The top priority for California bicycle advocates this year? To ensure state funding for biking and walking gets better, not worse.
That’s according to California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike) President Dave Snyder, who recently spoke with Streetsblog to lay out the organization’s goals and strategies in its 2013 legislative agenda, both in the capitol and across the state.
While CalBike’s priorities include a variety of reforms and improvements, the largest concern is threats and opportunities to bicycle and pedestrian funding posed by Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget. “Our biggest goal remains to influence the state budget, and see it move forward in a good way,” Snyder said.
The Governor combined bicycle and pedestrian funding into one “active transportation” category for next year’s budget, a change from how budgeting had been accomplished in the past. On one hand, the Governor promises to streamline the application process for these projects. On the other, the most recent draft includes a 10 percent decrease in funding for “active transportation” from last year.
But the budget isn’t the only major issue in Sacramento. One of the hottest issues in the Capitol is how to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which creates the environmental review process that development and transportation projects must undergo. In the last legislative session, the legislature and governor passed A.B. 2245, which created a streamlined process for many bicycle projects.
Meanwhile, some of the largest environmental groups in the state are working to reform CEQA again. Recent reports show that most CEQA lawsuits are being aimed at public projects, mixed-use development and infill projects. Rather than look for a sponsor for new bicycle reforms, Snyder is working with those groups to change the legislation to make it easier and easier for cities to embrace and implement bicycle projects.
Specifically, CalBike wants to see a streamlined process for connected, “community-wide” networks of “low-stress” bicycle infrastructure such as separated bike lanes, and bicycle boulevards that make getting anywhere within a city by an convenient, comfortable experience. “We want to make it easy for people to choose to ride a bicycle, and you can only do that if they believe it’s going to be safe and easy to get where they need to go,” says Snyder. “Our current laws can make it hard to build a system that does that.”
In addition to reforming CEQA, Snyder said Calbike also strives to update Caltrans’ Design Guidelines, which has a strong influence on what types of bicycle infrastructure cities are willing to put in. When cities don’t follow established street design standards, cities can be held liable for crashes that occur on those streets. While Caltrans guides don’t ban cycle tracks (i.e. separated bike lanes), they don’t endorse them, either. That creates enough confusion to prevent many cities from using them, said Chris Kidd, a new CalBike board member.