How CalBike Quietly Pulls the Levers of Power in Sacramento
Each year, CalBike sponsors legislation to make our streets safer and help more Californians choose active transportation. The bills sponsored by state Senators and Assemblymembers are the focus of significant discussion and advocacy, and we ask our supporters to email their representatives and the governor to build support.
Legislative initiatives are essential for advancing the cause, and we will certainly ask you to send emails in support of active transportation and safety legislation this year. But legislation is the tip of the iceberg for CalBike’s advocacy. The work we do out of the spotlight and without a lot of fanfare often has the biggest impact. We meet with officials at Caltrans and other agencies to change regulations and help craft new programs to support biking. We advocate for more funding for active transportation. This effort has led to a doubling of the Active Transportation Program budget and, this year, we might see that figure triple (though perhaps a temporary increase).
In 2022, CalBike plans to pursue several exciting initiatives to increase funding and access for people on bikes. Here’s a preview.
But first, some facts about advocating for change in California
California is one of only 10 states with full-time legislatures. Our state is the most populous of the 50 states, and our economy would be the fifth-largest in the world if we were a country, ranking just above the UK. All of which is to say that doing advocacy in Sacramento is more like pulling the levers of a national government than a state legislature.
CalBike is California’s only statewide nonprofit bicycle advocacy organization, and we are the little engine that could. With a handful of full-time and part-time staffers and help from our members and supporters, we stand for the interests of people who bike to make active transportation a safe choice for all Californians.
Each year, we build on our accomplishments to increase momentum for bicycling, and we expect 2022 to be a big year for progress toward a safer, more joyful, and more equitable California.
The enormous impact of the budget for better biking
Funding for biking and walking infrastructure is crucial to creating safe neighborhoods where active transportation is an easy choice. You may have experienced this when your community was able to build a new bike route or protected bikeway thanks to state funds.
Each funding cycle, the ATP receives hundreds of project proposals. There were so many excellent projects in the latest round that the funding ran out before all of the higher-scoring proposals were funded. CalBike advocated for more funding to build those shovel-ready projects in the 2021/22 budget. Although $500 million was approved initially, the money was pulled back because of a budget impasse between the governor and the legislature.
But budget discussions are back on, and CalBike is now advocating for $2 billion for bikes. So far, the governor’s budget proposal includes an additional $600 million: $500 million for the ATP, on top of about $230 in regular funding, plus $100 million dedicated to active transportation improvements in the Highway Safety Improvement Program.
We’re not giving up on the additional $1.4 billion we want for walking and biking in this year’s budget. CalBike has proposed $500 million for 15-minute neighborhoods, as promised by the governor in his veto statement for AB 1147. We’d also like to see funding for connected bikeway networks and separated bicycle highways.
If California is serious about mitigating climate change, its budget priorities need to reflect that. CalBike is working hard to move the needle on active transportation funding.
Creating an equitable e-bike affordability program
In 2021, with help from our supporters and allies, CalBike won $10 million in funding for an e-bike affordability program. Electric bikes open bicycling as everyday transportation to a broader group of people, but the steep price tag can be a barrier. The program, which will start in July 2022, will offer vouchers to low-income Californians to help them purchase e-bikes. CalBike is working with CARB, which will administer the program the ensure that the model is equitable and accessible. We hope for a successful launch to demonstrate that e-bike subsidies are just as popular as electric vehicle rebates so that the program will get ongoing funding.
Advocating for a better way to use safety funding
In addition to pushing for more money for biking, CalBike also works with agencies to better use the funding they already have.
For example, the California Office of Traffic Safety gives money to local police departments to support Vision Zero. Unfortunately, police departments often use that money to target and ticket people who ride bikes. CalBike is working with OTS to revise its policies, so Vision Zero funding goes to projects that genuinely make streets safer for people biking and walking, rather than harassing bicyclists.
We are also working with HSIP to define the safety elements of highway projects more clearly.
Continuing to push toward decriminalization of commonsense biking and walking
The governor vetoed CalBike’s bills to legalize the bicycle safety stop and end penalties for safe street crossings, but our campaigns for those bills built a groundswell of support for decriminalization. We’ll be building on that momentum in 2022 (and beyond) and continue to work with our allies on critical issues of traffic safety and police overenforcement. We hope to have more to share with you about those efforts later this year.
Working toward bike-share equity
Bike and scooter sharing systems are a terrific solution for last-mile (and often longer) transit and filling gaps in our public transportation systems. However, the costs for some private systems have become unaffordable for many users due to price hikes. And, if cities concentrate micromobility options in wealthier neighborhoods, they miss out on an excellent opportunity to increase transit equity.
CalBike will work toward equity in micromobility in 2022 by advocating for public transit agencies to add bike-share to their offerings, allowing passengers to use transfers and pay fares comparable to other forms of transit. We are also working with a researcher from UC Davis on a study of equity in micromobility. We think that will help move California toward more equitable and sustainable bike and scooter sharing.
A planning change that will make biking more practical
One critical thing to make biking a practical transportation choice is a secure place to park your bike. CalBike is working with other advocates and the California Department of Community Services and Development to develop guidelines for new housing that will require new apartment buildings to include bike parking.
We might not ask you to sign a petition or send an email about these initiatives but look for updates on these vital advocacy projects that could have big effects in communities across California.
Bringing advocates and decision-makers together at the California Bicycle Summit
Every two years, CalBike hosts the California Bicycle Summit. The event brings together people who care about better biking from around the state to share ideas, network, learn, and have a little fun, too. We’ll have 32 breakout sessions, plus bike rides, a bicycle movie festival, and more. The Summit will be held in beautiful Uptown Oakland on April 6-9, 2022. Registration is open. We hope to see you there!