Draft Downtown Concept Plan lays out a long-range vision for the downtown; it includes both an illustrative diagram and a supplemental narrative that together provide the story to help guide the achievement of the community’s long-range vision for the downtown.

Imagine Downtown SLOA public workshop is being held this Saturday, February 4, to review key components of the Draft Plan. Workshop participants will have a first-hand opportunity to provide feedback to help shape the future of downtown. Wants to see more bike infrastructure downtown? Show up and speak up!

Following the workshop, the public will be invited to provide additional input through Open City Hall on the city’s website, and at a series of advisory committee and other meetings. Council action is scheduled for August 2017.

Workshop Details:

Date: Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Time: 1:00-4:00 pm

Location: City/County Library Community Room, 995 Palm St

  • Drop in at your convenience
  • See a presentation from the project team at 1:15 or 2:45
  • Review key components of the draft Downtown Concept Plan
  • Give input to inform the final plan
  • Coloring station and snacks for kids of all ages
  • Help decide the future of Downtown SLO

For more information:

Visit the project webpage: www.slocity.org/downtown

Or contact project manager Rebecca Gershow: rgershow@gmail.com, or 805.781.7011

Survey

Take the Survey – Bike the Vote!

Participate: Community Priorities Survey and Community Forum

It seems like it was just yesterday, but the time for the bike community of San Luis Obispo to stand up and be counted is here again. Every two years, the City of SLO establishes the top priorities to make San Luis Obispo an even better place to live, work and play. The City Council then matches the resources necessary to achieve these priorities through adopting the budget in June.  ibikeivoteThe adopted budget sets the City’s course of action for the next two years and helps the City to continue to provide the exceptional services and programs the community cherishes.

In previous years the bike community has been a strong presence in the preliminary Community Priorities Survey and at the Community Forum that follows, resulting in bike and pedestrian improvements throughout the town. While we’re happy to see the ongoing improvements, there is always more that needs improving. 

With recent narrow failure of Measure J, which would have generated about $25 million dollars per year for local roads and transportation countywide, it is now more important than ever for people who support bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements to stand up and be heard. For residents of the City of SLO, there are two easy steps to take:

  • Take the Community Priorities Survey before midnight on December 14, 2016 and your answers will be summarized and presented to the City Council at the Community Forum in January. A link to the survey site is here: Community Priorities Survey
  • Attend the City Council Community Forum on January 10, 2017  from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Ludwick Community Center, 864 Santa Rosa St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 (map).  This forum is an opportunity to present your ideas to the Council and discuss them with other community members.

While many of us in San Luis Obispo will rightly raise our concerns for the projects that we see making the most difference in our daily lives, The Bike SLO County Advocacy Team suggests support for the four following priorities. Experience has shown us that when we focus on a concentrated number of projects we are able to see them adopted and built:

  1. Complete the next segment of the Railroad Safety Trail – Pepper Street to the train station – while continuing the effort to create a permanent trail separated from traffic citywide. (The city received a grant for the segment from Taft to Pepper Street, including a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks behind California Highway Patrol headquarters. Construction is scheduled to start in 2017.)
  2. Complete the Bob Jones Trail, with the priority of designing and constructing the Los Osos Valley Road to the Octagon Barn connection. (The feasibility study is complete and environmental study in the approval process.)
  3. Design and construct Safe Routes to School to Pacheco and Bishop Peak elementary schools, including the Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard from Monterey Street to Ramona Drive and safer bicycle/pedestrian crossings of Foothill Boulevard at Ferrini Road and Patricia/La Entrada. (The previous budget approved feasibility studies for these projects, which are under way.)
  4. Feasibility study for a Madonna Road protected bikeway and improvements to the bikeway crossing of Highway 101 between Marsh Street and Madonna bike path. (The proposed San Luis Ranch project may include some of these improvements.)

Survey Deadline: Midnight December 14th. Do it now! Community Priorities Survey

City Council Community Forum: January 10, 2017  from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Ludwick Community Center, 864 Santa Rosa St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 (map). Put it on your calendar now then show up and be heard on January 10th.

