Although it’s only April, it’s already clear that conversations around bikes and biking are more connected than ever to intersecting issues like transportation justice, climate change, bicycle infrastructure, shared mobility, and the connections between transportation policy and California’s housing crisis, and continue to shape policy, activism, and innovation. As the California Bicycle Coalition celebrates our 25th year, we couldn’t be more excited to bring activists, educators, advocates, elected officials, and industry leaders together to talk about these intersections for 3 days and nights of workshops, rides, plenaries, and more at the 2019 California Bicycle Summit in Los Angeles.
CalBike’s legislative agenda became more clear on Friday, the deadline to introduce new bills in the California Assembly and Senate.
Topping our agenda is the Complete Streets for Active Living bill (SB 127-Wiener) that would require Caltrans to implement safety improvements like protected bike lanes and sidewalks every time they repave or rebuild a state-owned road. The bill is similar to ones introduced in previous years but deferred due to a focus on defending new transportation investments that were threatened by Proposition 6 last year. If it passes, it will be the strongest complete streets requirement in the nation. Learn more on our campaign page, and sign the petition if you haven’t yet.
We are also sponsoring a bill that could be called Clear Language for Clear Safety (AB 697-Ting) that rewords existing code to clarify the legal right of someone on a bicycle to position themselves in the center of a travel lane if necessary for safety. Currently, the law requires people on bikes to ride “as far to the right as practicable” but exempts them from that requirement in “lanes that are too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to share side-by-side,” a circumstance that exists most of the time on city streets. AB 697 doesn’t change legal rights and responsibilities but it flips the description of those rights and responsibilities by clarifying a bike rider’s right to take the full lane unless it is wide enough to share.
Our e-bike agenda is advanced by our bill (SB 400-Umberg) to include e-bikes as a mobility option in state scrap-and-replace programs that provide vouchers when people turn in their old polluting cars for new electric cars, transit, or car-sharing, but not bike sharing or electric bikes… yet. Our e-bike agenda also includes a major budget ask: getting e-bike included in California’s purchase incentive program for electric vehicles.
Our other big budget ask is for some initial funding for our proposed bikeway network program.
CalBike is working with our local partners, state and national environmental groups, and representatives from the scooter industry to craft language for a bill (AB 1112-Friedman) that would regulate shared scooters in order to protect local authority to manage their streets while encouraging this promising micromobility transportation option.
We are also working with Assemblymember Robert Rivas to address a bikeway design issue to compel Caltrans to support designs that allow someone on a bike to travel straight through a right turn lane. Often, occupying the left portion a right turn lane is the correct lane positioning but unless the design enables it the maneuver is illegal, and Caltrans design officials are refusing to provide design guidance because the maneuver is illegal.
All of the bills we are sponsoring, watching, and supporting and opposing are tracked on our Legislative Watch page.
Almost a year after the first BIPOC Mobility Justice Lab in Los Angeles, CalBike co-organized a second gathering in January of stakeholders, advocates, and representatives of a broad group of Los Angeles-area community organizations to provide the opportunity and space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to collaborate on local and state transportation and mobility justice issues. This time led by People for Mobility Justice, the convening focused on relationship-building, power-building trainings and exercises, and strategizing around statewide and Los Angeles specific policy and programming possibilities: thinking beyond policing, disability justice, and government fiduciary responsibility.
The ongoing BIPOC Lab events implement two important and related parts of our strategic plan: prioritizing marginalized communities in transportation spending and policy decisions, and strengthening the power of the transportation justice movement. Ultimately, our success in Sacramento—to advocate for equitable, inclusive, and prosperous communities in which safe and healthy biking can be a key element—is dependent on the influence and power of local organizations and movements that can apply pressure from below to hold our state decision makers accountable. It was clear this time around local organizations, advocates, and activists have continued their work and built on their experiences at our last meeting and are considerably more prepared to tackle mobility injustices, at both the state-level and in the ongoing local struggles that are not just unique to Los Angeles but also align with many local struggles across the state.
What sets these BIPOC labs apart from other transportation advocacy convenings are the laboratories’ hyper focus on the way that forms of race, gender, and sexual exclusions are embedded features of our statewide mobility systems. The framework for these discussions and strategy sessions is rooted in both historical and present manifestations of colonialism and white supremacy that highlights particular forms of Indigenous and Black dispossession of land and resources. This bold frame opens up new opportunities to engage with and center government policy for historically discriminated groups while directly integrating the lived experiences of our state’s most marginalized residents.
