A slew of upgrades around town for bicyclists and pedestrians are in the newly approved city budget, thanks to the efforts of activists and a little funding from Google.
The City's 2013-14 budget, approved last month, includes a long list of upgrades around town for those on foot and on bike, paid in part with $435,000 from Google and millions of dollars more in city funds.
In a letter about the offer, Google real estate chief David Radcliffe said he was "delighted" the city had made such things a top priority this year and offered the city $500,000 towards the cause, which aligns with Google's interest in getting its employees on two wheels.
The Google projects include $50,000 for sorely needed downtown bike racks, $150,000 to help extend the Permanente Creek Trail to Middlefield Road and $160,000 towards creating a new bicycle transportation plan for the city that will prioritize improvements and provide measurable goals, such as reducing the number of collisions involving bicycles.
Google also agreed to donate $75,000 to add flashing lights to three crosswalks on Shoreline Boulevard near downtown, where police recently reported that drivers were not stopping for a pedestrian decoy entering several crosswalks there. Google happens to have purchased an office complex nearby, at the corner of Shoreline Boulevard and Villa Street.
Google's property taxes will also help pay towards funding a dedicated "cycle track" -- a protected bike lane from downtown to the office district where Google headquarters is located, possibly over a new bridge at Highway 101. A $600,000 study of the cycle track is in the city's new budget, paid for by the special Shoreline Fund tax district, the recipient of Google property taxes.
There's a multitude of such projects not funded by Google, including the narrowing of Castro Street in front of Graham Middle School from four lanes to one in each direction. That project came about after three children were hit by cars last year while crossing the street. The intent is to provide room for protected bike lanes, slow traffic and create shorter crossing distances in front of the school.
"It's a very short stretch of road between Castro (downtown) and Graham, and yet it's more like a speedway," Principal Kim Thompson told the City Council last year about the accidents, one of which she witnessed.
The "road diet" in front of Graham would be the city's first since a campaign began in late 2012 to make the city's streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Road diets have also been discussed for California Street, where two pedestrians were killed by cars last year. There's $250,000 to study that possibility in this year's budget, along with studying new signs, lighting and corner "bulb outs" to reduce crosswalk lengths and slow traffic at intersections on California and Escuela streets.
The budget also sets aside $565,000 for the Safe Routes to Schools program, which aims to educate kids about the benefits and fun of cycling while training them how to ride safely. And there's $845,000 for Permanent Creek Trail street crossings; a new street level crossing at Charleston Road and improvements to the existing underpass at Amphitheatre Parkway. Employees in the Whisman area will benefit from improved pedestrian access to the nearby NASA Ames light rail station through a new Highway 101 underpass on Ellis Street, to be designed this year at a cost of $475,000.
There may be other new projects as well -- city staff members set aside $200,000 for any "new or emerging" bike and pedestrian needs in the city over the next year, and there's still $65,000 in Google money that has yet to be spent on bike and pedestrian improvements.