Pro-Tip: The Community Forum has historically been extremely crowded, with all seats packed, people standing and also observing from the lobby. If you enjoy sitting down, show up to get a seat early. If you enjoy standing up for 3+ hours at a time, show up at 6:30 or later. Bottled water? Bring some, and even bring some to give to folks sitting or standing nearby. The Ludwick Community Center can get pretty hot and stuffy when packed with the many civically involved citizens of SLO.

Bicycle Boulevard

Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard Plan Meeting #2

Ready for the Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard?

On June 9th, 2016, the City of San Luis Obispo will hold the second community meeting to discuss the process of developing the Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard Plan, which improves bike options along Broad Street from Ramona Street south to Monterey Street.

The meeting takes place on Thursday June 9th, 2016 from 6-8 PM at the SLO County Public Library, 995 Palm St, SLO, CA 93403 (mapand is a great opportunity to provide your input to City staff in person. If you can’t make the meeting in person but would still like to convey your thoughts/concerns/enthusiasm you can do so online at this link:

 http://www.slocity.org/government/open-government/open-city-hall

According to the City of SLO’s press release:

The City of San Luis Obispo invites the public to attend the second neighborhood meeting for the Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard Plan. The meeting will take place on Thursday, June 9th, 2016, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM at the City/County Library, 995 Palm Street. As listed in the City’s Bicycle Transportation Plan, the project is intended to provide a through route for bicyclists and pedestrians serving the downtown core and neighborhoods to the north—along Broad Street from Monterey Street to Foothill Boulevard. The agenda for the second project meeting includes:

1. Staff presentation on work completed to date
2. Staff presentation on their preliminary design concepts
3. Design charrette, attendees develop & present their own concepts
4. Group discussion and critique of concepts

At the first meeting, the project was introduced and staff gained feedback on issues to be addressed and the type of bike boulevard that was desired. The goal of the 2nd meeting is to explore a range of design concepts and begin to narrow those concepts into a plan for the bike boulevard.

If you have any questions, please contact Project Managers Jennifer Rice (805) 781-7058 and Luke Schwartz (805) 781-7190

How to Design Cities for People: An Update

Meredith Glaser revisits questions from “How to Design Cities for People”  

A few weeks back we heard from SLO-raised but Amsterdam-based urban strategy and sustainable mobility consultant Meredith Glaser on How to Design Cities for People.

Meredith Glaser & Bike SLO County Executive Director Dan Rivoire at Bello Mundo Cafe

Meredith Glaser & Bike SLO County Executive Director Dan Rivoire at Bello Mundo Cafe

She works on a freelance basis with Dutch municipalities, on international projects with Copenhagenize Design Co, and as a guest researcher/lecturer at the University of Amsterdam. She curates and leads study tours for city leaders around the world. And with any spare time she blogs for Amsterdam Cycle Chic.

Her talk focused on three key ideas for more people-centered urban planning. First, we need to observe how people are currently using our streets and public spaces. Observing human behavior can provide valuable data for leveraging change. Second, providing choices for people makes them happy. Transportation and land use decisions that result in easily accessible services that are walkable and bikeable can change the way people move in and use their city. Finally, we need to hone and nourish our very human skill of imagining better streets that caterer more to people and places rather than cars and traffic.

Kinkerstraat Amsterdam

Kinkerstraat, Amsterdam. From top: 1981 via www.studiokoning.com; 2016 via @fietsprofessor; near future via City of Amsterdam

We had a packed house at Bella Mundo and after her talk many people asked some great (and tough) questions. Meredith took some time to write up more detailed responses to some of those tough questions.

What zoning changes would you prioritize if you were a SLO planner or policy maker?

I’m not a California zoning code expert, but in true cycling cities, like those in the Netherlands and Denmark, daily needs services are within close distances from where people live and work, and the zoning code is flexible enough to allow for uses to change and adapt with the changing needs of a neighborhood. Mixed use developments with grocery stores, pharmacies, child care and schools, doctors, and other specialty retail strategically placed on the ground level and concentrated on corner sites should be prioritized. Downtown SLO neighborhoods would greatly benefit from a full-service grocery store (or a couple) to support the daily needs of its immediately local residents. (The lot across from Bank of America would be an ideal location for a mixed use development with underground parking, ground floor services, and apartments above. Reminds me of several relatively new developments in Berkeley on University Avenue.) Downtown has ample space for infill and small scale, mixed use developments. Outside of downtown is a whole other issue. New housing developments (out off Broad for example) lack accessibility to services within walking or biking distance, which only perpetuates auto dominated lifestyles. New developments should be clustered near existing services; if they aren’t, then the developers need to provide logical and safe bicycle and walking connections to existing services, schools and other daily amenities. You can read a lot more about these kinds of examples in my new book The City at Eye Level, download it for free here.

