Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lincoln Avenue Road Diet / Lane Reduction
Position Paper (20 November 2014) ★ Stakeholders for a Safe Green Village

Lincoln Avenue’s Road Diet/Lane Reduction project has been in the plans since at least year 2009; whereas, it has now taken on an alteration to its original plan, creating what can become a mass confusion at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue at Minnesota Avenue. That’s still yet to consider the opposite end of the strip at Willow Street and Lincoln Avenue. San Jose Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio's recent change of plans, such as to make alterations to the pilot test for downtown Willow Glen’s “Road Diet” or “lane reduction,” seems to have good intentions, but it has many problems.

Stakeholders for a Safe Green Village —Willow Glen (a.k.a. Stakeholders SGV) has been in conversation with Councilmember Oliverio, and the Willow Glen Business Association (WGBA) board members; therein, expressing concern about the usage of the Minnesota and Lincoln Avenues intersection that’s in front of the school for a pilot testing of this lane reduction project.

We believe that this revised lane-reduction pilot study and trial run, of which is recently being recommended to the neighborhood, will cause increased traffic congestion; that’s in addition to unsafe public safety situations for children, parents and motorist. Ultimately, it can cause the reverse to the intended outcome, making a mess of the downtown Willow Glen scene and connecting streets. Furthermore, it does not set-up a proper sampling or test run area that will represent the overall project; therefore the pilot study will not only create a messy situation; but, also provide inadequate feedback and lack of hypothetical scenarios.

For example, consider that the revision to the plan, which now focuses the road diet only to the area between Willow Street and Minnesota Avenue, excludes the rest of the sections of Lincoln Avenue. In that proposition, going north bound from Almaden Expressway to Minnesota Avenue, the lane reduction calls for motorists to face a lane merger that will bottleneck from two northbound lanes into one north bound lane as they cross Minnesota Avenue. It seems like an impossibility and messy predicament, such as to think that motor vehicles will suddenly be able to merge safely and readily at this busy intersection.

Per the revision, the main four lane strip of downtown Willow Glen — from Willow Street to Minnesota Avenue — will now be reduced to two lanes, one going north and the other south. Second: at the center of the street, there will also be a lane dedicated for left or right turns, as well as for emergency vehicle access. The reduction of two opposing lanes on the avenue will then allow for bicycle lanes to be added at the side of the street. Bicyclists will have a dedicated lane on each side of the road, going north and south. This is called a Road Diet/Lane Reduction; but, again, the framing of the project will be exclusively to the downtown strip, while ignoring the connecting areas. In other words, this proposal would be an inversion of the original plan and test areas.

Indeed, it’s agreed that the goal of a Road Diet is to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Lincoln Avenue. This initiative is being lead by downtown’s Willow Glen Business Association with the aim to improve the situation. What is more, Stakeholders SGV, the lead sponsor for the Walk/Bike to School event each year, also wholeheartedly supports the road diet concept as a traffic calming device.

However, it has been made known to the WGBA (the downtown business association) and Councilmember Oliverio, that Stakeholders SGV does not support the starting point of this Road Diet Pilot Study at the intersection in front of Willow Glen Elementary School. Stakeholders SGV does not support the starting point at any place close to the intersection in front of the school.

Repeatedly, Stakeholders SGV has proposed and asked for an alternative starting place for the Road Diet Pilot Study, as well as for the overall implementation of the project in the aftermath. As of the date of this letter, that request has yet to be acknowledged, not yet providing an alternative to the cited problem.

Per the stated concern and response to this Road Diet revision and its Pilot Study, its been suggested that the starting point of Lincoln Avenue’s lane reduction be made someplace else along the length of the strip, such as beyond Malone Road. This is because we want to avoid the Willow Glen Middle & High Schools access point at Malone, aside from further up the road towards the elementary school. If it happens at Malone, then motorist will try to escape the grid lock and will use friendly and quiet neighborhood side streets to get to Bird Avenue, an alternate north-south escape route.

It is the recommendation of Stakeholders SGV to begin the lane reduction at the source of the problem, which is primarily at Curtner and Lincoln Avenue.

Stakeholders SGV still supports the Road Diet and its Pilot Study, if appropriately planned. For example, there are many California cities that provide successful Road Diet case studies. Those best cities include: San Diego, Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa. All of these cities have since implemented successful Road Diets that show a major reduction of roadway traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

Comparatively, as of last year 2013, Lincoln Avenue had over 23 known and recorded accidents of this serious nature, of which one was a traffic fatality. In fact, another time in the recent past, one of such incidents was not considered as an on-site fatality, but it was learned that the person eventually died at the hospital. Many of these accidents took place in crosswalks at Lincoln Avenue.

Dedicated bike lanes are badly needed on Lincoln Avenue to accommodate the growing share of bicyclists in the area that are already using the avenue, as well as to comply with the standards of California’s new Three Feet for Safety Act.
When dedicated north-south lanes are added to an implemented Road Diet, case studies show (in the aftermath) that there are very little changes to traffic counts . Studies show that with a dedicated left turn lane, that traffic moves smother, as well as that there are fewer serious accidents. Furthermore, the middle lane provides for emergency vehicle access on Lincoln Avenue; which, with the current four lane road design, unsafe crossovers, bypasses and gridlock, our emergency vehicles presently have no speedily and manageable access. A center turn lane, alternately used as an emergency lane, will also improve the city’s 9-1-1 response time.

This position paper is prepared in anticipation to a neighborhood meeting that occurs Thursday 20 November 2014, and/or a response from Councilmember Oliverio. Further considerations can be made for the opposite end of the strip at Willow Street and Lincoln Avenue; such as, and including, another suggested starting point at Pedro Street and Lincoln Avenue (or thereabouts). This segment of the avenue is also of significant concern; that is, including Broadway Avenue and River Glen School, then out to Coe and Lincoln Avenue.


Richard Zappelli, 
Chairperson, Stakeholders for a Safe Green Village — Willow Glen
Former President, 2011 to 2014, Willow Glen Neighborhood Association