Simple question to SLO staffers, weird answers

September 15, 2018

Richard Schmidt

OPINION by RICHARD SCHMIDT

It seemed a simple question my brain said I needed to ask.

After being in the middle of San Luis Obispo’s Anholm Bikeway insanity for more than a year, I had the impression the city’s bike planners were … , well, let’s be polite and say “amateurish.”

From the git-go, as they unveiled their “preferred” plans with bike lanes, on-street cycle tracks, two-way cycle tracks, chicanes, wiggles, bulbouts, raised crosswalks, rain gardens, traffic circles, single-lane one-way streets, two-way streets, sharrows, bike boulevards, neighborhood “branding,” and a whole lot of other stuff, it appeared they’d consulted their textbooks and pulled out one of this, two of that, three of something else and tossed it all together like a salad.

It looked like a school-boy project. I’m a teacher, so I should know.

Then, as “plans” advanced with SLO’s bike designers proposing things the world’s best bike planners have denounced as dangerous and unfit for anywhere, the need to ask my brain’s question grew.After the bike tribe, headed by BikeSLO County, the most powerful special interest in town, and their alter ego with the Orwellian name SLO Streets for ALL, whose program would steal half the width of North Broad Street for the exclusive use of a handful of bikers, fell in line with staff’s dangerous designs, repeating, as per their pre-arranged script, that they are “safe,” the question rattled my brain more insistently.

Finally, when SLO’s bike staff publicly dissed critique of a deadly safety problem, by which cars turning left into dozens of driveways – which against the advice of top international planners would cross cycle tracks — requiring what amounts to a “left turn from the right lane of a multi-lane street,” my brain demanded the question be asked. This safety issue is explained below.

What my brain wanted to know: does SLO’s bike staff have any actual experience designing cycle tracks?

So I emailed bike planners Adam Fukushima and his boss, Jake Hudson.

Here’s that e-mail message:

“Adam, I’m curious how many on-street cycle tracks you have designed prior to this one?”

Same message to Hudson.

Fukushima didn’t answer. Hudson did:

“Richard, These are the first cycle tracks that will be designed and installed by the City. The designs will be based on the adopted State guidance, best practices, and standards. Thanks, Jake Hudson”

Hmn. OK. Maybe they’ve had experience elsewhere than in SLO. So I wrote back:

“Thank you Jake. I know that. My question was regarding what is your prior experience with designing tracks. Can you respond to that?”

Soon a reply arrived:

“The City has a variety of types of bike facilities throughout the City. Each one has unique aspects to it but any facility will be based on the adopted State guidance, best practices, and standards. I and my staff’s experience with cycle tracks is through our continued review and research of the State’s development of these standards and guidance since adoption of Assembly Bill 1193 otherwise referred to as the Protected Bikeways Act of 2014. Thanks, Jake Hudson”

OK, I think that means no experience – that “staff’s experience” consists of “review and research,” not design, implementation and post-project performance and safety evaluation. Just to make sure – I wanted to be right about this –, I asked for confirmation:

“Thanks Jake. So it sounds as if you are saying staff, including yourself, have not actually designed cycle tracks before? Is that correct?”

To which I then got a head-spinner copied up the food chain to his boss, Tim Bochum, and Bochum’s boss, Public Works Director Daryl Grigsby, and City Attorney Christine Dietrick:

“Richard, The answer to your last question is no, that is not correct. Given that we have reason to believe that there is a litigation threat related to this project, staff will not be answering any further questions on this matter at this time. Thanks and we look forward to resuming discussion once the threat of litigation has passed or any litigation filed has been resolved. Thanks, Jake Hudson”

Wow! So, if “that is not correct,” what did his previous answer mean?

No matter, we’re apparently never going to get an answer. An attorney who saw this remarked, “Given that some of the potential actions against the city are not affected by any statute of limitation, the refusal to respond to citizen questions could go on for quite some time.” Like forever. Do you suppose that might lead to some litigation?

This new issue, “litigation,” required expansion of my quest for truth. So I addressed attorney Dietrick:

“Dear Ms. Dietrick, Last week I asked Jake Hudson and Adam Fukushima how many cycle tracks they’ve designed, which seems like a perfectly worthy and legitimate question. Hudson answered for the two of them, or rather he refused to answer, seeming to imply that you had told him not to answer.