Would you agree with the statement that we need to make driving more difficult? 

Right now our streets are set up in a way to benefit only one type of user – those driving cars.

Photo from Amsterdam Cycle Chic

photo from Amsterdam Cycle Chic

We’ve become very accustomed to the conveniences of an unbalanced transportation system that doesn’t reflect the actual costs on society – subsidized gasoline, wide streets, free or very cheap parking, and a ‘door-to-door’ righteous mentality. Modernizing our city streets means allocating some of that space to other users of the road. Best practice bicycle infrastructure that is safe and comfortable and gets people where they need to go has proved an effective way to calm traffic and ease congestion. (Imagine if those bicyclists were in cars!) Surveys from drivers in cities that have created more balanced streets showed that they appreciated the bicycle infrastructure: the infrastructure made the street easier to navigate because each user better understood their place, their role and how they should behave. So it’s not about making it more difficult to drive – it’s not a zero sum game – it’s about balancing out a very unbalanced system.

If we can’t have bike infrastructure, what’s the next best thing?

Amsterdam_Intersection

Photofrom Amsterdam Cycle Chic

Best practice bicycle infrastructure has been around for decades; it’s not new and we know how to do it. And compared to car infrastructure, it is low cost, low maintenance and benefits outweigh the risks. The next best thing to permanent bicycle infrastructure is temporary bicycle infrastructure – a trend that is already sweeping the nation. Pilot, pop-up, and demonstration projects are a great way to try out low-stress bicycle infrastructure. Plastic posts or planter boxes can create temporary protected bike lanes or sidewalk extensions. There no reason San Luis Obispo cannot try out some of the ideas that are already out there – no need to reinvent the wheel, especially with that budget surplus we heard about!

I’m not a planner or engineer; what’s my take away from this? What can I do?

Re-establishing the bicycle as a mainstream mode of transport means getting people just like you more involved. If you’re already using the bicycle as a daily transport mode, you are already doing a lot. Keep riding and keep smiling. Tell your friends to join you. Tell your colleagues to join. Have your company buy bikes to leave at the office so they bike to meetings instead of drive. You can advocate for better infrastructure and bicycle facilities by writing to the city council and showing up for city council meetings. Write letters to the Tribune. Join Bike SLO County.

How would you Copenhagenize our downtown streets?

Downtown streets were planned for cars and traffic; it’s time to give more space to people and places. There is ample space to play with and plenty of ideas already out there – just pick a couple and see what works. It’s not rocket science.

If you want more of an answer than that… The design of the streets downtown, for the most part, does not match the uses. Let’s take Higuera: three wide lanes of traffic plus parking on both sides.

Photo by Amsterdam Cycle Chic

Photo from Amsterdam Cycle Chic

This layout is not congruent with the ‘Main Street’ atmosphere, the high amount of pedestrians, and lends to a poor shopping experience. The sidewalks are so narrow people are forced to shuffle around each other. The trees provide a cozy ambiance but the parked cars benefit more from their shade than people. And the traffic is as noisy and distracting as those hideous blinking crosswalk signs. Plenty of bicyclists use the street but it’s unclear where they should ride or park their bicycles. This street (and many others) would majorly benefit from sidewalk widening on both sides, giving people more space to walk and linger – plus restaurants could place more seating outside where people can people watch and enjoy the full sun of that street. Parklets can provide a temporary solution for bike parking or restaurant tables or just more space for people to sit. Raised bike ways (or at least 6′ bike lanes with buffers for car doors) on both sides could allow for increased accessibility to shops as well as through movement while remaining low-stress, comfortable, and intuitive for all users. Again, there are great bones here and lots of space to play with!

