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Happy Bike to Work Day, California

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Mayor Albrecht Schröter of Jena, Germany follows Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates on a ride to city hall. They’re riding the blue bike-share bikes that will soon be available in the East Bay. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Yes, yes, every day is bike to work day, but today is the day we get to celebrate it. Here’s a photo of one group of happy participants in Berkeley, California, where the mayors of Copenhagen, Denmark and Jena, Germany joined Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates for a “mayorpalooza” bike ride through town.

We’re putting together a post with photos from all over California. Do you have photos of Bike to Work Day, or Bike Month, in your city? Share them with us!

Send them to melanie@streetsblog.org

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California Legislative Update: Parking Requirements, Cap-and-Trade Funds

bikeatCapitollabel2This week we’re tracking some of the bills that got left out of last week’s too-long legislative update. These bills relate to transportation funding, climate change, and urban planning.

PLANNING

Eliminating Parking Minimums: A.B. 744 from Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) would require a city or county to eliminate minimum parking requirements under certain circumstances, upon request by the developer. Special circumstances include housing near a major transit stop or that serves seniors or people with special needs, since fewer residents of those types of housing are likely to be drivers.

It’s a first step towards eliminating minimum parking requirements, which is one of Professor Donald Shoup‘s basic prescriptions for fixing parking and congestion issues (See The Trouble With Minimum Parking Requirements [PDF], a paper he wrote way back in 1999). This bill would only apply if the developer requests an exemption, so it would be a market-driven solution, as it’s fair to assume that developers will want to build parking if the market demands it.

For some reason, the California chapter of the American Planning Association, although officially in support of the bill, has suggested that developers should first produce a parking study, which is a real head scratcher. Why not just support the elimination of minimum parking requirements everywhere and be done with it? Developers will still build however many parking spots they think would be needed to sell units, but if they aren’t required to build a minimum number they can save costs for everybody, including future tenants. If there’s a fault with this bill, it’s that it’s too timid.

More bills after the jump.

Read more…

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Governor Orders Ambitious GHG Goals, But No Plan on How to Meet Them

California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order calling for an ambitious response to climate change, and the media have been all over it.

GHG chartThe order establishes a new near-term greenhouse gas emission reduction goal– 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 — but it doesn’t outline specific plans for how to get there. It requires state agencies, including the Air Resources Board and the State Transportation Agency, to take climate change into account in their planning and investment decisions.

The order is consistent with similar efforts now going through the legislature, including S.B. 32 and S.B. 350.

TransForm State Policy Director Josh Stark issued a statement applauding the Governor’s announcement. TransForm’s statement included a reminder that “transportation – the top source of greenhouse gas emissions in California – must be front and center in the state’s climate efforts. Creating affordable, walkable communities with great public transportation will be essential to cutting petroleum use by 50 percent, and will make California more healthy, prosperous, and fair.”

Transportation accounts for a large portion of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Even the draft California Transportation Plan 2040 says that without major changes in the way Californians travel, state climate change goals will not be met from that sector. Read more…

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CA Assembly Committee Moves Bill to Delay Level Of Service Phase-Out

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Phasing out LOS in favor of VMT is pitting bona fide infill builders against astroturf infill builders. Image of Kings River Village infill development from Council of Infill Builders

The California Assembly Natural Resources Committee voted Tuesday to move legislation that will delay the state’s shift away from car-centric planning.

A.B. 779 aims to slow the removal of Level of Service (LOS) from California environmental regulations by delaying implementation of guidelines currently being developed by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR).

In 2013, California passed S.B. 743 which required the OPR to develop a replacement for LOS that more closely reflects the state’s climate change goals. OPR plans to replace the car-centric LOS with Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) as the measurement of environmental impacts required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A switch to measuring VMT will change the goal from moving cars to reducing driving.

The bill’s author, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia said “this isn’t about getting rid of VMT. VMT is a fine measure. This bill would press ‘pause’ on the process.”

The bill’s sponsors claim that having to analyze VMT would be burdensome and duplicative, since in some cases they would still be required to produce an LOS analysis to meet local planning requirements.

