CalBike’s policy team is often asked this question—how many jurisdictions across the state have invested in robust community planning for walk and bike facilities? And the follow up—how much would it cost to build all the high priority projects that cities and counties have identified in those plans? A sum of the total cost statewide to build out bike and walk networks in every neighborhood would be very powerful, and would demonstrate the shortfall of current funding streams dedicated to walking and bicycling.
In early 2017 our policy intern Lydia Davenport set out on a massive project to help answer these questions, and the result is our newly-released California Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Inventory. Lydia spent six months doing online searches, emailing, and calling the 58 counties and 482 cities in California to identify which had plans, how recently they were adopted or updated, and whether the plans included cost estimates for what it would take to build out all the projects in the plan. Lydia then catalogued all this information in a database. Here’s a few highlights:
- 276 out of the 482 cities have active transportation plans, with 16 more currently in the draft or planning stages.
- 146 of those city plans have been adopted or updated in the last 5 years.
- 194 city plans include a complete cost estimate for building out the projects in the plan.
- 46 out of 58 counties have plans, and 4 are currently in the draft or planning stages.
- 30 of those county plans have been adopted or updated in the last 5 years.
- Only 28 of the county plans include a cost estimate for building out the plan.
This analysis clearly shows that there is a significant need for more and better planning. Robust planning that is informed by local residents is critical for developing good, effective projects that people will embrace and use once they are built. When cities and counties adopt a bike and pedestrian plan they often show a strong commitment to funding and building the identified projects, and to increasing walking and bicycling. Planning is also a requirement to be eligible for many competitive grant programs, so jurisdictions that haven’t developed a plan will struggle to find funding when their residents demand better facilities.
Here at CalBike we are particularly concerned about identifying those planning gaps, and finding ways to help underserved cities and neighborhoods that don’t have plans. Now that we have this inventory of communities with and without plans, we can support local advocacy efforts where they are needed most to develop, update, and build out a plan.
It’s also very important that the plans are current and not outdated. Local support for a project will shift if too many years pass between planning and building a project, and facility design standards are evolving and improving rapidly as more cities expand their bike networks. For example, Class IV bikeways—also called “protected bike lanes”—weren’t a legal facility based on Caltrans standards until 2014. Plans that pre-date 2014 more than likely don’t include any protected bike lanes, even though we know today that they are preferred by the average person bicycling on high speed and high volume streets because they provide a physical buffer from traffic.
Unfortunately this project did not help us answer the question about the total statewide need for funding to build out walk and bike networks in every neighborhood. Fewer than half of the plans that exist contain cost estimates that are accurate or current enough to be useful in estimating the funding need. However, we are working on other creative methods to estimate the statewide need, such as by looking at cities that do have accurate up-to-date cost estimates in their plans and using those as a basis for cities of comparable size. Stay tuned for more on this work in the near future.
We’re excited to release our California Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Inventory. As a living resource, it will need to be updated regularly as new plans are created and existing plans are revised. With your help, we can keep the inventory current and accurate. Please check that we have current and accurate information for your city and county, and let us know when we should update it.