Environmental review exemption for bike lanes goes to Senate

Pending a vote by the California Senate later this month, Gov. Jerry Brown will have the opportunity to sign legislation that will speed up bike lane projects throughout the state.

Assembly Bill 2245, authored by Santa Clarita Assemblymember Cameron Smyth, would exempt all bike lane projects throughout the state from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act. We see this bill as a positive step in addressing the auto-oriented nature of CEQA, which has in the past stifled worthy bike lane projects that could help make bicycling safer, easier and more inviting to a larger share of Californians.

CEQA currently requires a review for any project that may have a significant environmental impact. While bike lanes making no change to the configuration of roadways are currently exempt from CEQA, the removal of a vehicle travel lane or street parking to accommodate a bike lane triggers CEQA review when traffic impacts reach a certain threshold.

CEQA review for bike lanes can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete, often costing more than the actual project on the ground. These timelines and costs deter many cities from the robust implementation of needed and necessary bike networks.

Instead of a cumbersome CEQA process, AB 2245 requires cities and counties to prepare a traffic and safety study of the proposed bike lane project, conduct public hearings to discuss the project’s impact, and file CEQA-exemption notices with the state Office of Planning & Research as well as the County Clerk. AB 2245 essentially requires cities to examine the same environmental impacts for bike lane projects as under CEQA, but in a much more streamlined and cost-effective fashion. Bike lane projects that languish in the environmental review process for up to two years could gain local clearance and exemption in a matter of months under AB 2245.

We’re thrilled about what this bill’s passage could mean for the timely and efficient implementation of bike lanes throughout the state and we urge both the Senate and the Governor’s Office to enact this legislation. To show your support for the bill, contact your state senator today.