Protected Bikeways Act Opens Door to the Bicycle Bliss We’ve Dreamed Of
A growing cohort of advocates, along with major companies that are concerned about their employees’ ability to bike to work, are beginning to emphasize that we need complete bike networks to truly enable more people to bike. As I reported in my reflections on the Pittsburgh bike conference, cutting-edge bike planning doesn’t just look at improving a street segment, it looks at how destinations are conveniently connected by safe, low-traffic-stress routes.
The term “low traffic stress” refers to trips where bicyclists have little interaction with cars and where, when they do share a roadway with cars, those cars are moving slowly, and bicycles have the right-of-way in clearly defined zones. A “low traffic stress” trip is one that most adults would feel comfortable making on a bike. This kind of trip requires protected bike lanes that are now legalized and encouraged by the California Department of Transportation, thanks to AB 1193.
Now that such networks are easier to build, what can California do to encourage their development? That’s the $8 billion question, and it’s at the top of our Sacramento agenda — starting now. Do we need a special fund designated for bike networks, modeled after the federal Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program that provided $25 million to four communities to build bike/ped networks? Do we need to encourage campaigns like Toronto’s #minimumgrid campaign that demands political support for 100 km of protected bike lanes and 100 km of bike boulevards by 2018? Building such networks will require more money than our political leaders have been willing to invest in bicycling, but still a bargain for the benefit compared to every other expenditure among the $24 billion spent on transportation in California every year.
This month, we’re meeting with legislators to find allies for a campaign to incentivize more bike network funding. We’ll also lead some webinars to develop consensus priorities among our grassroots base and our statewide allies. By January, we should have a campaign designed to win more funding for bike networks and more communities in California can look forward to the benefits of health, safety, and prosperity that come with more bicycling.