In 1994, a group of everyday bicyclists founded the California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike) to empower Californians who wanted more bicycle-friendly communities. With support from the Bicycle Federation of America, they worked with political and community leaders to win more funding for bicycle infrastructure and education. In 1999, CalBike incorporated its sister organization, the California Bicycle Coalition Education Fund, to focus on charitable work supported by tax-deductible donations. In 2016, CalBike incorporated its Political Action Committee to help voters elect the most bicycle-friendly candidates.
Early policy accomplishments included, in 1997, tripling funding in the “Bicycle Lane Account” and pushing for a law that in 1999 established the nation’s first Safe Routes to School program, dedicating the unprecedented sum of $115 million for bicycle and pedestrian safety projects near California schools. CalBike successfully compelled Caltrans to adopt a strong “complete streets” policy that requires bicycling and walking to be considered in all transportation projects; legislation in 2002 extended that requirement to cities and counties throughout the state. In 2013, we pushed through the Three Feet for Safety Act, requiring motorists to give bicyclists three feet of clearance when passing; the law went into effect in 2014. That year, our Protected Bike Lanes Act made it legal to build protected bike lanes in California; since the law went into effect we have shaped state-level guidelines to encourage protected bike lanes and intersections, making Caltrans a leader in the kind of people-friendly street design that encourages bicycling among people of all ages, cultures, genders, and income levels.
Since 2003, the California Bicycle Coalition has hosted the biennial California Bicycle Summit to support bicycle advocates in local nonprofits and in government agencies and private industry. Annually for the past two decades, Calbike has organized an advocacy day in the state capital to facilitate meetings between legislators and bicycle advocates. We have organized trainings, conferences, workshops and direct support for bicycle and equity advocates, sharing best practices with local and state-level leaders.
Since 2014, we have increasingly focused on transportation justice. We have succeeded in shaping grant guidelines and priorities to ensure that a majority of state bike/walk funds go to disadvantaged communities and provided local stakeholders with training to help them access bike/walk infrastructure funding. In 2017, we launched our Walk Bike Youth Leaders Program, offering young transportation advocacy leaders’ the skills and knowledge to effectively promote sustainable transportation policy; that year we also launched a new strategic plan focusing on transportation equity.