“Did you do that? If not, fine. If so, why the effort to shut down free flow of legitimate public information? Thanks. Richard”

To which I got another head-spinner:

“Mr. Schmidt, I saw Mr. Hudson’s response, which I believe answered the question you posed completely and directly. As to your question to me, I am not at liberty to share confidential communications with my client or my client’s authorized representatives with parties with whom I do not share attorney-client privilege, so I can’t tell you what I did or did not advise Mr. Hudson. That said, it is never my objective to “shut down the free flow of public information.” My job is to advise and defend the lawful actions of my client, the City. The Council has made a very considered and lawful decision on this matter. Jake is correct that we do have reason to believe there’s a litigation threat. Given that unfortunate reality, I will advise to the best of my ability to support and defend the Council’s decision. That is what I agreed to do when I took my oath as an attorney and accepted my position with the City and it is every attorney’s ethical obligation to his or her clients. Best, Christine”

So there you have it, question answered “completely and directly.” As for the rest, stupid me. I’d imagined someone we citizens pay $290,724.98 (Transparent California) might consider us her clients too.

If you, dear reader, have any idea whether we now know any more about how many on-street cycle tracks staff have designed than before I tried to find out, my brain needs your help.

Now, about that “left turn from the right lane” matter. If you or I tried that, we’d deserve a ticket. But the city’s designing this maneuver into cycle tracks alleged “safe” for 5-year-olds.

Normally when you turn left into your driveway, you watch for oncoming traffic and turn when it’s clear.

Turning left across a two-way cycle track, you must watch for on-coming traffic, on-coming bikes, and also bikes coming up behind you on your left, in your blind spot. Dozens of driveways cross the Anholm cycle tracks, each, in the words of Davis bike planners, a dangerous “unsignalized intersection.”

Experts call this out as a serious safety issue.

At a recent city council meeting, Hudson dismissed the issue as not significant.

It’s stuff like this, over and over again, that makes one ask, “Do these guys have any clue what they’re doing?”

They could have told us what they know, and what they don’t, but they have chosen instead to obfuscate. Does that in itself tell us something important?

 


Loading...
unlisted

While I agree that the bike lane on Broad seems ridiculous, your “blind spot” diagram is even more ridiculous. Most people would simply turn their head to see to their side.


incompingov

Good drivers do look. But most drivers don’t look. The skill of most people driving is quite low. Just observe people on the road.


unlisted

Based on your assessment, perhaps we should ban all driving in the city?


incompingov

Not all. Just the bad ones. Since 94% of all accidents are caused by human error, one has to wonder if driving linceses are too easy of get.


Fleet

This is what is expected from most city planning departments. Vague partial answers that change from day to day and planner to planner. Welcome to my world as a Building Contractor.


mary margaret

“Learn by doing” was the Cal Poly motto and it’s a good one for students. “Learn by doing” when designing a bikeway is ridiculous. Taking 3 years to come up with this design could only happen in an inefficient government project and they’re not done yet. Adam Fukashima , Jake Hudson and their boss Daryl Grigsby and his boss Derek Johnson and his bosses Mayor Heidi Harmon and the city council members who voted for this plan (Carlyn Christianson, Aaron Gomez, Dan Rivoire) are putting cyclists, drivers and pedestrians in danger of injury or death. Whoops, I left out our City Attorney who should be protecting the taxpayers of SLO from this incredible liability. The letter makes it clear her clients’ are Mr. Hudson, et al, not the folks who pay her.


End this insanity and vote this November: T. Keith Gurnee for Mayor and City Council members James Lopes and Sarah Flickinger.


1965buick

L.O.L.

‘We haven’t ever designed anything like this before. But just trust us, ok?’


Good work Mr. Schmidt.


Rambunctious

Eating out of the public trough has a way of simplifying ones prospective on things…


George Bailey

Folks,


As this editorial by Richard Schmidt points out, the SLO City planners working to erect this ‘bike highway’ into the Anholm District have NO experience doing a project of this sort, and their amateurish ideas reflect just such a lack of experience.  Literally, people will die because of their cavalier attitude.


