Category Archives: Transportation

Streets Being Restriped for Bike Safety

Last night there were only two items that generated discussion, both of which were referrals. The first of these was Vice Mayor Chan’s referral to have the City adopt the principles of “Vision Zero” which is a program to improve traffic safety. Many of the concepts in Vision Zero are ones that the City is already doing but it’s good to see this being formally looked at. A report on this will be ready by early next year.

One thing the City is already doing is restriping a number of streets to increase bike safety. This involves decreasing the width of the traffic lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet, and adding a buffer zone between the traffic lanes and the bike lanes. A good example of this is on Civic Center between Stevenson and Walnut. As a cyclist myself I know this makes one feel much safer biking alongside traffic. This is being done in concert with standard pavement maintenance. Thus, there is no additional cost to doing this since the pavement striping needs to be redone anyway after the pavement maintenance.

One idea I brought up was designating certain portions of traffic lanes as lanes where only one vehicle (bike or automobile) can be in that lane of traffic. This is important because there are many sections of roads where there is simply not enough room for a bike and a car to safely share that lane. If the cyclist tries to move to the right, they’re simply encouraging the car to try and squeeze through without providing a three foot clearance (which you should know is now required by law). Instead, the cyclist takes the middle of the lane and the vehicles may not pass the bike in that lane. I got this idea while biking in San Francisco. The street markings for this “sharrow” configuration are pictured here.

An excellent example of where this could be applied is on Mission Boulevard south of Stevenson where the roadway goes under the railway tracks. There actually was a fatality earlier this year at this exact location.

My Resolution on Oil Rail Cars Passes Unanimously

I’m happy to announce that the resolution I brought to the Fremont City Council opposing the proposed oil transfer facility in San Luis Obsibo County was adopted last Tuesday night. If built, this facility would increase the number of oil rail cars that could go through Fremont, increasing the probability of a catastrophe here.

Thanks to the Fremont City Council for voting unanimously to adopt this resolution.

And thanks to the Police and Fire Departments for taking this issue so seriously. Both the Police and Fire Chiefs attended a recent public meeting on this matter and have done a great job understanding the risks posed by the rail transport of oil.


Vinnie’s Position on Red Light Cameras

I know it’s been quite a quite long time since I’ve posted a blog post but what the heck. Here goes.

My biggest concern in thinking about this issue is that we cannot put revenue concerns over safety concerns. While some have claimed that red light cameras are implemented to create revenue at the expense of safety, I don’t believe that is the case. I believe that red light cameras provide a cost effective way to enforce traffic laws related to red light violations.

The concerns I’ve heard about red light cameras and my thoughts on these are below.

Adding time to the yellow phase – One idea I’ve heard is that we could improve safety by adding 0.7 seconds to the yellow phase. I found out from City staff that we employ a one (1.0) second all-red phase at intersections where we have red light cameras instead. This seems to be an even more effective safety measure than extending the yellow time. Our yellow times are in conformance with industry standards (MUTCD). The all-red time is in addition to these standards.

Decreasing the amount of the fine – Another complaint I’ve heard is that the fine is too steep. It is indeed a very large fine, nearly $500 which is very hard on most people. However, the amount of the fine is set at the state level. The City is not at liberty to set the amount of the fine.

The cameras are a cash cow for the City – The City does make approximately $250,000 a year on the cameras. This is after the cost of paying for the cameras and accounting for staff time involved in reviewing the data provided by the cameras. Officers review all of the evidence before sending out any tickets. While this is a net plus for the City, it is a very small percentage of the City’s budget. The positive revenue we are getting for this is not the main incentive for the program. I would likely be in favor of continuing the program if the revenue dropped to zero or even if it went slightly negative.

The cameras invade one’s privacy – I don’t believe this is an issue. If you are driving at an intersection the public at large can see you and there is no expectation of privacy. If the information about where you were is somehow used against you (i.e. you told your spouse you were someplace else), that’s not the City’s problem.

In short, we need to enforce red light laws as a matter of general safety. The cameras provide a cost-effective and objective method for enforcing these laws. Having a police officer manually enforce these will pull them away from other tasks. It is also dangerous as the officer often has to run a red light themselves in order to catch the offender. The Fremont Police Department likes the cameras because they are such an effective enforcement tool.

Several years ago I got a red light ticket via a camera. The objective evidence captured by the camera made it very clear that I ran the light. That was a few years ago and now there is video evidence making it even more convincing. The good news is that the experience has changed my behavior for the better and I haven’t gotten another ticket since then. The data from the police confirm that my experience is typical of most drivers.

I’ve learned that if you simply don’t try to “go for it” in those iffy situations, you will not get a ticket.

My Position on the "Niles Canyon Safety Improvement Project"

Unfortunately, my campaign has meant I’ve had to spend less time working on issues for the Sierra Club. One such environmental issue is the attempt to ‘improve’ the Niles Canyon Roadway (Route 84). A number of people have asked me for my position on this so here it is. In short, I’m against this. It’s an irresponsible use of taxpayer money.

Niles Canyon is a beautiful, scenic roadway connecting the Niles area of Fremont with the small town of Sunol. The road was the historic way into Fremont prior to Interstate 680 being built over the Sunol Grade.

The proposed “Niles Canyon Safety Improvement Project” would construct a median barrier, increase curve radii, create new roadway shoulders, install guard rails, and place retaining walls along more than four miles of the roadway. The purpose of the project is supposedly for highway and bicycle safety. In short, the project will take a scenic highway and attempt to make into a modern roadway.

There are numerous concerns that have been raised by environmentalists and local residents. First, the amount of construction required would clearly have adverse affects on the natural environment including Alameda creek which parallels the roadway. The scenic nature of the roadway could be lost forever due to the large retaining walls.

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