However, that claim looks pretty specious for several reasons.

For one, OPR’s guidelines will excuse most infill projects from any transportation analysis under CEQA, so there would be no need for “duplicative analyses.” That’s because projects within a half-mile of a major transit stop, as defined in the bill, would be exempt. An earlier draft of A.B. 779 would have removed the word “major” in this definition, thus would have exempted pretty much any kind of development near any bus stop anywhere in the state, no matter how sparse the transit service there is.

Read more…

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CA Legislative Update: Bike Lights and Three Feet for Safety

bikeatCapitollabel2Here is our regular roundup of California legislation of interest to livable streets advocates. As always, let us know if we missed anything in the comments.

  • Freshman Assemblymember Kansen Chu (D-San Jose) has listened to feedback and amended his bike light bill, A.B. 28. It started out badly, requiring a flashing white rear light on bikes at night, which would have been a recipe for disaster and confused everyone. That was quickly changed from a white light to red, in keeping with standard practice on all vehicles. Now it has been improved further. As currently worded, it would allow bicycle riders some flexibility in how they make themselves visible at night: they could use a red light, either solid or flashing, or the currently required red rear reflector.
  • Assemblymember Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) has been working on a bill to clarify last year’s Three Feet for Safety Act. His district sees a lot of bike riders out enjoying the hilly rural routes, as well as drivers now confused about when it’s okay to pass safely. The early draft of A.B. 208 was an amendment to the current law about when bicyclists must pull over to let other vehicles pass. That change turned out to be unnecessary, as bikes are covered by the standard slow-moving vehicle rule, to wit: if there are five or more vehicles lined up behind a vehicle moving slower than the “normal flow at that time and place,” the slower vehicle, be it a truck, car, or bicycle, shall pull over to let the vehicles pass. Right now A.B. 208 makes a minor clarifying amendment to that part of the code. It should be heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee next week.
  • Senator Fran Pavley’s (D-Agoura Hills) bill to increase the number of stickers allowing low-emission vehicles access to carpool lanes, SB 39, passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee 9 to 1, and now moves on to the Committee on Appropriations. The bill’s supporters say that these stickers are necessary to encourage people to buy electric vehicles, but others have pointed out that there are already many other incentives for doing so. And free passes to the HOV lane may slow traffic there, thus removing the incentive to carpool.
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CA Legislative Update: Raise the Gas Tax? Cap and Trade, HOT Lanes

bikeatCapitollabel2Bills have started moving through committees in both houses of the California legislature as the hearing season starts.

For those of you just joining us, we try to provide a regular roundup of legislation of interest to livable streets advocates. Highlights from the current session are included the bills below. Let us know if we missed anything in the comments.

Mandatory Helmet Law Dropped: As we wrote about last week, Senator Carol Liu rewrote her S.B. 192 to ask for a study of helmet use and helmet laws, instead of requiring all bike riders to wear helmets and high-visibility clothing. The new bill is currently set for a hearing in the Transportation and Housing Committee in two weeks.

Proposal to Raise the Gas Tax: Brave Senator Jim Beall finally broached the Subject That Will Not Be Named: raising the gas tax to pay for road maintenance. His SB 16, amended this week, also proposes raising vehicle registration fees and imposing a $100 vehicle registration fee on electric vehicles, the drivers of which pay no gas taxes. The bill is set for a hearing in two weeks in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

Read more…

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Caltrans Wants to Triple Biking, Double Walking and Transit By 2020

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Caltrans’ new Strategic Management Plan sets a goal to triple bike trips and double walking trips in the next five years. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Caltrans has a new goal of tripling California’s share of bicycling trips, and doubling that of walking and transit by 2020.

Caltrans’ new Strategic Management Plan [PDF] includes performance targets for advancing its new stated priorities, at the top of which are increasing active transportation and reaching Vision Zero — an end to traffic deaths. The message demonstrates a departure from the agency’s historical focus on moving motor vehicles.

