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Complete Streets Survey Results: Californians Are Scared to Use Caltrans Streets

Complete Streets are as far away now as they were when SB 127 was vetoed by Governor Newsom

4:10 PM PST on November 14, 2023

A complete street in Sacramento. Photo by Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

The California Bicycle Coalition recently conducted a survey asking people about their experiences riding and walking on Caltrans-owned facilities. Their purpose was to find out whether Caltrans is completing on recent promises to consider the needs of all users when it builds and repairs its roadways.

The results are in and they are not great. The short answer to the overarching question above would have to be: No.

It's been four years since a bill that would have mandated that Caltrans build Complete Streets in the course of their normal work was vetoed by Governor Newsom, who said it was not necessary because "Caltrans was already doing that." The CalBike survey results seem to indicate that they are not "already doing that."

Sure, change takes time, so maybe a survey four years after promises were made seems a bit precipitous. So let's say it's measuring a baseline for future improvement - and the baseline is in the basement.

"We hope the data is a first step to bringing meaningful change at a state agency that has too long focused on moving cars and trucks while neglecting active transportation, safety, and the climate crisis," writes CalBike.

California should be way past the first step already, but let's move on. The survey found that a solid 83 percent of respondents "feel uncomfortable or very uncomfortable walking/biking on Caltrans streets" and that 99 percent "would be uncomfortable with a child walking/biking on a Caltrans street." Oh, and of those respondents, 99.86 percent said they "would be likely to bike or walk if Caltrans implements Complete Streets improvements" - so these are not people in the "no way, no how, nowhere, never" category of potential active transportation users.

In CalBike's words, "Our user survey clearly shows that Caltrans is doing too little and moving too slowly to build Complete Streets infrastructure on its state highway system."

Some of the areas in California where people had concerns on their bike and walk routes. Image: CalBike

The survey was based on responses from 2,348 people who provided almost 5,000 route evaluations, collected over a 32-day period. CalBike will continue to analyze the survey results and comments received, which focus on specific Caltrans roads.

More information, including quotes from survey respondents, can be found at the CalBike website.

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