Perhaps more troubling, the utter disconnect between our highly paid SLO City staff, and their arrogant attitude towards the very taxpayers who pay their high salaries is unfortunate, and, at a minimum, one would expect city staff to show respect and communicate truthfully and promptly when taxpaying citizens pose questions about issues affecting their lives.  Shame on SLO City Attorney Christine Dietrich, SLO Planning boss Tim Bochum, and Bochum’s boss, Public Works Director Daryl Grimsby.  Each of these highly paid public servants have shown their arrogance and disdain for the very taxpayers who pay their salaries.


In a larger sense, I blame SLO City Mayor Heidi Harmon, and her progressive colleagues on the city council for their failed public policies, the arrogance of city staff, the ignoring of citizen input, exemptions for out-of-town developers, the city worker unfunded pension crisis, and the threat to the historic downtown district.


In November, let’s take back our city government by electing Mr. Keith Gurnee for SLO mayor and Mr. James Lopes for SLO City council.  We don’t have to tolerate this disrespect, and citizens like Richard Schmidt should not have to ask 20 questions to receive one answer.


George


Dump Heidi Harmon & Carlyn Christianson


CC_Marauder

I see SLO reps are graduates of the Pelosi School of Civil Engineering.


Build a deadly bike track and find out later what it all means.


Mensas


The whole lot of them need to be fired and forced to repay wasted taxpayer funds and or grants used on this boondoggle.


incompingov

As we’ve all seen recent national politics, people in the political world, such as these city consul people and their “aids” are rarely, if ever, made to pay ANY price for their misdeeds. Repay wasted money!? It’s only your tax money. Meaningless to them. Never happen in a million years.


injustice_to_bees

I was curious so I looked up the Protected Bikeways Act of 2014. It essentially allows greater flexibility in design, but does not provide the designs.


In response to this legeslation, Caltrans put out a brief 11 page design bulletin (LINK 1) on the penultimate day of 2015. It has diagrams and photos, but nothing like whats being proposed for Anholm. It has a few brief sentences regarding separated bikeways at alleys and driveways…but mostly guidance on HOW to provide the separation. Oh, and it references CA MUTCD Part 9. (Google takes you directly to a .pdf) Its a 48 page document that lays out bikepath signage with diagrams….none of which look anything like the Anholm proposal.

The design guideline also references Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide. The Feds have a fair bit to say about separated bike lanes….including this: “To avoid separated bike lane encroachment of vehicles exiting driveways into the street, landscaping and other street-side elements that obscure sight distance should not be included within 15 ft of a driveway edge.” You read that correctly. To be able to see cyclists as you back out of your driveway, you should remove the fence/tree/hedge/the other car in the driveway and maybe your mailbox for good measure. The crazy thing is they’re talking about wide driveways for businesses, not narrow residential driveways where people are REVERSING into 2-way bike traffic.


The brevity of the Caltrans guide is being sold as a benefit….so buyer beware! Here’s a quote: “Another good thing about the guidelines, according to CalBike’s analysis, is that it uses permissive, rather than restrictive, language to encourage engineers to use their own informed judgement when making decisions.”


Link 1

https://cal.streetsblog.org/2016/01/04/new-caltrans-design-bulletin-oks-protected-bike-lanes-in-ca/


Link 2

https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/publications/separated_bikelane_pdg/page09.cfm#figure14


rockhound1965

Kind of like the new marijuana rules and regulations. No clue, and no revenue money because they have no clue. OREGON did it great. Why not adapt their policies and rules? No. California picked a politically motivated idiot.


Myself

Why do these people need more bike lanes, half the time they ride out of them or ignore them completly. about a month ago I’m going south on Santa Rosa St in the slow lane minding my business at or below the posted speed limit,this is right in the area of the old Taco Bell and Breakfast buzz, this is a busy spot, cars jumping over to the right lane at the last moment and others turning right into the above business’s, as I get to Breakfast Buzz a meat sack on a bike just jerks it out into my lane just a few feet in front of me,and proceeds to ride the right hand lane instead of the bike lane which is clearly marked dropping off the hill to Olive st, if i had looked to the left at San Luis Ambulance for just a second this fool would have needed their services, so I have a problem understanding why these people need protected bike lanes when they are the ones causing problems.