Yesterday, Caltrans announced the adoption of the state’s first Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.
Theoretically, it’s a great document. Its recommendations thoroughly cover the key changes the state will have to make to accomplish the goal to triple bike mode share.
Practically, however, the document doesn’t provide a roadmap to implementing those recommendations. A more serious commitment to achieving the plan’s recommendations would have generated controversy and opposition from stakeholders who have to change their practices.
Take for example the first recommendation under Mobility: Multimodal Access. It says “Incorporate first mile/last mile planning for bicycle/pedestrian access needs for all intercity/high speed rail and transit systems.” It sounds good, but compare that to a more serious version of the same goal: “Identify gaps in a low-stress bike network within three miles and in safe and comfortable pedestrian access within a half-mile of all intercity/high speed rail and transit systems, and provide approximately $2 billion in funding in the next five years to fill those gaps.”
The second version answers the questions, “Where will the money come from?” and “How will the state compel local agencies to fill those gaps when it doesn’t have jurisdiction?” Caltrans didn’t ask its planners to answer those difficult questions, so they were left unanswered for this recommendation and many others.
The avoidance of those difficult questions is typical. Like all bike/ped plans, this plan is only as good as the level of commitment to bicycling and walking shown by the leadership in Governor Brown’s administration—the state Transportation Agency, Caltrans, and other state agencies. Your California Bicycle Coalition is on the job working to hold those leaders accountable to their commitments.
The development and adoption of this plan is great first step. Caltrans leadership made significant improvements in response to our comments throughout the process. For example, they added reasonable timelines to each of the recommendations. The result is an inspiring document. If they make the difficult decisions necessary to stick to those timelines and meet those goals in a substantial way, California will make great progress in becoming a bicycle-friendly state.