CalBike Pushes for Protected Bike Lanes, Vulnerable User Laws in Sac

The California Bicycle Coalition held its Advocacy Day this week in the state capitol to lobby legislators on several key policy reforms to promote bicycling.

Joined by local bicycle groups from around the state and participants who finished the California Climate Ride in Sacramento, CalBike met with state legislators and staffers and urged them to support two bills currently in play: one that would codify “separated bikeways,” or protected bike lanes, into state law and another that would increase penalties for drivers who injure vulnerable road users, primarily bicyclists and pedestrians. Advocates also urged lawmakers to support increased funding for projects that promote “active transportation,” a.k.a. walking and bicycling.

At CalBike’s Advocacy Day, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) promotes his bill, A.B. 1193, which would institutionalize protected bike lanes in California. Photos: Melanie Curry

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) showed up to stump for his bill, A.B. 1193, which would require Caltrans to develop standards for protected bike lanes, also known as “cycle tracks” or “separated bikeways,” which are not currently defined by statute in California. The state’s Streets and Highways Code defines three types of bike facilities: “paths,” “lanes,” and “routes,” each of which provide bicyclists with a different level of physical separation from motor traffic, and thus a different level of comfort and safety. “Cycle tracks,” which are on-street bike lanes separated from traffic by landscaping, parking, or a wide painted divider, don’t fit easily into any of the existing categories.

Although Caltrans recently endorsed the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design Guide, which does include guidelines for creating cycle tracks, no standard for them currently exists in California law.

Protected bike lanes, common in many civilized nations, are already being built here and there in California. Long Beach and San Francisco have had them for several years, and new ones were recently opened in SF and Temple City. But these have been the result of long and arduous planning processes, and advocates hope that changing the statute will allow Caltrans and local agencies to implement them more easily.

The bill would also remove the requirement that local agencies apply the Caltrans Highway Design Manual’s design criteria to all bike facilities, even ones located on city streets and not state highways. Removing this requirement would allow city planners to rely on other criteria like the NACTO Street Design Guide.

Streetsblog will continue to cover A.B. 1193 as it moves through the legislature. The bill has already passed the State Assembly, and is currently scheduled for a hearing in the Senate next week.

Advocates also sought support for A.B. 2398, the Vulnerable Road Users Protection Act, from Marc Levine (D-San Rafael). The bill would raise the penalties when a driver is convicted of causing injury to vulnerable road users, including bicyclists and pedestrians. The idea is not only to deter reckless driving, but to spark a cultural shift away from assumption that drivers have more of a right to the road than other users.

Left to right: Jennifer Putnam, mother of slain cyclist Joshua Raine Laven, Joan Leitner, who found Joshua after he was hit, and Amelia Conlen from People Power in Santa Cruz.

Jennifer Putnam came from Massachusetts to participate in Advocacy Day in honor of her son, Joshua Raine Laven, who was hit and killed by an unknown driver two years ago while biking along Highway 1 in Santa Cruz. She was accompanied by Joan Leitner, who found Joshua the day after he was hit, while she was on a morning bike ride. “If there had been a safe place to bike along that section, he wouldn’t have had to ride there, and neither would I,” said Leitner. “It’s taken ten years to formulate a plan to fix that area; how much longer do we have to wait?”

Advocates also urged lawmakers to support increased funding for active transportation in the state budget, using incoming cap-and-trade revenues for improving infrastructure that encourages people to use zero-emission transportation options. Neither Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget not Senator Darrel Steinberg’s proposed formula for spending cap-and-trade funds [PDF] contains provisions for bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure or planning.

After a long day of meetings, several advocates joined Sacramento’s Ride of Silence to remember victims who have been killed on bikes by drivers. More than a hundred riders rode through the streets of Sacramento in complete silence, startling onlookers with their serious faces.

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The Ride of Silence pauses to remember a fallen cyclist.