Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sure, San Ramon will "accommodate" pedestrians

We had hotel points to burn, so tried out a hotel in San Ramon. The hotel backed up against the "Iron Horse trail" that we have heard people rave about. There was actual a gate that led directly from the hotel to the trail (which we, alas, discovered after we had walked around.) Kudos to them for actually thinking of access. Alas, the trail was flat and straight. I thus that is what you should expect for a rails to trails conversion. The local road on the other side of the freeway seemed like a nicer route (at least it had some shade.) Now, if they could get a get rail-to-trail route for the Sunol railroad, that would be a welcome alternative.

The trail seemed to be mostly mountain and utility bikers, with a few road bikers and pedestrians. After walking a little ways, we got bored and decided to explore some San Ramon neighborhoods. There was an elementary school right on the trail (I wonder if they are allowed to cross the trail to go to school.) Other residential neighborhoods seemed to have access, making it easy to explore. Eventually, we ended up on Alcosta Blvd, which seemed to be a downright bizarre case in bad urban planning. On one side of the road, there was a median an extra median separating the houses from the through-portion of the road. On the other side, the houses were right up against the road. On some portion of the road, there was a bike lane. However, it went away in the area where the extra median appeared. The road, for the most part had two narrow travel lanes in each direction, though traffic was fairly light. I simple reconfiguration could have made it a great bike and pedestrian road, with good access for the houses.

Closer to the hotel, one side of the road had "gated communities", the tell-tale sign of faux-rich. After all, if you are really rich, you will have a personal estate, and no-need of a gated "community". If you are a normal person, you will live with your neighbors. That leaves gated communities for those that think of themselves as better, yet don't really have enough money to fully separate themselves. In that area, we found one of the most truly bizarre negative pedestrian experiences below:

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If you are walking southeast on Alcosta, you will walk along an undulating sidewalk that goes up and down because - well, because it looks pretty. Then you decide you want to go to the shopping area, and need to cross the street. Only, the sidewalk doesn't meet the street. You have to continue walking a ways on the "undulating sidewalk" until you find another sidewalk the backtracks to get you to street level. And now you can cross the street. Only, this crosswalk is only on one side of the street, the side where the shopping center isn't. So you cross the street there. There is no sidewalk on that side of the street, so you need to cross another street to finally get the the sidewalk that leads to the shopping center. Why not just but a crosswalk connecting directly to the sidewalk? Well, it may cost a car there a few seconds of its time. That would, after all burn fossil fuels. It is much better to have the pedestrian stand there and breath in those fumes. Besides the pedestrian would then have the chance to cross two streets, causing more delays in traffic. Lovely. Lovely. Lovely.

And just to continue the loveliness, the sidewalk only runs on one side of the road through most of the shopping area - and that side of the road changes from one side to the other without warning. Luckily, pedestrians are smart enough to manage this.

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