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Caltrans Goals: Triple Biking, Double Walking and Transit by 2020

bikes&peds

Caltrans’ new Strategic Management Plan sets a goal to triple bike trips and double walking trips in the next five years. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Caltrans released its new Strategic Management Plan [PDF], and it includes priorities and performance targets that show the department is serious about reforming itself.

The new plan includes active transportation and Vision Zero, within its priority number one, “Safety and Health.” It also cites a goal of tripling bicycle mode share and doubling walking and transit mode share by 2020–that means not just the number of trips, but the percentage of total trips in California.

This is a major turnaround for the state DOT, which in the past has focused on motorist safety.

The mode share target is called out under the goal of “Sustainability, Livability, and Economy.” That broad goal also includes lowering vehicle miles traveled (15 percent by 2020) and reducing the percentage of greenhouse gases from transportation (to match current and proposed state mandates).

The Strategic Management Plan is an in-house document, meant to guide decisions made by planners and engineers in the course of planning and completing projects statewide. It stems from the new Caltrans mission, to provide “a safe, sustainable, integrated, and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability.” The new mission statement was a response to harsh criticism of the department’s old way of doing things.

“This is a pretty major shift for the department,” said Steven Cliff, newly appointed Assistant Director of Sustainability, and leader of one of the teams working on the plan. “We’ve been working hard to develop new metrics which speak to what we’ve been doing the last couple of years, with our new mission, vision, and goals.”

“It’s meant to be our plan for how we manage our work going forward.”

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Caltrans: Don’t Forget, California’s Highways Were First Built for Bicycles

“Did you know the movement to create a state highway system came not from automobile drivers or manufacturers, but bicyclists?”

As part of Caltrans’ 125th Anniversary, the agency is creating a video series about the history of the state’s agency. The first video highlights Caltrans’ current shift away from auto-centric planning to multimodal planning by acknowledging that the push for safe bicycling in California actually predates the state’s transportation agency.

In the video Caltrans director Malcolm Dougherty defends the agency’s history as “trying to move people and moving goods” before getting into how exciting the new plan for multimodal planning is.

“We need to be looking at transportation a little bit differently than we did in the past. It needs to be a multimodal, integrated transportation system so that people can move around the state as efficiently as possible,” says Dougherty, ending his interview. Read more…

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Mandatory Helmet Bill Is Gutted: Now Asks for Study

Now Damien doesn't have to burn this picture. Photo: Gary Kavanagh

Now Damien doesn’t have to burn this picture. Photo: Gary Kavanagh

The mandatory bicycle helmet bill, Senator Carol Liu’s Senate Bill 192, has been dropped—or rather amended. Instead of requiring bicyclists to wear helmets, it calls on the Office of Traffic Safety to conduct a study of bicycle helmet use.

Liu’s office released a statement, first reported by former Streetsblog San Francisco editor Bryan Goebel, explaining the decision.

The bill was amended to create a comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use in California and evaluate the potential safety benefits of a mandatory helmet law. Carol believes in consensus-driven policy, and there were too many conflicting opinions about helmet use. A study will provide the data needed to guide us to the next step.

This is good news, on many fronts. There is no more threat of a mandatory helmet bill, which would have had all kinds of unintended consequences for bicycling in California. The silly requirement for bicyclists to wear high-visibility gear after dusk is also gone. And a study of bicycle helmet use may actually get people to stop harping on the subject of helmetless bicyclists.

“CalBike asked her to pull the bill,” said Dave Snyder, of the California Bicycle Coalition.
“I think [Senator Liu] expected more support from the bicycle community, but instead she got near unanimous opposition.”

Another possible benefit of a study of bicycle  helmet use: this could be the right time to revisit the unhelpful youth helmet law.

Via Streetsblog California
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CA’s Draft Transportation Plan Says Drive Less, Stop Expanding Hwys

The California Transportation Plan 2040 [PDF], currently in draft form, officially recognizes what many have been saying for a long time: the state cannot keep building highways, and its residents cannot keep driving as much as they do now, if California is going to reach its own climate change goals.

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A recent workshop in Oakland presented the California Transportation Plan 2040 to all interested parties.

Caltrans is currently in the process of gathering public input on its update to the statewide long-range transportation plan, which lays out state priorities and goals for transportation, and suggest ways of reaching them. Like many state planning documents, it’s big, somewhat vague, contains no specific projects, and covers a lot of ground.

Yet it could be the plan that changes the way California builds its transportation system. That is, if it gets support from those who see its potential, and if it doesn’t get put away on a shelf somewhere and forgotten.

