Senator Wiener's Complete Streets bill, S.B. 127, passed the floor of the Senate this morning with no discussion or debate. It was a not-quite party-line vote, 29-9.
As Streetsblog has written about before, the bill calls for Caltrans to consider every user of a road when doing maintenance and repair, and to fix, improve, or add facilities to make it safer for people walking, bicycling, or taking transit. It applies to Caltrans-controlled highways that function as streets and roads throughout the state.
CalWalks created a number of fact sheets to highlight a few of the streets that would be affected by the bill, including Jefferson and Higgins in West Sacramento, Bear Mountain Boulevard and South A Street in Arvin, Inyo Avenue and Howard Street in Tulare. All of these roads are near schools, and many lack any accommodations whatsoever for users that are not in cars, as seen in the photos CalWalks provides. There are many examples of streets like this in California.
The bill will mean Caltrans, and cities who rely on Caltrans design rules, will no longer be able to "fix" fast-moving streets by making them wider or smoother without also considering the safety of people who need to cross them or ride bikes on them.
A recent situation in Bakersfield shows why this is so important. In that case, the city widened a road that happened to be a state highway because it got congested a few times a day. In the process, they eliminated sharp turns in the name of "safety"--but only for people driving fast in vehicles. But by further enabling that fast driving, they made the road even more dangerous for people who needed to cross it. Their solution to that new problem was to eliminate crosswalks.
The bill now goes to the Assembly, where it will likely be sent to the Transportation Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay). Frazier has not exactly been friendly about similar issues in the past, so it's not over yet.
Streetsblog California editor Melanie Curry has been thinking about transportation, and how to improve conditions for bicyclists, since her early days commuting by bike to UCLA long ago. She was Managing Editor at the East Bay Express, and edited Access Magazine for the University of California Transportation Center. She also earned her Masters in City Planning from UC Berkeley.