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California Assembly Bill Would Allow “Traffic School” for Bicycle Violations

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A mix of students, including some who received tickets for violating the campus vehicle code, learn about bike safety in Berkeley. Photo: Bike East Bay

A bill that would allow bicyclists who are ticketed for traffic violations to reduce their fines by attending a traffic safety class was introduced in the California Assembly last week. Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco) amended A.B. 902 to repeal a provision in the vehicle code that currently prohibits such diversion programs except in the case of “minors who commit infractions not involving a motor vehicle for which no fee is charged.”

The bill, sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition, would allow local jurisdictions to create a diversion program and expand it to all bicycle riders, including adults. It could also make it possible to offer all bicyclists, ticketed or not, more opportunities to learn the rules of the road and safe bicycle handling skills.

Robert Prinz sees the bill as an opportunity to increase bicyclist safety and awareness of traffic laws. As Education Director for Bike East Bay, he’s in charge of a program that offers free classes on bike skills and safety, including everything from adult learn-to-ride to advanced street skills classes. Bike East Bay also coordinates with the University of California Berkeley police department on a campus-wide diversion program, offering classes in exchange for reduced fines for bicyclists who are ticketed on campus.

But the violations currently eligible for the reduced fines are only those that violate the campus code—such as riding through the “dismount zone” in the central plaza—not the California Vehicle Code.

“It kind of seems silly that only the campus code violations are eligible, especially when things that have a much bigger impact on safety are not included,” said Prinz. “We should be able to turn these tickets into valuable educational opportunities.”

Read more…

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Fighting Climate Change Is Not Hurting CA Economy — It’s Helping

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Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Despite predictions that California’s climate change policies would destroy its economy, recent data seems to show that the opposite is happening.

Derek Walker, writing for the Environmental Defense Fund, points out that recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) not only show strong job growth in California, but that clean energy jobs are growing even faster than other sectors.

California, according to the BLS, added almost half a million jobs in 2014. This happened at the same time that the state has put into effect a wide range of policies to fight climate change, including placing a legal cap on greenhouse gas emissions and making industries pay for the emissions they produce.

According to Walker:

The number one argument against policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has always been that these policies will hurt economic growth. And yet… and yet… California’s experiences, reinforced by these recent job growth numbers, demonstrate that the opposite may be the truth… Moreover, we looked at numerous indicators to see how the state’s economy was doing while cap-and-trade was taking off, and our conclusion? Good, and getting better. The state’s GDP grew by over 2% in 2013, and overall job growth outpaced the national numbers.

We are also seeing evidence that much of California’s robust job growth is happening because of – rather than despite – the state’s commitment to climate change. Between 2002 and 2012, California’s clean energy jobs grew ten times as quickly as jobs in the overall economic sector.

Unpacking the numbers is a big task, and there are a lot of factors at play. California’s economy has been growing for a while, and although its unemployment rate has been improving, it’s still one of the highest in the nation. Also, climate change policies, including cap-and-trade, are relatively recent. But these latest numbers do seem to show that those policies aren’t slowing down the California economy–which is larger by far than any other state in the US.

Job growth and growth in GDP are two indicators of economic health. “A third one, which has salience to political leaders,” said Walker, “is that California has received more investment in clean energy [industries] than any other state.” Make that more than all the other states combined, according to the CleanTech Group.

Not only that, but early indications are that the climate change policies are succeeding in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more…

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120 Groups Call for More Funding for CA’s Active Transportation Program

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California should invest more to increase biking and walking, say community groups and advocates. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A broad coalition of organizations this week called for California to increase funding for walk and bike projects. More than 120 organizations signed a petition urging the state to increase its investment in the Active Transportation Program (ATP), citing cost savings and health benefits from better bike and pedestrian infrastructure and the low level of funding currently available.

The ATP provides $300 million biannually for projects that encourage people to take trips by bike or on foot, including infrastructure (paths, lanes, sidewalks, crossings) and programs (education, safe routes to schools). In the last round, announced in the fall, many more projects applied for the program than could be funded, leaving over $800 million worth of ready-to-go projects on the table.

