BY TIMM BORDEN
With National Public Works Week occurring the week of May 21, just after Bike to Work Week, it is a good time to reflect on how building modern bicycle infrastructure is a critical step in getting a community comfortable in getting on their bikes more and getting in their cars less.
While public works in Cupertino touches many aspects of daily life, including taking care of our parks, trees, streets and public buildings and managing our trash and recycling programs, changing our streets to modify our transportation culture is something that the department has focused on in the last several years.
In late 2014, just prior to the announcement of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People Safer Streets, the city suffered the tragic loss of a high school freshman who was in a collision with a truck while riding his bike to school. After having a community meeting with over 200 engaged people of all ages and hearing over 400 ideas for improvements, the city embarked on an effort to join in the Mayor’s Challenge and quickly improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.
The program immediately got funding and council support for engineering improvements, as well as new programs and local laws. Many engineering improvements took advantage of the largest street repaving effort in Cupertino’s history by replacing striping with narrower vehicular lanes, green bike lanes, bike lane buffers and sharrows.
Engineering solutions that quickly came into place included installation of green bike lanes at dozens of potential vehicle-bicycle conflict areas; seven miles of buffered bike lanes, including portions of Stevens Creek Boulevard; and sharrows along many of our bike routes, concentrating on areas in the vicinity of schools.
Other actions that were taken included: Hiring a full-time Safe Routes to School coordinator to develop a structure for city/ school district/community partnership, in order to find ways to make bicycling and walking more comfortable and to develop programs to educate students and encourage them to bike and walk; Amending the municipal code to prohibit trucks in school zones during morning and afternoon commute; Revising the municipal code to allow children up to age 12, and accompanying adults, to ride bicycles on the sidewalk; Initiating a pilot and then permanent program for early morning pickup of garbage and recycling carts to reduce bike lane obstructions during morning school bike commute; Completing the 2016 Bicycle Transportation Plan became a great community effort and a solid platform for a cohesive and engaged bicycle pedestrian commission; Forming a new community advocacy group, Walk Bike Cupertino, also helped shape the new plan. When it was approved, the council immediately budgeted $2 million to begin on identified high-priority projects; Following up on recommendations contained within the 2016 Bicycle Transportation Plan, a study of conceptual designs is underway for separated bike lanes on Stevens Creek Boulevard and McClellan Road, as well as for a network of bicycle boulevards on local streets throughout the city. Implementation of the improvements is anticipated to begin in the summer; Updating the Pedestrian Transportation Plan to identify gaps in the pedestrian network throughout the city, as well as outlining policies, programs and practices to assist Cupertino in encouraging pedestrian travel and enhancing pedestrian safety into the future. Timm Borden is the city of Cupertino’s public works director.