Draft CA Statewide Bike and Pedestrian Plan Ready for Public Comment

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See updated meeting information at this post.

Caltrans just posted its first draft of the first statewide California Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan and is seeking public comment on it (see below for details).

“Toward an Active California” is a much more ambitious and comprehensive plan than the “Non-Motorized Transportation Facilities Report” that Caltrans has put out in previous years. It pulls together state work being done in a wide variety of other areas, including California’s aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets; the Health in All Policies task force highlighting the connections between walking and biking and health outcomes, including air quality, obesity, and heart disease; and interest in sustainable and equitable development as embodied in the Caltrans Smart Mobility Framework.

It’s the result of months of work including forums, public workshops, an online survey, roundtables and open houses, an internal policy advisory committee, and a technical advisory committee of outside stakeholders knowledgeable about bicycle and pedestrian issues.

The plan’s vision is that “by 2040, people in California of all ages, abilities, and incomes can safely, conveniently, and comfortably walk and bicycle for their transportation needs.” The point of the plan is to “identify policies and actions that Caltrans and its partners will take to achieve this goal and improve the safety and comfort of pedestrians and bicyclists throughout the State, making walking and biking an appealing option for many everyday trips.”

CA_bikeped_plan_tripsThe statewide plan should also rightfully serve as the underpinning for local and regional bike and pedestrian plans, and for that reason alone needs to be a strong statement about the relevance and importance of encouraging these active modes of transportation.

A quibble with the vision: 2040 is a really long way away. Yes, it is connected at the hip to the statewide, long-term California Transportation Plan 2040, and maybe it just seemed too ambitious to set an earlier target. But Caltrans set itself some very ambitious strategic goals of doubling walking and tripling bicycling trips by 2020, which at the time seemed like a long time in the future but now seems quite close. Why not set ambitious goals? If California wants to keep “leading the nation in active transportation,” as the plan puts it, then we’re going to have to work harder and produce results faster than by 2040.

The plan lists four objectives, each with about fifteen strategies for meeting them. The objectives are:

  • Safety: Reduce the number, rate, severity of bike and pedestrian collisions
  • Mobility: Increase walking and biking in CA
  • Preservation: Maintain high-quality transportation system
  • Social Equity: Invest in communities that most depend on walking and biking

A few quick highlights from the plan:

It acknowledges a couple of important limitations, including the lack of data on how many people ride bikes and walk in California. This is compared to the extensive data collected on vehicle travel.

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It recognizes that there is not enough funding to meet current demand for bike and pedestrian projects. If this plan has the desired effect of encouraging better thinking, design, and activity around biking and walking, then that demand will be even higher in the future. The plan doesn’t suggest how to find more funding, but a start would be to acknowledge that the underfunding is vastly out of proportion even to current mode share. That is, almost twenty percent of all trips, as currently measured with incomplete data, are made by biking and walking, but less than four percent of the state transportation budget is spent on these modes.

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Under the “safety” objective, the plan lists the need for a “universal elementary school bicycle and pedestrian curriculum.” It also suggests incorporating information about bicycle and pedestrian issues in drivers exams and driver training classes, but more than a few questions added to a test are needed. There is no longer any universal driver’s training in California schools for teenagers, and more new drivers are waiting until they are eighteen years old, when all they have to do is pass the tests to get a license. Everyone needs better education on bike and pedestrian issues, especially drivers. Is elementary school the right time for that?

It acknowledges the importance of prioritizing vulnerable users in roadway design and operations. The legislature tried to make this a priority of enforcement a few years ago but that bill was ultimately vetoed by Governor Brown.

It calls for supporting—and funding—diversion/education programs for pedestrians and bicyclists who get tickets, as allowed by 2015’s A.B. 902.

The plan suggests exploring alternatives to using the “85th percentile” rule in setting speed limits. This is the rule slavishly adhered to by Caltrans engineers—or at least, in what amounts to the same thing, a rule that city planners believe Caltrans engineers slavishly adhere to. It requires speed limits to be set at whatever speed 85 percent of the vehicles currently travel at or below—meaning, a city can’t lower a speed limit along a stretch of road if most cars drive above that limit. It was an attempt to prevent speed traps, but its safety effect is appalling, and prevents local jurisdictions from pursuing some forms of traffic calming. The plan’s strategy suggests evaluating

…policy changes that would allow municipalities to establish reduced maximum speeds on certain roadways (such as bike boulevards and pedestrian-oriented streets) and to enforce these limits without conducting engineering and traffic studies. This action will be led by the Division of Research, Innovation and System Information with support from the Division of Traffic Operations and the Division of Transportation Planning.

There is much much more to delve into and comment on in the draft plan, which can be found here. Caltrans is seeking public feedback, and has scheduled several meetings around the state to gather comments. Each meeting will include a call-in component (see link below), and a separate webinar-only meeting will also be held.

So far, one meeting is scheduled in Fresno on Monday, February 27, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Caltrans District 6 offices’ Yosemite Room. The offices are located at 2015 E. Shields, Suite A-100. The meeting can also be accessed via the web here, with audio available via phone at 888-921-7813, access code 9110031.

Another webinar is planned for Wednesday, March 1, from 3 to 5 p.m. The phone number and access code is to be determined, but the website is the same.

Future meetings are also planned for Northern and Southern California locations, still to be determined.

Even if you can’t make any of these, you can still submit comments until March 10.

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