Victoria Avenue Forever
ACTION ALERT FROM VICTORIA AVENUE FOREVER: Proposed Traffic Roundabouts Threaten Victoria Avenue’s Historic Landscape
Victoria Avenue currently faces the greatest threat to its historic integrity since it was created in 1892. The Department of Public Works will present a report to the Transportation Committee on November 8 at 1:00 pm in the City Council Chambers in which they will recommend construction of traffic circles, or roundabouts, on Victoria Avenue at Washington and other intersections. What you need to know:
Victoria Avenue is a historic divided scenic parkway that traverses the greenbelt. Originally commissioned in 1892, it has become a popular tourist attraction and linear park because of the many trees and exotic plants used to landscape the route. The nine miles of preserved landscaping are characterized by a 30-foot-wide median planted with flowering trees lined by over 100-year-old Mexican Fan Palms and Ragged Robin roses. The parkways possess tall evergreen trees, including California Fan Palms, Eucalyptus, and Pepper trees. The iconic views of Victoria Avenue include the tall fan palms with their “heads” all aligned in the sky as far as you can see. Since 1992, Victoria Avenue Forever has taken over the planting of replacement trees with donations from local citizens in memory of loved ones, making them living memorials. Volunteers planted these 1600 trees and they belong to the community. Since the 1920s the citizens of Riverside have been protecting Victoria Avenue for the use and enjoyment of the generations to come. Victoria Avenue is Riverside Cultural Heritage Landmark #8 and was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2000. These designations should guarantee protection of Victoria Avenue against such drastic changes. VAF’s concerns about the roundabout concept and design are enumerated here.
1. Preservation: The roundabouts would route cars right down the median, thus significantly changing the structure of Victoria Avenue and necessitating the removal of at least 14 Mexican Fan Palms and 12 mature flowering trees from EACH intersection. The report falsely claims that these “can be relocated” or “replaced in kind”. It is biologically impossible for 100+ year old palms and mature flowering trees to be transplanted or replaced “in kind.”
Victoria Avenue is a unique scenic corridor through the City of Riverside. Experimentation with radical traffic engineering concepts should not occur in such historically sensitive locations. If traffic congestion is the concern, traffic signals would be better from a preservation standpoint because they would maintain the overall original landscape design of the Avenue and would result in the loss of fewer irreplaceable trees.
2. Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety: Victoria Avenue is a multiuse open space. It is on the City and County Trail maps because it has a dedicated pedestrian walkway and a memorial bicycle path. The traffic study focuses solely on motorist use and provides no data on the numbers or timing of walkers, joggers and cyclists. The accident report shows two accidents in which bicyclists were injured and one in which a pedestrian was injured even though the double stop on Washington is designed to protect them. A disadvantage of roundabouts is that it marginalizes pedestrians and cyclists, at best, or is dangerous for them, at worst.
In the roundabout drawing, pedestrian walkways are placed at a distance from the roundabout proper. Two of them cut right through the median of Victoria Avenue necessitating the removal of more trees and landscaping. Despite the statement to the contrary in the report, crosswalks associated with roundabouts are note safer for pedestrians, especially children, elderly, wheelchair-bound and the visually impaired. Crossing the exit lane from the roundabout is particularly confusing and hazardous for walkers because drivers typically do not signal their exit. Therefore, it is impossible to determine which cars travelling within the roundabout will exit into the oncoming lane. When they do, there is limited time to make a safe crossing. VAF is particularly concerned about the right turn bypass lane (noted in red on the map) from Washington to Victoria Avenue, where pedestrians will have to cross three lanes of traffic in two places. Many traffic engineers recommend adding traffic signals to safeguard pedestrians. These would increase the costs of the project, slow traffic and further degrade the historic character of the Avenue. Traffic signals are a better alternative to roundabouts for pedestrians. VAF also contests the notion that roundabouts are safer for bicyclists. Avid, racing cyclists might feel bold enough to travel in the center of the roundabout lane and compete in speed and skill with vehicles, but most recreational cyclists, especially the young and elderly, would likely travel on the right of vehicles where they are vulnerable to being hit because “the motorists need only look to their left” and will not be aware of the bicycle on the right. The alternative, that cyclists travel in the pedestrian walkways, will discourage them from using the Avenue. In Europe, roundabouts are not used in city centers where there are many bicyclists and pedestrians.
3. Unequal Traffic: Roundabouts give preference to motorists traveling in the dominate direction of traffic. Since vehicles already in the roundabout have the right of way, those traveling in other directions are prevented from entering the roundabout and traffic in these directions backs up. The heavy traffic on Washington is mainly due to commuters. Thus, neighborhood residents, as well as pedestrians, joggers, and bicyclists, who are on Victoria will be disadvantaged. The roundabouts will therefore transfer delays for those outside the neighborhood to those inside the neighborhood. Traffic signals would provide a more equitable alternative. 4. Social Justice: Victoria Avenue runs through an economically disadvantaged community and provides open space to its residents. The pedestrians (walkers, joggers, parents pushing baby strollers, care providers pushing wheelchairs, etc.) and most of the bicyclists are local residents and whose children go to two schools (Washington Elementary and Gage Middle School) within a block of Victoria Avenue. We need to protect their use of the Avenue and not let it be curtailed by roundabouts that entitle motorists traveling through them. In summary, for all the above reasons roundabouts are the wrong choice for Victoria Avenue: They irreparably mar its historic character; reduce its recreational value; and place traffic burdens on local neighborhoods. A more global approach to reducing traffic, in accordance with Prop R and Measure C, should be explored first. As a last resort, traffic signals would more effectively (1) solve the traffic congestion problems (i.e. produce acceptable levels of service), (2) provide safety to pedestrians and cyclists, (3) distribute intersection delays more equitably, and (4) protect the historic nature of Victoria Avenue.
What you can do to Help: a. Be Informed. Visit the City’s Website (https://riversideca.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx) Read the reports for the Transportation Committee Meeting on November 8. You can use “eComment” to provide your response. b. Attend the Transportation Committee Meeting on November 8, 1:00 PM The committee will meet in the City Council Chamber at City Hall. Obtain a speaker card and be prepared to share your opinion during public comments. c. Send an e-mail to the City Clerk (firstname.lastname@example.org) Your email will be entered into the public record of the meeting. d. Send an e-mail to your City Councilman prior to the meeting. e. Inform your friends, family, and other groups and encourage them to respond. Talking Points: 1. Roundabouts will destroy Victoria Avenue’s historic character and its trees. Victoria Avenue is one of the most iconic symbols of Riverside and should be preserved, along with its trees. 2. Roundabouts will endanger and displace walkers, joggers, bicyclists, and scenic drivers who use Victoria Avenue as a linear park. 3. Roundabouts will slow and burden local residents using the avenue to travel to their destinations. 4. Roundabouts do not belong in historically sensitive locations.
On right—City’s Roundabout design for the Washington St. and Victoria Ave. intersection. NOTE—the approaches to the roundabout on Victoria Ave. meander right through the medians, requiring the removal of 14 tall Fan Palms and 12 flowering trees.