State Assembly Undermines Bill to Let California Cities Build Safer Bikeways

On Monday, the State Assembly Transportation Committee passed a watered down version of AB 819, the bill aimed at freeing California planners to install next-generation bikeway designs that other American cities are using to improve street safety and make cycling a more accessible mode of transportation.

CA legislators have removed language from AB 819 that would have facilitated the implementation of bikeways like this one in Chicago. Photo: CDOT via ##http://www.bfw.org/2011/10/25/first-raised-bike-lane-in-wisconsin/##The Bicycle Blog of Wisconsin##

Assembly members undermined the bill’s original intent by removing language allowing planners to use guidelines that have been established outside Caltrans, like the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, which includes designs for protected bikeways. Instead, the amended bill would only require Caltrans to create an experimentation process through which engineers can establish bikeway standards. That process is likely to be a lengthy one.

Advocates say the amended bill could be an improvement over the status quo, but it’s a far cry from giving local transportation agencies the freedom to implement bikeway designs that cities such as Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. have rolled out with impressive results.

“The committee’s amendment is a step toward our goal of permitting the kind of bike infrastructure that we need,” said California Bicycle Coalition Communications Director Jim Brown. “How big a step this will be depends on the kind of experimentation process Caltrans comes up with. But it’s not the blanket authorization we’re seeking for local agencies to design the safest possible bikeways.”

Local transportation officials can still implement protected bikeways, but the process is much more complex than it needs to be. Without a set of approved standards to work from, agencies are subject to greater liability, and each project must contend with the red tape of Caltrans approval — a time-consuming and expensive process.

Brown said the AB 819 amendment was passed without deliberation but still requires approval by other committees as well as the State Senate. It was introduced by the California Association of Bicycling Organizations, a group which distrusts the NACTO guide and has traditionally resisted protected bikeways despite their proven benefits in safety and increased ridership in California cities, other American cities, and abroad.

“Whether through legislation or other means,” said Brown, “we’re continuing to work with Caltrans to figure out how innovative bikeway designs already used in other parts of the U.S. and Europe can be implemented in California.”

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

New Bill Could Free CA Planners to Use More Innovative Bikeway Designs

|
Physically protected bikeways have been implemented with great success in cities like New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC. But in California, where such facilities are still considered “experimental” by Caltrans, outdated state standards make it difficult for transportation planners to implement them. That could change under a state bill called AB 819, which would give […]

Gov’s Report to Caltrans: Get Out of the Way of Protected Bike Lanes

|
Caltrans needs to stop focusing so much on moving cars and let cities build safer street designs with protected bike lanes, says a new report commissioned by Governor Jerry Brown and CA Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly. The report [PDF] calls out Caltrans’ “archaic” practices when it comes to imposing outdated, automobile-centric design standards on city streets in California, and says […]

Bike Advocates Seek to Reform Obscure Caltrans Committee

|
For decades, a little known Caltrans advisory committee dominated by highway and automobile interests has been setting the design standards for signs, signals and pavement markings for California’s urban streets. If a city wants a green bike lane, it has to be approved by the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC), which also develops the […]

An Emerging New Bike Plan for San Francisco is a Bold Path Forward

|
After four years of an agonizing bicycle injunction that prevented the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) from adding any significant improvements to the city’s bike network, a judge earlier this year finally freed the SFMTA to begin building out the city’s long-promised Bicycle Plan. In short order, the SFMTA made some very noticeable improvements, […]

Will SF’s Leaders Turn Transport Policy Innovations Into Lasting Change?

|
San Francisco was one of two cities this week to receive the Institute for Transportation and Development’s prestigious 2012 Sustainable Transport Award. No doubt, the ITDP award was well-deserved for the SFMTA’s successful implementation of the groundbreaking SFPark program, as well as the SF Planning Department’s proliferation of parklets under its Pavement to Parks program. Those efforts […]