“We know that 20 percent of trips by Californians are on foot or by bicycle, but despite the overwhelming demand for projects that create safer streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, and pathways, the state Active Transportation Program still only receives around one percent of Caltrans’ annual budget,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller, Senior Policy Manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

The 120 organizations that have signed on so far [PDF] include community and advocacy organizations that focus on health, walking, biking, the environment, equity, and economic policy. Several cities also signed the call for more funding.

The coalition emphasizes cost savings from investing in active transportation, which are less expensive to build and require less maintenance per trip than highways. It also refers to the recent Smart Growth America report, Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, that presents data on community economic benefits from better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

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LA Times Opposes CA Helmet Law, But Gets One Point Wrong

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times wrote a mostly thoughtful editorial against Senate Bill 192, Carol Liu’s proposed mandatory helmet law for bicyclists. In the Times’ opinion, there isn’t enough evidence to show that helmets make bicycle riders safer to justify changing the law.

Hear, hear.

One thing the editorial board didn’t get right: saying that “many of the objections raised by bicycling enthusiasts are laughable — such as the idea that mandatory helmets would make bicycling appear more dangerous and thus discourage people from trying it.”

All chuckling aside, there is actual data showing that mandatory bicycle helmet laws have reduced the number of people bicycling—compared to the uncertain evidence of such laws’ safety impacts, which the Times focuses on. In “Do enforced bicycle helmet laws improve public health?” Australian researcher Dorothy Robertson showed dramatic reductions in both youth (29%) and adult (42%) cycling after a mandatory helmet law was passed. In Irvine, a study found that the number of children riding bicycles decreased between four and five percent after a child’s helmet law was passed there.

Thus, the biggest argument against S.B.192 is that it would have a negative impact on the number of people bicycling in California—in direct conflict with state climate and air quality goals. Read more…

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CalSTA Rep: Let’s Make Biking and Walking the First Choice for Short Trips

CalSTA Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing Kate White testifies to the CA legislature on the benefits of encouraging walking and bicycling

CalSTA Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing Kate White testifies to the CA legislature on the benefits of encouraging walking and bicycling

CalSTA, the state agency that oversees all state transportation departments including Caltrans, is committed to improving conditions for transit, biking, and walking, according to its Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing, Kate White.

“Thirty percent of all trips in California are less than a mile,” said White, testifying at a legislative hearing yesterday in Sacramento. “We want to make bicycling or walking the default for those short trips.”

White gave her testimony at a joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing and the Assembly Committee for Environmental Quality, which was set to discuss the relationships between transportation and greenhouse gas emissions. Representatives from state agencies addressed questions about what changes need to happen for the state to reach its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

CalSTA, according to White, recognizes the importance of clean vehicles and clean fuels. “However,” she said, “our focus at the transportation agency is on the infrastructure and behavioral side of the coin. And that means improving transit, walking, biking, and housing to reduce vehicles miles traveled.” She highlighted three strategies the agency is focusing on:

  • High speed rail, which White called “the cornerstone of electrifying transportation in California.” California expects high speed rail to replace “dirty” air trips between the Bay Area and the L.A. region. The project also includes electrifying Caltrain, which will have the added benefit of doubling the capacity of the popular Bay Area rail service.
  • Supporting local transit for trips between five and a hundred miles long. The state transit account this year, said White, was for $1 billion, and the state generally contributes several hundred million dollars every year for local and regional transit.
  • Active transportation. The Active Transportation Program (ATP) is investing in projects to make safe, inviting walking and biking trips an alternative to driving, especially for trips that are less than a mile. “These represent over 30 percent of all trips, and many are unfortunately still made by automobile,” said White. “A mode shift to walking and biking not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but has many co-benefits for health, and for healthier life styles for children and families,” she added.

Read more…

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San Francisco, East Bay Bicycle Coalitions Win Bike Summit Awards

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Dave Campbell (center), Advocacy Director of Bike East Bay, campaigning for Measure BB

Congratulations to two Bay Area bicycle advocacy organizations who won top awards from the Alliance for Biking and Walking at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., this week.

Bike East Bay and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition were both celebrated for the work they’ve done to improve, encourage, and support bicycling in the Bay Area.

