Jim Matthews: Esplanade needs a simpler fix

24 Apr

I’ve been so busy lately I have “blog stop” – aka, “writer’s block”.  I saw this letter from Jim Matthews in the paper this morning and it got me thinking.

On April 14, the Chico City Council voted for sweeping changes to The Esplanade. While roundabouts may reduce vehicle accidents, they are actually more dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists. Drivers often just don’t yield to pedestrians. This could open the city up to lawsuits when a child is injured there. Some European cities have removed roundabouts due to this safety issue. Other U.S. cities have been sued because roundabouts are very difficult for handicapped users. Signal lights really do work better.

The proposed bike path is well meaning, however cyclists will still need to deal with motor vehicle traffic at every block, just like they do now. That bike path will only give bike riders a false sense of security and may actually lead to more accidents. This could also expose the city to lawsuits.

These changes will also require the removal of many of the lovely trees that currently line our beautiful boulevard. We should preserve the attractiveness of Chico and save these trees.

The crosswalks work well on The Esplanade. The current light timing gives people plenty of time to cross. The problem at the high school is that too many kids are jaywalking. Why not try crossing guards?

Instead of such radical alterations, let’s go for simple incremental improvements first.

— Jim Matthews, Chico

Jim makes great points – this thing will be a tree slaughter. He also reminds me – the real issue with the Esplanade is the ADA – Adults with Disabilities Act. This act requiring that public infrastructure be safe for use by handicapped individuals was passed in 1990, but the City of Chico remains out of compliance all over town.  I don’t think the city is under any sort of order to fix Esplanade,  but they’ve been offered a bunch of grant money if they’ll do it. The more expensive they make the remodel, the more grant money they get.  

Yes we need safe sidewalks and crosswalks. As a cyclist and pedestrian, I’ve seen it all. A couple of weeks ago I watched a woman employee walk out of Wells Fargo Bank at Mangrove and Vallombrosa, trip over a large, many times repaired crack in the pavement, and fall to the ground. The sound of her head hitting the pavement was so sickening I wretched (don’t even get me going with the gagging, I can get everybody in the room going).  She got up and said she was okay, got in her car – but wow, she was walking funny. I told her she should call the city, but I don’t know what she did. 

Former Chico City Planning Commissioner Jonathan Studebaker died from bed sores at Enloe Hospital after a fall from his wheelchair on a Chico sidewalk. Described as an “advocate for the disabled,” Studebaker complained loudly about the lack of continuous, safe sidewalks in Chico. When the city remodeled Downtown with faux brick sidewalks, Studebaker lobbied for the introduction of what is now called “The Studebaker Strip” – a smooth strip down the middle of the sidewalk suitable for use by wheelchairs and easier for everybody from toddlers to centenarians. 

The job that’s proposed for The Esplanade is nothing but a pitch for grants to pay down the salaries, benefits and pensions Downtown. The city is in more trouble than they are admitting, at their next meeting they’re taking more money out of the General Fund to cover deficits in other funds. Again.  Why would the sewer fund be in deficit? My God, look at sewer rates, look at what they charge to hook up. But like Mark Sorensen reported in his now taken down blog – $taff looted the sewer fund to pay down the pension deficit, to pay salaries in other departments that don’t take in any revenue, etc. Now that Sorensen is mayor, he’s pretty mum about all that looting, but it goes on at every meeting – they call it “cost allocation.” Put some fancy words on “stealing” and it’s okay? I call it embezzlement, but I’m no lawyer.

So now this scheme to trash Esplanade. Like Jim Matthews says, roundabouts are not safe for pedestrians, I hate cycling through them. Mark Sorensen told me he loves them, and wants them all over Chico. After the Esplanade, he’s headed for Mangrove Avenue. He told me he wants a roundabout at Mangrove and Vallombrosa. 

Sorensen is the one you need to contact about this, he’s pushed roundabouts for every major intersection in town. He’s after the  grants. He’ll tell you, he uses them – yeah, I had him on his bike right in front of the F-150 one day in the Manzanita roundabout. He needs to see video of his worthless ass on a bike from the driver’s perspective, I don’t think he’d pull that stunt again.  He’ll tell you just because he can do it, your 8 year old should be able to do it.  Tell him you are sick of his machinations to pay down the pension monster.

This is not about the ADA, it’s about money for CalPERS. Remember, Sorensen is an employee in Biggs, where he makes almost $100,000 as their city manager. He needs CalPERS to stay afloat so he will get his pension. I think that colors alot of his thinking Downtown.


2 Responses to “Jim Matthews: Esplanade needs a simpler fix”

  1. Jim Matthews April 24, 2016 at 4:47 pm #

    Thank you Juanita. The editors of both the ER and the CN&R are against roundabouts for The Esplanade. They did their research, which obviously the Council member didn’t.

    Meilssa in the CN&R wrote: “I’m actually not in favor of roundabouts on The Esplanade. Here’s why: The more research I do, and the more I envision them, the more it becomes clear that they aren’t a good fit there. That’s mainly because of the design and the busyness of the street. One study I pored over, the Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System, notes that “multilane roundabouts are not recommended in areas with high levels of pedestrian and bicycle activity because of safety concerns of multiple threat crashes for pedestrians, especially those with visual impairments, and bicyclists.”

    • Juanita Sumner April 25, 2016 at 4:59 am #

      thanks Jim. If we had more people like you around here, we would have a better town.

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