CA Senate Committee to Consider Protected Bike Lanes Bill Tomorrow

A key hearing will be held in Sacramento tomorrow on legislation that would pave the way for more California cities to build protected bike lanes, also known as “cycle tracks.”

Legislation by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-SF) aims to make protected bike lanes, such as this one in Long Beach, more common throughout California. Photo: Gary Kavanagh

Currently the California Highway Design Manual does not allow protected bike lanes, and state law requires local jurisdictions to follow Caltrans specifications for bicycle facilities on all roads, not just state-controlled highways. No such requirement exists for any other type of street infrastucture — just bicycle facilities.

A.B. 1193, the “Safe Routes for Urban Cyclists,” from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would require Caltrans to develop standards for bike lanes that are physically separated from motor traffic. At the same time, the bill would permit cities to opt out of using Caltrans specifications for bike facilities on local streets and roads.

The legislation follows the spirit of a recommendation from the recent State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) report on Caltrans that Caltrans “support, or propose if no bill is forthcoming, legislation to end the archaic practice of imposing state rules on local streets for bicycle facilities.”

Caltrans recently complied with another SSTI recommendation when it endorsed design guidelines for bicycle infrastructure from the National Association of City Transportation Officials. However, while that endorsement adds some tools to the toolkit for planners, the NACTO guidelines are not yet included in the California Highway Design Manual, which local jurisdictions are still bound to.

While it seems this shouldn’t be a controversial bill, given the mounting evidence that protected bike lanes reduce bike crashes and increase bicycle ridership [PDF], there is still some resistance to them.

The bill has seen opposition from vehicular cycling advocates, who believe that building separate lanes for bikes could lead to requirements that bicyclists to use them, despite amendments to address that concern. The California League of Cities also opposes the bill on the grounds that removing Caltrans oversight would shift liability to local jurisdictions.

AB 1193 is sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition, which argues in a petition, “We need miles and miles of better bikeways that provide physical barriers from fast car traffic and are designed to be inviting for all users from ages 8 to 80.”

The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee will take up the bill at its hearing on Thursday in Sacramento.