MCBC Advocacy Push Wins the Day Almonte/Miller Project Moves Forward With Focus on Safety
MCBC and Mill Valley community members overcame last-ditch attempts to remove needed bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements to the Miller/Almonte intersection by some vocal opponents, with the Mill Valley City Council last week voting unanimously in favor of safer conditions for people riding bicycles.
The Council’s decision to include these improvements came after receiving hundreds of emails—including a letter from MCBC signed by nearly 200 supporters—and hearing over an hour of public comment. Speaking at the meeting, MCBC staff urged Council to prioritize safety at the intersection, which is a key connection to the Mill Valley-Sausalito Pathway and Tam Valley.
“We believe that it’s an improvement that goes towards safety,” said MCBC’s Executive Director, Jim Elias. “At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is create the safest, most functional way to protect our community and those of us who are on bike or on foot.”
The contentious intersection was subject to much debate over the past couple of years after originally being vetted by the public during development of the Miller Avenue Streetscape Master Plan in 2010-11.
Opposition surfaced as the project neared implementation, stemming from plans to remove the right-turn lane onto Almonte from Miller to protect cyclists from having to merge across the high speed turn lane to continue towards Tam Valley or turn left onto the Mill Valley-Sausalito Path. The City agreed to revisit its adopted designs to satiate those complaints and returned to the public last month with a revised design, shown below:
The configuration shown above was adopted by the City Council with some additional safety provisions. In addition to the shortened ‘mixing zone’ that will force right-turning drivers to yield to bicycles, there will be vertical posts protecting the bike lanes in both directions, as well as a narrowed travel lanes to reduce vehicle speeds and shorten the crossing distance between Almonte and the Mill Valley-Sausalito Pathway. Bicyclists accessing the pathway will have an option between crossing left out of a designated bicycle left turn lane or continuing through the intersection and crossing adjacent to the crosswalk.
The modified design was meant to serve as a compromise between the safety of those bicycling and those who regularly use the right turn lane.
But, opponents continued to frame the project as one that placed “undue priority on bicycle safety,” despite findings in recent traffic studies suggesting the traffic impacts would be minimal.
Through all of this, MCBC continued to push for safety considerations as a top priority, encouraging the Council to keep with the intent of the Streetscape Master Plan.
“We understand concerns about traffic congestion in Mill Valley and throughout Marin – most of us drive in addition to riding bikes,” said MCBC’s Policy and Planning Director Bjorn Griepenburg. “But we are deeply concerned by the notion that anything other than the safety of our community members, visitors, and students is not regarded as a top priority by some.”
“For people biking” Griepenburg continued, “the consequences of street design can be life-altering or life-ending injuries. For people driving, the consequences amount to minor inconveniences during peak hours.”
The Council ultimately agreed – adopting robust bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements as part of the project. Griepenburg expressed his gratitude to those who supported MCBC’s calls to action over the past month for the role they played in securing this victory.
“Thankfully, you answered our calls to action: some of you spent hours at public meetings, others wrote emails to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and many signed onto our letter to the Council. No matter how you helped, you made a difference in helping us overcome vocal opposition and ensuring the safety of those walking and riding through this intersection for years to come.”
“We owe an extra-special thank you to those who spent time away from families to sit through a four-hour Council meeting and speak in favor of the improvements. Your voices were crucial in giving the Council the support it needed to approve the project.”