Bike East Bay won “Winning Campaign of the Year” for its work to help pass Measure BB, a local sales tax increase that will invest $8 billion in transportation in Alameda County over the next 30 years.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition brought home the “Advocacy Organization of the Year” award for its stellar year, which included getting city departments on board with Vision Zero (although there’s always more work to be done), the successful campaign for transportation bond Measure A, and the completion of bikeways and street designs that the coalition had urged the city to undertake.

Winning Campaign: Bike East Bay
Measure BB, passed November 2014, will quadruple the amount of bike and pedestrian funding available in Alameda County. Jeff Miller of the Alliance for Biking and Walking said, “This is the biggest financial win of any [bike] organization we know of.”

Bike East Bay won the award for the work it put into the winning campaign, including bringing together partner organizations, making sure the measure had a wide base of support, and getting out the vote.

Read more…

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California Long-Range Transportation Plan: GHG Goals Are Elusive

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Caltrans is seeking public input on its draft, long-range, statewide transportation plan, California Transportation Plan 2040

Caltrans has been in the process of developing its long range transportation plan for the last two years. Now it has released the draft California Transportation Plan 2040 [PDF]. Public input will be solicited at workshops throughout the state in March and April, starting today in Sacramento.

The long range plan, or CTP, is based on the California Interregional Blueprint, which was developed in response to a 2009 law, S.B. 391 (from Carol Liu). That law required Caltrans to identify transportation strategies and policies that would achieve the greenhouse gas reduction goals set by A.B. 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act.

The CTP is ambitious and wide-ranging, incorporating input from many state agencies and covering a lot of ground. It sets out a vision for a multimodal, sustainable, and economically viable transportation system, including support and promotion of active transportation to help meet state goals. It defines transportation goals for California and identifies policies and strategies for meeting those goals, and includes analyses of its recommended strategies and their capacity to achieve GHG reductions.

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Technical Assistance Available for CA Active Transportation Program

ATP Goals can be boiled down to “Increase Active Transportation”–but, as with so many state programs, it’s not really that simple. Image: Caltrans

The guidelines for the second cycle of California’s Active Transportation Program, which funds projects that encourage bicycling and walking, are in their final stage of revision. Staff will present the guidelines to the California Transportation Commission for approval at the commission’s next meeting on March 25 and 26. The call for projects is expected to be released on March 26, with applications due June 1.

Caltrans is scheduling technical assistance workshops throughout the state during March and April. Workshops will assist potential applicants in assessing their projects and completing successful applications. The first two workshops are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 19 in Oakland (register here) and March 25 in Redding (register here).  Future training dates should be available at some point here.

The Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership and several partners have already begun their own cycle of training workshops, providing similar information to the Caltrans workshops, with greater focus on community outreach and partnering. Their statewide workshop yesterday was completely booked, but those who missed it can still attend a webinar providing the same information. The webinar will be Wednesday March 11, from 1 to 3 p.m. Register here.

The Southern California Association of Governments is also hosting an ATP workshop on March 16 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Register here for that workshop, which will be available as a videoconference at the SCAG main office building in downtown Los Angeles, as well as several locations in other counties in the SCAG region.

And if that is not enough, several local advocacy groups in Los Angeles have teamed up to provide assistance to agencies, schools, school districts, and community-based organization partners. To get that help–from Investing in Place, LA n Sync, and the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition— apply by March 18.

Last week Caltrans held a day-long meeting to discuss the guideline revisions, as well as the potential makeup of a future advisory committee for the program. A draft organizational chart for the advisory committee [PDF] includes representatives of urban and rural counties and cities, large Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), smaller regional transportation planning groups, rural county task forces, tribes, and recreational trails programs, as well as advocates for public health, schools, pedestrian and bicycle groups, and disadvantaged communities.

At the meeting, a question raised concern about who would represent bicycling issues. The ensuing discussion showed that there is disagreement about whether one person, from one advocacy group, could fully represent the concerns of bicyclists. There are at least eight suggested Caltrans positions on the advisory committee–which advises Caltrans. It is not clear why Caltrans should be heavily represented on the “advisor” side, while only one “bicycle expert” would be invited to participate.