Caltrans’ new “sustainability, livability, and economy” goals also include reducing vehicle miles traveled (15 percent by 2020) and reaching state-mandated targets to reduce the share of greenhouse gases from transportation.

The Strategic Management Plan is an in-house document, meant to guide decisions made by planners and engineers in the course of planning and completing projects statewide. It stems from the new Caltrans mission, to provide “a safe, sustainable, integrated, and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability.” The new mission statement was a response to criticism of the department’s old way of doing things.

“This is a pretty major shift for the department,” said Steven Cliff, newly appointed Assistant Director of Sustainability, and leader of one of the teams working on the plan. “We’ve been working hard to develop new metrics which speak to what we’ve been doing the last couple of years, with our new mission, vision, and goals.”

“It’s meant to be our plan for how we manage our work going forward.”

Read more…

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CA Bill to Prohibit GG Bridge Bike/Ped Tolls Expanded to All State Bridges

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Bicycle riders and pedestrians prepare to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A California Assembly bill that would prohibit tolls for pedestrians and bicycle riders on state-owned bridges passed the Assembly Transportation Committee with a vote of 31 to 2. Assemblymember Phil Ting’s A.B. 40, originally drafted to apply only to the Golden Gate Bridge, was amended to apply statewide.

A.B 40 was a response to a proposal last year from the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District to study tolling bicyclists and pedestrians as one solution to its budget shortfall. Advocates argued that it would discourage walking and biking and generate little revenue.

“More bicycling solves so many problems in California that government agencies, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, should welcome and encourage bicycling,” wrote the California Bicycle Coalition in support of the bill. “The idea that ‘everyone should pay their fair share’ is a noble one but to use that argument to justify charging people when they walk or bicycle reflects a naïve and erroneous understanding of how we pay for the benefits and impacts of our transportation system.”

The Assembly Transportation Committee analysis concluded that “if free bridge access for those walking and using bicycles is good policy on the Golden Gate Bridge as a means of promoting these modes of transportation and their many benefits, surely it is good policy on all toll bridges.”

Assemblymember Ting accepted the suggested amendment to apply the prohibition universally to all state-owned bridges. With the amendment, the Golden Gate Bridge Authority removed its opposition to the bill, although did not go so far as to support it, stopping at a neutral stance.

A similar bill, also written in response to a Golden Gate Bridge Authority proposal to charge bicyclists and pedestrians toll, got all the way through the legislative process in 2005, but it was vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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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.

Read more…

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TransForm’s Transportation Choices Summit Coming to Sacramento

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon addresses a bike tour at last year’s TransForm Summit. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

TransForm, an Oakland-based organization that advocates for sustainable transportation, smart growth, and affordable housing throughout California, will hold its annual Transportation Choices Summit in Sacramento in two weeks, and invites all interested parties to register for the event.

The day-long summit offers the opportunity to connect with agency officials, advocates, transit riders, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, researchers, and policy makers working on transportation, and to influence the outcome of current legislation.

“This summit really is the primary opportunity for advocates to create a statewide collaboration about legislative priorities,” said Denny Zane of MoveLA. “It expands the universe of voices in the capitol and coordinates them also. That’s a remarkable service and I really appreciate the efforts of TransForm and its partners to put this together.”

At last year’s summit, participants learned about and worked to influence issues including where cap-and-trade funds should be invested. In 2015, California is facing new possibilities for transforming its future transportation landscape, with a second round of funding for Active Transportation Programs coming online, increased interest in sustainable transportation from Caltrans, and several proposed laws moving through the legislature that could benefit—or compromise—bicycling and walking in California.

“There are some really big opportunities this year,” said Zane. He pointed out A.B. 1135, the Building Homes and Jobs Act, authored by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins.  “Maybe not everyone gets the connection between affordable housing and transit, but we do,” he said. “If you’re going to build a transit system that is both equitable and effective, you need to have high propensity users living nearby. Affordable housing is crucial to our transit system.”

This year’s summit will have sessions on a range of issues, and a keynote speech from Manuel Pastor, Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California and member of the Strategic Growth Council. The full agenda is here [PDF].

Read more…