Hello, bike safety coordinator….. Please forgive the long email.
I’m thrilled that the city has provided this position to coordinate bike safety – although saddened that it had to come at the cost of a child’s life. Let me introduce myself. I was a founding member of the Cupertino Bicycle Pedestrian Commission on which I served until I was termed out after eight years. I was chair of the Cupertino Parks and Recreation Commission before I was promoted to the Planning Commission, where I now serve. I’ve been a life-long bicycle fan and advocate.
However, during my time on the Bike/Ped Commission I was frustrated because I found myself becoming the “brick-and-mortar” person on the commission, and I faced frequent resistance from the Public Works Dept.
Perhaps it’s my Danish blood, but I found myself often taking the position that we need to make major changes to Cupertino’s infrastructure in order to safely accommodate bicycles. This needs to be done in several ways:
1) Open up new routes the bicycles. There are many service roads along creeks and storm drains that can serve as routes for bicycles. I tried to open the route along Regnart Creek, but this was shot down by concerned neighbors – the NIMBY problem. However, these routes need to be revisited and I think with a numner of neighborhood meetings, they can be opened.
2) Convert asphalt from car use to bicycle use. It was frustrating that during my eight years on the bicycle pedestrian commission, not one square foot of asphalt was given over from cars to bicycles or pedestrians. I know this may change on Mary Avenue, but this is essentially a dead end street. We need to open up a full traffic lane on both Stevens Creek and De Anza Boulevard to bicycles. This will provide safe and and comfortable bicycle travel.
3) We need to take seriously giving equal priority to bicycles and pedestrians vs. cars. This involves setting push buttons that will give the bicycles the green light instantly rather than having to wait for a full traffic cycle, putting in more “instant-on” flashing crosswalks, lobbying the state to allow bicycles to use stop signs as yield signs (as Apple cycles already do), etc.
4) We need to implement innovative infrastructure improvements such as traffic calming devices. Public Works is been hesitant to build these, and when they have done them they have been poorly designed – such as on Portal Avenue.
5) We need to allow trucks on highway 85 and prohibit them on De Anza Blvd. It is unconscionable that we allow heavy semi trucks to drive through school crosswalks when they could reach their same destination on 85. I know this is political, but it is a truly selfish (and murderously dangerous) policy on the part of Saratoga, Los Gatos and Monte Sereno to ban trucks on 85, and it needs to be changed. I think this would be an item to pursue through both local relationships and lobbying at the state level.
6) An education program should be comprehensive for both parents and students. Many parents are hesitant to encourage their children to ride bicycles on streets because they themselves are afraid to do so. This will require a lot of work but it is needed. In addition, we should use other countries’ education programs as models. For example in Holland, drivers are trained to open the drivers door with their right hand so they will reach across and check the outside mirror for oncoming bicycles.
Again, you have a daunting task before you but I am truly excited that you are here. My plate is full right now in terms of time commitments, but I will be glad to meet with you to share further ideas and resources.
Regards, Geoff Paulsen
Member, City of Cupertino Planning Commission
President, Mercedes-Benz Club of America, San Francisco Bay Area Section