How do you convince engineers? Or rather, why are engineers in the Netherlands already “doing it right”?

For 7,000 years streets were designed for people and by people. 100 years ago that all changed and our streets were engineered for the first time in human history. It appears as though engineers aren’t going away any time soon, so it might be time to inject some real life and real design into the engineering curriculum. In the Netherlands where cycling is an every day, mainstream form of transportation, engineers are also bicycling so they experience their work on a daily basis. That’s not the case in other cities and towns, especially in the U.S. It might be very difficult for an American engineer to imagine (and design, no less) bicycle infrastructure if he or she has never experienced best practice infrastructure first hand. I think that’s why study tours are so important. Feeling and experiencing comfortable, safe bicycle infrastructure that’s been around for a century – plus talking to the experts themselves – is better than any PowerPoint presentation.

If you’re interested in study tours check out the Copenhagenize Master Class or contact Meredith for a custom study tour in the Netherlands.

Do you think Cal Poly should play a role?

Absolutely. University decision makers need to make bicycles and mass transit clear priorities, but again linking these networks and nodes seamlessly with housing, daily needs and services, and connections to the downtown core. Bicycle parking should be ample, obvious, and intuitively placed. Policies also must limit students from bringing cars into SLO – but that has to be combined with land use decisions that provide for the daily needs of students.

Cal Poly is not the only stakeholder though. In addition to transitional city officials, key decision makers from local hospitals, SLO school district, developers, Old Mission Church and schools, major employers, and the Chamber of Commerce need to get on board. As I said last Wednesday, this isn’t about getting more bicycles on the streets of San Luis Obispo, it’s about giving people more choices for how they get around. It’s about balancing out our streets and giving more space to people. And it’s about building a better, happier, more livable town for the children growing up here.

Meredith Glaser is an urban strategy and mobility consultant. She is originally from San Luis Obispo, holds Masters degrees in urban planning and public health from UC Berkeley, and has been based in the Netherlands since 2010. Meredith holds a guest appointment at the University of Amsterdam, where she co-leads a summer program on urban cycling and conducts research on cross-national policy transfer and knowledge exchange related to mobility. She hosts other university-level student groups and international professional delegations for cycling and mobility study tours. Meredith also directs the Amsterdam office for Copenhagenize Design Co., which advises cities and towns around the world regarding bicycle urbanism, reestablishing the bicycle as transport in cities, policy, planning, communications and general urban design. In her spare time she blogs for Amsterdam Cycle Chic. She lives in Amsterdam with her husband, daughter, 4 bikes and no car.

Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard Plan Kick Off

In late March of 2016, the City of San Luis Obispo will hold an initial community meeting to begin the process of developing the Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard Plan, which improves bike options along Broad Street from Ramona Street south to Monterey Street.

The meeting takes place on March 24, 2016 from 6-8 PM at the SLO County Public Library, 995 Palm St, SLO, CA 93403 (map)

According to the City of SLO’s Press Release:

SLO emblem_rgb_for dk bkgd_sm“The City of San Luis Obispo invites you to a neighborhood meeting on Thursday, March 24, 2016, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM at the City/County Library, 995 Palm Street, to kick of the process for developing the Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard Plan. The project is intended to provide a through route for bicyclists and pedestrians serving the downtown core and neighborhoods to the north. The Plan will look at Broad Street from Ramona Street toMonterey Street, including a future bicycle/pedestrian overcrossing of Highway 101. Your participation at this meeting is valuable and appreciated. To subscribe to project updates and/or provide feedback on the project, visit the City’s online forum at https://www.peakdemocracy.com/3444.

Project Managers Jennifer Rice and Luke Schwartz are also available and can be reached at JRice@slocity.org and LSchwartz@slocity.org, or via phone at (805) 781-7190.

Bicycle Boulevard

San Luis Obispo Goes for the Gold

San Luis Obispo wins Gold Level Status

UPDATE: Join us at 11 a.m. on Friday April 15th, 2016 on the steps of SLO City Hall (map) for a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark and celebrate San Luis Obispo’s distinction as a Gold Bike Friendly Community. 