We look forward to these transformative strategic meetings, ongoing and stronger partnerships, and substantive action in the months ahead!
January 17, 2019
Contact: Linda Khamoushian, Senior Policy Advocate
San Francisco, CA – This week the California Bicycle Coalition, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), and their coalition partners California Walks, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and the American Heart Association joined surgeons from Zuckerberg General Hospital and the families of victims of traffic violence to announce the introduction of Senate Bill 127 in the California legislature, an effort aimed at making state-owned roads safer for people biking, walking, and taking transit.
Although Caltrans has already adopted guidelines that require planners to consider adding safer sidewalks, visible crosswalks, and protected bike lanes as they plan projects, CalBike’s Senior Policy Advocate Linda Khamoushian says this bill would go much farther by requiring safety improvements whenever roads are repaved or rehabilitated.
“Every day, poor street design causes hundreds of avoidable injuries and deaths on our roads. Some of the most dangerous places to walk and bike are those maintained and managed by the state, streets that Caltrans calls “highways” but we call home, places lined with small businesses, schools, senior centers, and places of worship,” said Khamoushian.
She listed several examples of state highways that serve as local streets: Van Ness Avenue and 19th Avenue in San Francisco, Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles, California Street in Redding, 23rd and 24th street in Bakersfield, and Ashby Blvd in Berkeley.
SB 127 would still allow for exceptions to the requirement where bike facilities weren’t appropriate, but by flipping the default action, local agencies and advocates will have a much better chance of winning the safety improvements desperately needed to provide healthy and affordable transportation options for all Californians, especially marginalized and low-income communities who are least likely to own cars.
Their effort looks to capitalize on the public’s interest in improving California’s transportation infrastructure following the resounding defeat of Prop 6 and the results of a statewide poll commissioned by CalBike finding that 8 in 10 California voters across the state and across all major political and demographic groups support building “complete streets” — roads designed to be safe for people walking or biking as well as driving.
“Voters want safer streets and they want efficient government. SB 127 does both by making sure that safety improvements are made in the course of regular repaving projects,” said Dave Snyder, CalBike’s Executive Director.
“We need to make sure that these streets are safe for all users,” said Senator Wiener. “There are city streets that are really state highways that don’t even have sidewalks.”
The California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike) is California’s state-level bicycle advocacy organization, advocating for equitable, inclusive, and prosperous communities where bicycling helps to enable all Californians to lead healthy and joyful lives. Learn more about CalBike at www.calbike.org.
CalBike and allies give the new Governor a hard-hitting reality check about the California Transportation Commission he’s inheriting, and make some recommendations for appointments that would change the direction of the agency that controls billions of dollars in annual spending.
For just the second time, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) and the California Transportation Commission (CTC) held a joint session to discuss potential alignment in transportation decision-making and investments. While CalBike and our partners who work closely with these powerful agencies remain hopeful, we’re concerned that December’s meeting saw abundant discussion…and meager alignment.
Central to this 2nd joint meeting’s agenda was the Air Resources Board’s newly-released jarring and unambiguous report in response to Senate Bill 150, analyzing why our state is failing to reduce greenhouse gases from California’s transportation system. How did these two agencies respond to the report’s message? The ARB, with the authority to enforce policy changes to achieve that reduction in car trips, was mostly quiet. The CTC, with the power of the purse when it comes to transportation investments, was mostly defensive. The California Bicycle Coalition helped win and continue to support one of the reforms mandating these meetings, just as we’ll continue our efforts to engage, attend, and report on future meetings, because we understand the impact day-to-day advocacy can offer our state’s climate and communities.
Although reforms like the one that mandated this joint meeting are critically needed, attendance was light, and two of our state’s most important agencies essentially told an audience mainly comprised of transportation bureaucrats and a small party of advocates that joint action was complex, and little could be done about it.
We disagree, and we also remain hopeful.
The current membership of those two agencies may be unwilling to push back against the political and economic interest groups that maintain California’s climate-destroying status quo, but the winds of change are strengthening. Both agencies have taken some important steps – both individually and working in junction. But as the report bleakly lays out, these initial efforts have been unsuccessful in meeting California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.
What steps exactly has the state taken thus far? One of the report’s key findings is clear: “the overall ratio of dollars planned to be spent on roads versus on infrastructure for other modes in the largest regions of California has shown remarkably little shift”. In other words, the agencies may be making some progress in implementing robust California Climate Investments (CCI) or making a billion dollars of active transportation investments in the past five years, but these are minor solutions to a massive and urgent problem that demands significant action.