What makes this plan different from previous statewide transportation plans is that it is the first one completed under S.B. 391, which requires it to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions of elements in the plan. In doing so, the document spells out what many people don’t want to hear: that California, often considered a leader in climate change efforts, will fall far short of its climate change goals if it keeps building and widening highways, encouraging Californians to continue driving cars the way they do now.

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 4.45.42 PM

The CTP analyzed three progressively more ambitious scenarios to measure how effectively they meet state climate goals. Only the third one makes it.

The plan reaches this conclusion after analyzing the greenhouse gas emissions that are likely to result from three separate scenarios:

  • Scenario 1 incorporates all of the current state and regional transportation plans, including adopted Sustainable Communities Strategies plus statewide aviation, freight, rail, and transit plans.
  • Scenario 2 assumes everything in the first scenario, plus a host of other suggested recommendations including road pricing, increasing carpooling and car sharing, better and more transit, doubling bike and pedestrian mode shares, increasing the number of HOV lanes and changing carpool requirements to three or more people statewide, and various operational efficiency measures from other state plans.
  • Scenario 3 assumes everything in the first two scenarios, plus converting almost the entire fleet of vehicles in California to zero- and low-emission, fuel-efficient vehicles.

Only with the third, most ambitious, scenario will California be able to reach its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, according to the calculations in the plan.

Read more…

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Welcome to Streetsblog California

It’s been over seven years since I wrote the “Welcome to LA Streetsblog” post at the first non-New York Streetsblog site. A lot has changed in those seven years. After over a century of car-centric planning, the City of Angels is pedaling away from its reputation as the “car-culture capitol of the world.”

Screen-Shot-2015-02-11-at-10.17.03-AMAs I type these sentences, Los Angeles is building or expanding five rail lines, is opening a two- mile-stretch of bus-only lanes on the iconic Wilshire Boulevard, and is painting bike lanes at a faster rate than even New York City.

The entire state of California is seeing a similar transformation, and now Streetsblog is expanding to cover stories throughout the state, not just those in Greater L.A., the Bay Area and the corridors of power in Sacramento. Led by the excellent writing of Melanie Curry, Streetsblog will continue to cover statewide policy and expand to cover major issues in cities large and small throughout the state.

In addition to Melanie and myself, we’ll be hiring a part-time writer to cover the Central Valley later this month. (For details on that job, click here.) We’re working on finding funding sources for Sacramento and San Diego and are looking to add “syndication partners” similar to the partners Streetsblogs in Ohio, Texas, Saint Louis and the Southeast already have.

But that can wait for tomorrow. Today we launch. Anyone interested in learning more should read our press release, after the jump.

Read more…

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California Assembly: Bill Would Allow “Traffic School” for Bicycle Violations

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A mix of students, including some who received tickets for violating the campus vehicle code, learn about bike safety in Berkeley. Photo: Bike East Bay

A bill that would allow bicyclists who are ticketed for traffic violations to reduce their fines by attending a traffic safety class was introduced in the California Assembly last week. Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco) amended A.B. 902 to repeal a provision in the vehicle code that currently prohibits such diversion programs except in the case of “minors who commit infractions not involving a motor vehicle for which no fee is charged.”

The bill, sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition, would allow local jurisdictions to create a diversion program and expand it to all bicycle riders, including adults. It could also make it possible to offer all bicyclists, ticketed or not, more opportunities to learn the rules of the road and safe bicycle handling skills.

Robert Prinz sees the bill as an opportunity to increase bicyclist safety and awareness of traffic laws. As Education Director for Bike East Bay, he’s in charge of a program that offers free classes on bike skills and safety, including everything from adult learn-to-ride to advanced street skills classes. Bike East Bay also coordinates with the University of California Berkeley police department on a campus-wide diversion program, offering classes in exchange for reduced fines for bicyclists who are ticketed on campus.

But the violations currently eligible for the reduced fines are only those that violate the campus code—such as riding through the “dismount zone” in the central plaza—not the California Vehicle Code.

“It kind of seems silly that only the campus code violations are eligible, especially when things that have a much bigger impact on safety are not included,” said Prinz. “We should be able to turn these tickets into valuable educational opportunities.”

Read more…

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Fighting Climate Change Is Not Hurting CA Economy: It’s Contributing

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Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Despite predictions that California’s climate change policies would destroy its economy, recent data seems to show that the opposite is happening.

Derek Walker, writing for the Environmental Defense Fund, points out that recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) not only show strong job growth in California, but that clean energy jobs are growing even faster than other sectors.

California, according to the BLS, added almost half a million jobs in 2014. This happened at the same time that the state has put into effect a wide range of policies to fight climate change, including placing a legal cap on greenhouse gas emissions and making industries pay for the emissions they produce.

