Complete Streets Clears an Important Milestone
The Complete Streets for Active Living Bill is moving forward after a long and contentious hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee. Thanks to unwavering commitment by our team and the bill’s author, Senator Scott Wiener, SB 127 the bill passed on a 9-3 vote and will move to the Senate floor in May with its strongest provisions intact.
SB 127 addresses the safety problems on major streets in cities across California that are owned and controlled by Caltrans. They are considered state highways, but they are very different from separated freeways. They run through residential and commercial districts, past parks and schools. Yet Caltrans manages these streets with the priority of moving cars fast, not the safety or livability for the people in the community.
“This is a very big victory for us,” says CalBike senior policy advocate Linda Khamoushian. “Now, we’re in full forward movement.”
Pacific Coast Highway blocks bikes from beach access
The Pacific Coast Highway is a lovely route along the beach in many Southern California cities. But, since it’s controlled by Caltrans, sections like the bridge over Anaheim Bay give provide bike facilities that are poorly designed and dangerous to ride.
Rock Miller is a bikeway designer who designed some of the first Class IV protected bike lanes in California. When he was tasked with making the bridge more friendly to bike riders, he rode it himself.
“The bridge has bike lanes on it, but the traffic travels at 65 mph+. The bike lanes are very narrow,” Miller says. “It’s about as scared as I’ve ever been bike riding.” Given the constraints of the project, a solution has been elusive.
Miller sees outmoded Caltrans standards as part of the problem. “They still aren’t comfortable with a lane as narrow as a city would implement,” he says. He adds that, while Caltrans is part of groups setting state policies about Complete Streets, “they’re not applying them to their own facilities.”
The Complete Streets for Active Living Bill will fix that.
The goal of the Complete Streets for Active Living Bill
Caltrans’ own policy has long required the department to “consider” including accommodations for bike and pedestrian access. Unfortunately, Caltrans planners routinely consider, and then quickly dismiss, such upgrades. Because there’s no transparency in Caltrans’ planning process, advocates can’t see and respond to the agency’s objections to creating Complete Streets.
SB 127 will bring accountability and transparency to the Caltrans planning and implementation process for the parts of state highways that actually serve as local streets. This important bill will force Caltrans to expand its focus beyond auto and truck traffic at a faster rate than is currently underway. It expands the definition of safety safety to include protection for the most vulnerable road users: pedestrians and bicyclists. It also allows for more stakeholder engagement on each SHOPP project in order to ensure the community’s input is sufficiently accounted for from project scoping and design to implementation.
What’s next for the Complete Streets bill?
“We were able to preserve the strength of the bill through the intensive Policy Committee process,” Khamoushian says. “It’s still uphill. It’s like getting to base camp – now we have to climb the hill.”
As the bill moves on to the Senate Appropriations Committee where the fiscal impact will be assessed, and then onto the Senate Floor for a full Senate vote, CalBike is working with legislators and our advocacy partners, California Walks, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and the American Heart Association on next steps.
What you can do to support Complete Streets
Getting SB 127 out of committee was an important first step, but there is much more work to do to bring Complete Streets to all city streets. Here’s how you can help:
- Call your state senator and ask them to support SB 127. Explain why this bill is important to you. You can find your state representatives here.
- Your experiences help us tell the story of why SB 127 is so crucial. What is it like to ride the state route or routes that run through your city? What changes are needed? How would those changes benefit your city? Send your stories to email@example.com.
- Sign our petition to support Complete Streets.
Find out more about CalBike’s Complete Streets initiative and read the text of SB 127.