As the ARB’s damning report also spells out, goals and mandates for 2030 and beyond “will not be met without significant changes to how communities and transportation systems are planned, funded, and built.”
“We know both agencies have dedicated and hard-working staff who are effectively bettering the environment, beginning to redress a transportation system that was designed to foster environmental catastrophe and social exclusion. The recently released SB 350 report describing the potential coordinated actions they can take to ensure our most vulnerable populations have access to good and clean mobility opportunities is a great example.
“But they’ve simply refused to take the joint action needed to make the transformative change that the report makes clear is necessary to meet our climate change goals and reduce vast mobility inequities,” said Jared Sanchez, CalBike’s Senior Policy Advocate.
Refusing to take joint action in light of recent trends is essentially a statement of defeat and powerlessness, something our state’s implementing agencies are hardly known for. Approving billions of dollars of investments in our transportation system every year is hardly a feeble responsibility. As we have documented in the past, both the ARB and CTC have a long way to go, and it’s not the number of actions that they take but the quality of those actions that actually redress the systemic threats of deadly pollution, climate devastation, and entrenched mobility inequity. Sanchez also noted that the excuse heard several times at the joint meeting – that taking action to reduce the number of miles traveled in vehicles will hurt the economy – is based on the oft-repeated talking point that our transportation system is our state’s ‘engine for economic growth. This is not only a morally bankrupt argument, but one that rests on notions of outdated economic principles. Research has shown that inequity is, in fact, bad for economic growth.
CalBike is dedicated to ensuring that public attention on this issue does not dissipate and that the Legislature, leading officials, and most importantly incoming Governor Newsom make it clear that they take this report seriously. Our state cannot afford to lapse into a paralysis of indecision and wait for the next dire report to scare us before drifting once again into apathy and inaction.
We challenge the notion that the ARB and CTC can do little of substance. They have wide-ranging authority that has too often been used to support the bottom line of private industry in the name of economic progress – whether it’s the freight and goods movement, oil and natural gas, automobile, or the always-alluring emergent technology industries. While the needs of the privileged are catered to, it’s already been shown both agencies are clearly failing to meet the basic needs of the most marginalized communities in California.
Will this most recent SB 150 report impress upon both agencies the critical need to act now? Our regulators are well aware of the data suggesting that “more and accelerated action is critical for public health, equity, economic, and climate success” within our transportation sector. The report, and this second meeting, highlight the many ways that mobility shapes climate change and inequality in our state. The enduring actions and inactions shape the daily lives of not just the Californians today, but those of generations to come. CalBike will continue to advocate for California’s transportation policies to better serve all Californians, and we’ll update you as the state’s Air Resources Board and Transportation Commission continue their invaluable first steps at collaboration.
E-bikes caused a buzz on the agenda at the California Transportation Commission meeting last Wednesday in Riverside, where CalBike recruited Jonathan Weinert of Bosch, a longtime supporter, to make a presentation and provide bikes for commissioners to ride to help illustrate the many transportation needs that electric bikes can meet.
Weinert presented on the development of electric bicycles and exciting technological developments in the field, and presented new research on their use in North America indicating that e-bikes are replacing car trips more than any other kind of trip. The study found that e-bike users are nearly twice as likely to be women as standard bike riders, a statistic greeted with enthusiasm by a number of commissioners.
Our co-presentation to the California Transportation Commission: The Rise of E-Bikes in the US
Commissioners were more engaged with this topic than with most others on the agenda, pressing Wienert and CalBike Executive Director Dave Snyder about electric bicycle technology and research about their use. By the end of the presentation, comments, and questions, commissioners were wondering why the state wasn’t doing more to get e-bikes into the hands of Californians.
One of the more encouraging indications to come from the last meeting of the year is that commissioners see some of the potential CalBike does in electric bicycles in providing healthy and sustainable transportation options to the communities that most need them. Ex-officio member Jim Frazier, Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, asked about the incorporation of e-bikes into the clean vehicle and electric car subsidization efforts the committee’s already engaged in, and we certainly agree with the assembly-member that a bill to expand e-bike access with Air Resources Board subsidies is a great idea (reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in working with us on legislation!)
The California Bicycle Coalition will continue to advocate for the inclusion of green, accessible mobility options like e-bikes as our state shapes tomorrow’s transportation system and its outcomes.