CalBike: Make it Easier to Build Good, Safe Streets for People

Caltrans needs to help make it easier to build streets that are safe for all users. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog
Caltrans needs to help make it easier to build streets that are safe for all users. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

The California Bicycle Coalition delivered a petition to Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty yesterday, urging the department to update its guidelines to match state law.

Several years ago, California lawmakers passed S.B. 743, which requires rethinking of how to measure environmental impacts from traffic. It used to be that car congestion was considered an environmental impact, as measured by Level of Service, which resulted in wide, fast streets being easier to build than bike- and walk-friendly streets. But S.B. 743 said: “Stop that nonsense. Delaying car drivers is not inherently an environmental problem, especially if using that measure means everybody else suffers by being forced to travel along and cross wide, fast streets.”

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has been working on replacing LOS with a more sensible measure of how much vehicle travel a project produces—or helps reduce. This will make it easier to include bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly designs in developments and transportation projects.

Many local jurisdictions rely on official Caltrans guidelines for local roads, and Caltrans is still in charge of many state highways that cut through cities. But Caltrans’ traffic analysis guidelines still prioritize LOS, placing the efficient movement of cars above the safety and comfort of bicycle riders and pedestrians. This makes it harder for locals to transform their streets into streets that are safe for everyone.

Caltrans needs to update its guidelines. CalBike’s petition reads:

Petition To Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty:
Move Forward With Strong Traffic Analysis Guidelines

As people who care about biking and walking in California, we urge Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty to move forward immediately with creating strong traffic analysis guidelines that require state highways to be analyzed and designed to reduce vehicle travel and mirror VMT thresholds in the Office of Planning and Research’s new CEQA traffic analysis guidelines.

We need strong prescriptive guidelines that make clear that Caltrans engineers should transform how they evaluate and redesign state highways to be complete streets rather than high-speed arterials that divide neighborhoods. Level of service is an outdated way of analyzing traffic impacts on our communities and our environment. Our priority as a state should be to reduce vehicle travel and greenhouse gases and build healthy communities where it is easy and safe to walk and ride bicycles.

The petition is still available for signatures here.

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