Read more…

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New Bills in CA Legislature Send Mixed Messages for Livable Streets

weekly update CA legislationThe deadline for introducing new bills to be considered in the 2015 California legislative session passed last Friday. Out of the total 2,295 bills, there are not very many pertaining to bicycling and walking, and some of those that do are not very bicycle-friendly. Overall it may end up being a lackluster session for bike policy.

However, there are several  “spot bills” that could go either way. These are bills that make very minor changes to existing laws and are submitted to meet the deadline, but in such rough draft form that they give little idea what their ultimate intention will be.

For example, a bill from Assemblymember Robert Bigelow, A.B. 208, currently says only that it will be about “bikeways.” Bigelow (R-O’Neals) is a rancher who represents the Sierra foothills, a rural area with narrow mountain roads that draw bicyclists from far and wide to enjoy the scenery. Bigelow’s legislative aide Robert Wilson said the Assemblymember is very interested in improving safety for both bicyclists and motorists, and in “mending the relationship between them.” Bigelow is working with “multiple” unnamed statewide stakeholders to find a way to create “more safety and peace of mind for all road users.” But further details on the bill’s specific intent were not forthcoming.

We’ll keep an eye on the spot bills, as well as the other ones, and update our tracking page here as more information comes in.

More about the current bills after the jump.

Read more…

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CA Coalition Calls for More Funding, Staffing for Active Transportation

Increasing funding for the Active Transportation Program could get more people to walk and bike, especially for short trips. Photo of Sunday Streets in Berkeley, by Melanie Curry/Streetsblog.

A coalition of advocacy groups released a petition yesterday calling for California to increase funding for active transportation to help the state meet its climate goals.

The petition calls on the legislature to increase funding for the Active Transportation Program (ATP) by $100 million from its current $120 million per year, integrate green infrastructure and access to parks and green space in the goals of the ATP, and ensure ATP investments provide meaningful benefits to disadvantaged communities.

The coalition points out that nearly 1/5 of all trips in California are made by foot or by bike (this information comes from the National Household Travel Survey, not the U.S. Census, which only counts commute trips). Despite this high mode share, less than two percent of the state transportation budget is spent on the ATP, which brings all active transportation projects under one funding umbrella.

There are currently only four staff assigned to the program (although Caltrans has approximately 19,000 employees). Those staff oversee the 265 projects that received funding in the first cycle of the ATP, and they are working on revising the guidelines for the second round of funding, which will begin at the end of March. The second round will likely double the number of grants, at least under current funding levels.

Even with the minimal investments made in the past, California has seen an increase in walking and bicycling trips. Properly funding the ATP is a no-brainer, according to the coalition. By building infrastructure that encourages people to walk or use their bikes for short trips of less than a mile, the state could make tremendous leaps towards achieving its climate goals by reducing carbon emissions and poor air quality, at the same time reducing congestion for everyone.

“When the ATP was formed in 2013,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller of the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, “the whole idea was to consolidate all of the different pots of funding for bike and walking programs and then grow the pot, by adding cap-and-trade funding. That hasn’t happened and, in fact, the funding seems to be mysteriously shrinking.”

“By forming a single stream of funding, and incorporating climate change goals in the legislation,” added Tony Dang of California Walks, “we were positioning the program to receive cap-and-trade funding.” Instead, the only cap-and-trade money made available for active transportation last year was placed under the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program.

“We’ve worked with the Strategic Growth Council to make sure that active transportation is included in their efforts,” said Dang, “but given the amount of money they have, and their mandates for affordable housing, we really don’t think that’s going to be a big enough source of funding, and it won’t be as transformative for walking and biking as we’d hoped it would be.”

ATP staff held a workshop two days ago on its revisions to program guidelines, and way more people wanted to attend than they could accommodate. “It’s clear that this program has a lot of constituents,” said Dang, “and they really need the pot to grow.”

“When you combine all walking and biking trips,” he added, “they account for nearly 20 percent of all the trips taken every day in California. And yet funding for those trips is less than 2 percent of the transportation budget.”

“Californians are clearly not sitting around idle waiting for increased funding, but the state should step up for what people want.”

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