Some of the most significant work to further better biking, active transportation, and healthy communities in California happens out of the spotlight. CalBike Insider shines the light on some of these critical developments in Sacramento and beyond.
Fending Off an Attack on Shared Bikes and Scooters
Shared bikes and scooters are under attack, again. Last year, CalBike defeated a bill that would have imposed an unprecedented insurance requirement on providers of shared mobility services. The cost of the insurance mandate was so steep it would have put them out of business. By marshaling a coalition of environmental organizations to oppose the bill, we got that provision removed at the last minute.
Assembly Bill 371 has revived this same bad idea. The bill requires providers to carry $1 million in insurance to cover the liability of a user who injures another party. It includes another provision that is a good idea: requiring providers to have identification Braille markings on scooters and shared bikes so that vision-impaired people can report dangerously parked devices. But there will be no shared bikes and scooters if the bill passes with the insurance provision intact.
The insurance requirement will apply to private providers like Lyft as well as public shared mobility operators like LA Metro and nonprofit services like many bicycle libraries around the state. It would put them all out of the shared micromobility business and kill this promising low-impact, low-cost transportation mode. This comes just when we need it the most and when bikeshare systems are reporting record ridership.
The Assembly Transportation Committee didn’t hear the bill, so AB 371 passed the Assembly without much education of the legislators about the bill’s impact. CalBike, along with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, has met with Senator Lena A. Gonzalez, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, to urge her to call the bill to her committee hears this bill. That will be our best chance to remove the micromobility-killing insurance requirements.
Ending Car Parking Mandates in New Buildings
AB 1401 (Friedman) would end minimum car parking requirements for new buildings within a half-mile of transit. This legislation is an excellent example of the intersection of housing, biking, and walking issues. CalBike supports this excellent bill.
People who live near transit hubs can often commute without cars. In walkable, bikeable neighborhoods, like the 15-minute cities envisioned by AB 1147, residents can do all or most of their errands car-free as well. Yet many cities require new buildings to include at least a minimum number of parking spaces, often one per unit or more. Worse, some buildings link each housing unit to a parking space, so people without cars are forced to pay extra for an amenity they don’t need.
Parking minimums drive up the cost of construction, adding an average of $24,000 – $34,000 to the cost to build a unit, according to UCLA Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup. Plus, they waste valuable space that could be used to add more units and create the kind of density that creates vibrant neighborhoods and reduces carbon footprints.
By making residents face the actual costs of parking, reducing parking minimums incentivizes people to use other transit modes. That’s good for the climate, and fewer cars will make the roads safer for people biking and walking.
It’s hard to imagine anyone opposing legislation that will make housing cheaper and more plentiful in California, but forces are working against the Parking Minimum Reduction Bill. Livable California, a NIMBY group, is working against the bill because, well — we need more cars or something.
CalBike will be on the side of those working to pass this vital legislation, which will come up for a vote in the Assembly very soon.
Reform the MUTCD
Now we step deep into the weeds for a topic that is as important as it is obscure to all but the most loyal transportation nerds: the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The MUTCD, produced by the Federal Highway Administration, is the governing document for traffic engineers around the country. If a road striping scheme or intersection treatment is not in the MUTCD, it’s hard to convince public works departments to put it on the street.
Historically, this design manual has emphasized safety and convenience for motorists traveling at high speeds. It has been slow to include elements to make the streets safer for people who bike and walk. A draft of the 11th edition of the MUTCD is currently accepting public comment. Despite a climate crisis and a historic surge in biking and walking over the past year and despite NACTO providing a roadmap for how to do bike- and pedestrian-friendly street design, the MUTCD update is still far too car-centric.
CalBike has signed onto a letter along with several other active transportation organizations. The text of our sign-on letter is below. If you’d like to advocate for a more bike-friendly road manual, People for Bikes has an action page that lets you easily send a comment letter.