Today when the League of American Bicyclists updated their list of Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) there was great news for the people of SLO. The City of San Luis Obispo, which was previously designated as a Silver level BFC, has earning the next highest designation, that of Gold.

“Bike SLO County couldn’t be more excited to hear the news that SLO was designated as a Gold Bike Friendly Community BFC Chartthis morning.” said Dan Rivoire, Executive Director of Bike SLO County. “As we join three other Gold Level cities in California and twenty-three Gold Level cities throughout the US, people in our City and County are starting to really realize how awesome it is that our community is building safer streets for everyone. Today, we’re feeling especially proud of our hard work and evermore thankful to local residents, supporters, and city staff that are getting new bike friendly projects on every passing month.”

According to Rivoire “California has 55 Bicycle Friendly Communities, 4 of which are in San Luis Obispo County. This means that a little over 7% of the Bicycle Friendly Communities in California are in SLO County. That is great news for SLO County and we hope to see the numbers grow in the coming years. We already have The City of SLO (Gold), Paso Robles (Bronze), Arroyo Grande (Bronze) and Morro Bay (Bronze). We look forward to continued work with other cities throughout the County to make SLO County even more bike friendly.”

“Winning a Bicycle Friendly Community designation shows a community’s dedication to creating safer and better places to ride your bike.” said Alex Doty, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists.

What is a Bicycle Friendly Community?

A BFC welcomes bicyclists by providing safe accommodations for bicycling and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation. Making bicycling safe and convenient are keys to improving public health, reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality and improving quality of life.

The BFC program provides a roadmap for building a Bicycle Friendly Community. Since the program’s inception, more than 800 distinct communities have applied and the five levels of the award – Diamond*, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze – provide a clear incentive for communities to continuously improve. Communities complete a 100+ question application, which is then reviewed by national experts as well as members of their local cycling community. All applicants receive extensive feedback. Communities must renew their designation every four years. (*There are currently no communities at the Diamond level.)

To apply or learn more about the BFC program, visit bikeleague.org/community.

California State Bike & Ped Plan

Triple California Bicycling by 2020?

On Tuesday, October 27th, 2015, Caltrans Director Michael Dougherty joined us at the California Bicycle Summit in San Diego. During his plenary session speech “Pedaling Toward a Low Carbon Transportation System: As Easy As Riding A Bike”, Director Dougherty announced the csbpp600creation of the first ever California State Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan (CSBPP), which aims to support and encourage active transportation while increasing safe bicycling and walking opportunities across the state. California has set a target to triple bicycling and double walking by 2020 by improving these options for all Californians.

The CSBPP will take two years to complete and will include the following phases:

  1. Developing goals and objectives (Fall 2015/Winter 2016)
  2. Assessing implementation needs (Winter 2016)
  3. Identifying gaps in the bicycle and pedestrian networks (Winter/Spring 2016)
  4. Creating recommendations (Summer 2016)
  5. Reviewing the draft and final CSBPP (Fall 2016/Winter 2017)

Input from the public is needed. To get started, take the survey at cabikepedplan.org. Throughout the two year process there will be additional opportunities to help shape the CSBPP. Sign up for email updates to get the latest information about CSBPP: Email update sign up.

 

Los Osos Bike Lanes

Stand up for Protected Bike Lanes in Los Osos

The Los Osos Community Advisory Council (LOCAC) is meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 28 at the South Bay Community Center to discuss the possibility of protected bike lanes on Los Osos Valley Road in Los Osos. We’d love to see LOCAC endorse protected bike lanes and strongly encourage all Los Osos area bicyclists, bicyclists who regularly ride Los Osos Valley Road and anyone who wants to show support to attend the meeting.

With LOCAC’s endorsement, it will be easier to convince the SLO County Public Works staff that there is community support for protected bike lanes. Please come out and stand up for better bike infrastructure in Los Osos. Better roads in Los Osos benefit bicycle riders (and automobile drivers) countywide.

What: Los Osos Community Advisory Council Meeting on Protected Bike Lanes

When: Thursday, May 28 7:00 PM

Where: South Bay Community Center, 2180 Palisades Avenue, Los Osos, 93402 (map)

Why: Bike Lanes!