Caltrans: Don’t Forget, California’s Highways Were First Built for Bicycles

“Did you know the movement to create a state highway system came not from automobile drivers or manufacturers, but bicyclists?”

As part of Caltrans’ 125th Anniversary, the agency is creating a video series about the history of the state’s agency. The first video highlights Caltrans’ current shift away from auto-centric planning to multimodal planning by acknowledging that the push for safe bicycling in California actually predates the state’s transportation agency.

In the video Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty defends the agency’s history as “trying to move people and moving goods” before getting into how exciting the new plan for multimodal planning is.

“We need to be looking at transportation a little bit differently than we did in the past. It needs to be a multimodal, integrated transportation system so that people can move around the state as efficiently as possible,” says Dougherty, ending his interview.

So far, the score on the shift towards multimodalism is mixed. On one hand, Caltans’ planning divisions are working to dramatically increase funding for sustainable transportation options. On the other hand, there are still some really dumb project ideas being studied…some of which have extremely awful environmental documentation.

But as we continue to monitor Caltrans’ efforts to become a multimodal agency, at least they gave us a comeback to our obnoxious uncle who claims that “streets were built for cars” at Thanksgiving. Actually, they weren’t…they were built for bicycles first.

7 thoughts on Caltrans: Don’t Forget, California’s Highways Were First Built for Bicycles

  1. Better idea: just take away lanes or completely close roads to through traffic that are directly paralleling a freeway route. Why should a community have to put up with cut-through traffic avoiding the freeway?

  2. What we need is a call for bike highways, ways to travel between city centers on paths separated from the roadway. We need a method for converting unused shoulder space into these bike highways by dropping cheap prefabricated curbs on top of existing white lane markers on streets, expressways and highways. And we need an easy way to avoid time consuming and expensive environmental review for repurposing this existing infrastructure for better use.

  3. When the cars were from Detroit and the oil came from Pennsylvania and then Texas, anmd we had no idea what smog was doing to us and this planet, there was some sense to this. But since 1973?

  4. We could not agree more, there needs to be more ‘multi-modal’ transport in the state. Blended commuting (walking, biking, trains, buses, etc.) will figure in more prominently as time moves on with the growth in population. With that being said, more bicycle infrastructure needs to be funded on public transit to encourage active transportation — the current system is not sustainable. Thank you for the video.

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