Letters to the Editor

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How ironic is it that the chicanery we are now witnessing on the part of self-interested actors in their effort to reverse the City Council’s recent decision regarding the proposed distortion of Grand Street should actually revolve around the very chicanes they’ve been championing. This term now being used to describe their traffic diverters can’t be found in the staff’s previous reports or elsewhere in any discussions of the proposed zigzagging. And it seems likely that the only reason for adopting this term now is that when push came to shove, and the losers of the debates determined that they might be able to bolster their weak argument if they could find formal support for their self-serving and baseless arguments that their Google search produced references that used the term.

Their “new information” simply shares that some jurisdictions have used chicanes, our newfound vocabulary word, to slow traffic, primarily in commercial areas as Oakland has done along Telegraph Avenue. In addition, they submitted links to a few limited agency reports that, for the most part, do nothing more than mention, without recommendation, the employing of chicanes as one of several methods for slowing traffic. There was little, if any, mention in these agency reports of any demonstrated reductions in the incidence of collisions or injuries, let alone fatalities. The reports focused primarily on speed reduction, not on safety. This would render these reports largely irrelevant to their current pleading, which focuses almost exclusively on safety. Note that I am not arguing against safety as an important issue. I am simply arguing that the “new information” is irrelevant and does nothing to support an argument for reconsidering the council’s Oct. 4 decision.

It appears that the new staff report is nothing more than a rehashing of their earlier reports except for the inclusion of Bike Walk Alameda’s irrelevant “new information” and the use of the term chicanes to suggest that they might be offering a new and possibly less onerous type of traffic diverting barriers to traffic flow.

Now, consider this. Both Union and Paru streets, streets which parallel Grand Street, have much less traffic than Grand, a fact known by virtually everyone familiar with the neighborhood, and certainly known to city staff and the spokespeople for Bike Walk Alameda. And the fact that neither of these ardent advocates for zigzagging on Grand Street failed to offer or suggest the alternative of using these quieter and, arguably safer, streets as preferred routes for crosstown cyclists, it would seem that their arguments, at best, might be taken as examples of disingenuous political chicanery.

— Jay Garfinkle

What will it take to convince Alamedans to begin using alternative means of transportation to get around? It will take an investment in infrastructure that cars currently enjoy. The draft Active Transportation Plan presents a vision of the infrastructure required to increase safety and convenience of non-vehicular transportation.

Why are cars such a problem? Though they provide convenience and flexibility to those who can afford them, they simultaneously pollute the air, damage roads, and require immense amounts of space to store. Above all, they are dangerous. Pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists are killed regularly by vehicles and drivers. As the draft Active Transportation Plan notes (p. 23), over 2,200 people were injured or killed in collisions in Alameda between 2009 and 2018. We have subsidized and prioritized cars as the dominant form of transportation with money, land, and ultimately, people’s lives. This has come at the detriment of any other form of transportation which has further increased reliance on cars. When people argue that streets should be “enjoyed by all modes of transportation” they are arguing for the maintenance of the status quo, which continues to prioritize convenience and subsidies for drivers, which automatically excludes kids and seniors without licenses, at the expense of others’ safety.

At worst, bicycles, scooters, and other wheeled or active forms of transport require electricity (for the electronic versions) and some pavement. They do not produce emissions simply by their use and they have the added benefit of providing exercise. Moreover, people utilizing these modes of transportation are not causing the majority of life-changing injury collisions in Alameda. According to the draft ATP, people who are walking or biking are involved in 62% of life-changing injury crashes and the top two behaviors associated with those crashes were a result of failing to yield to pedestrians and traveling at unsafe speeds (presumably by cars, since even e-bicycles and scooters have difficulty going over 25mph).

Everyone in Alameda deserves safety whether they are driving, cycling, scooting, or walking. While I wouldn’t argue that the current system is safe even for cars, the system obviously continues to prioritize the safety of those in vehicles to the safety of others. The draft Active Transportation Plan is a great start at designing a system that will improve safety for all in Alameda and provide much needed separation from cars in the form of protected bicycle lanes and greenways (in addition to other infrastructure and programs).

I recognize that it’s impossible to eliminate all trips made by car in Alameda, but we should at a minimum try to decrease the number of trips that cost the most to our infrastructure, environment, and citizens’ safety. Replacing a few trips to the shopping center, school, or work, will go a long way towards increasing safety in general, increasing health, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But in order for folks to feel comfortable making this shift, we need to make it safer. That may require folks who prefer cars to “suffer” a few inconveniences that non-drivers have been dealing with for decades.

I want to encourage folks to read through the draft Active Transportation Plan yourself and send your feedback as letters to the editor and to city officials as well. I hope you’ll agree that these investments in infrastructure and safety are well worth the minor inconveniences to car users.

— Maria Piper

Maria Piper is an Alameda resident.

Dear AUSD Families:
As we move through October, we continue to be appreciative for the community of educators and learners we are privileged to serve and support. In October we have had opportunities to observe and absorb cultural history and vibrance through National Hispanic Heritage Month, educate ourselves on the plight and living legacy of indigenous peoples, and learn from our Jewish families who celebrated Yom Kippur.

We also celebrate LGBTQ+ history this month and are reminded again of the enduring influence of teachers when we note that LGBTQ History Month was in fact founded in 1994 by a high school teacher from Missouri named Rodney Wilson, who wanted to commemorate some of the first courageous large-scale marches on Washington for LGBTQ rights back in 1979 and 1987.

Our learning communities will always have avenues of improvement to travel, but it is worthwhile to periodically pause with gratitude and appreciation for the diversity and range of experience and expression that characterize so many of our classrooms and learning environments.
As we begin to refine and strengthen the base of our foundational educational program for our students, we know that strengthening their fundamental literacy and numeracy skills, as well as their capacities for creative and critical thinking, are the tools that will equip them to better advocate, critique, construct, and reimagine a world that is increasingly welcoming to any and all.

I firmly believe that with a balanced offering of continuously improving academics, community building, and social and emotional learning, our students can lead us, to quote actor and advocate George Takei, to be “calm in the face of difference, and live our lives in a state of inclusion and wonder at the diversity of humanity.”

— Pasquale Scuderi, AUSD Superintendent