According to Walker,

The number one argument against policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has always been that these policies will hurt economic growth. And yet… and yet… California’s experiences, reinforced by these recent job growth numbers, demonstrate that the opposite may be the truth… Moreover, we looked at numerous indicators to see how the state’s economy was doing while cap-and-trade was taking off, and our conclusion? Good, and getting better. The state’s GDP grew by over 2% in 2013, and overall job growth outpaced the national numbers.

We are also seeing evidence that much of California’s robust job growth is happening because of – rather than despite – the state’s commitment to climate change. Between 2002 and 2012, California’s clean energy jobs grew ten times as quickly as jobs in the overall economic sector.

Unpacking the numbers is a big task, and there are a lot of factors at play. California’s economy has been growing for a while, and although its unemployment rate has been improving, it’s still one of the highest in the nation. Also, climate change policies, including cap-and-trade, are relatively recent. But these latest numbers do seem to show that those policies aren’t slowing down the California economy–which is larger by far than any other state in the US.

Job growth and growth in GDP are two indicators of economic health. “A third one, which has salience to political leaders,” said Walker, “is that California has received more investment in clean energy [industries] than any other state.” Make that more than all the other states combined, according to the CleanTech Group.

Not only that, but early indications are that the climate change policies are succeeding in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more…

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120 Groups Call for More Funding for Active Transportation Program

bikesandcars

California should invest more to increase biking and walking, say community groups and advocates. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A broad coalition of organizations called today for California to increase funding for walk and bike projects. More than 120 organizations signed a petition urging the state to increase its investment in the Active Transportation Program (ATP), citing cost savings and health benefits from better bike and pedestrian infrastructure and the low level of funding currently available.

The ATP provides $300 million biannually for projects that encourage people to take trips by bike or on foot, including infrastructure (paths, lanes, sidewalks, crossings) and programs (education, safe routes to schools). In the last round, announced in the fall, many more projects applied for the program than could be funded, leaving over $800 million worth of ready-to-go projects on the table.

“We know that 20 percent of trips by Californians are on foot or by bicycle, but despite the overwhelming demand for projects that create safer streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, and pathways, the state Active Transportation Program still only receives around one percent of Caltrans’ annual budget,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller, Senior Policy Manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

The 120 organizations that have signed on so far [PDF] include community and advocacy organizations that focus on health, walking, biking, the environment, equity, and economic policy. Several cities also signed the call for more funding.

The coalition emphasizes cost savings from investing in active transportation, which are less expensive to build and require less maintenance per trip than highways. It also refers to the recent Smart Growth America report, Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, that presents data on community economic benefits from better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Read more…

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In Mostly Sharp Editorial, Times Opposes Mandatory Helmet Law

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times wrote a mostly thoughtful editorial against Senate Bill 192, Carol Liu’s proposed mandatory helmet law for bicyclists. In the Times’ opinion, there isn’t enough evidence to show that helmets make bicycle riders safer to justify changing the law.

Hear, hear.

One thing the editorial board didn’t get right: saying that “many of the objections raised by bicycling enthusiasts are laughable — such as the idea that mandatory helmets would make bicycling appear more dangerous and thus discourage people from trying it.”

All chuckling aside, there is actual data showing that mandatory bicycle helmet laws have reduced the number of people bicycling—compared to the uncertain evidence of such laws’ safety impacts, which the Times focuses on. In “Do enforced bicycle helmet laws improve public health?” Australian researcher Dorothy Robertson showed dramatic reductions in both youth (29%) and adult (42%) cycling after a mandatory helmet law was passed. In Irvine, a study found that the number of children riding bicycles decreased between four and five percent after a child’s helmet law was passed there.

Thus, the biggest argument against S.B.192 is that it would have a negative impact on the number of people bicycling in California—in direct conflict with state climate and air quality goals. Read more…

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California Says It Is Committed to Increasing Biking, Walking

CalSTA Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing Kate White testifies to the CA legislature on the benefits of encouraging walking and bicycling

CalSTA Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing Kate White testifies to the CA legislature on the benefits of encouraging walking and bicycling

CalSTA, the state agency that oversees all state transportation departments including Caltrans, is committed to improving conditions for transit, biking, and walking, according to its Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing, Kate White.

“Thirty percent of all trips in California are less than a mile,” said White, testifying at a legislative hearing yesterday in Sacramento. “We want to make bicycling or walking the default for those short trips.”

White gave her testimony at a joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing and the Assembly Committee for Environmental Quality, which was set to discuss the relationships between transportation and greenhouse gas emissions. Representatives from state agencies addressed questions about what changes need to happen for the state to reach its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

CalSTA, according to White, recognizes the importance of clean vehicles and clean fuels. “However,” she said, “our focus at the transportation agency is on the infrastructure and behavioral side of the coin. And that means improving transit, walking, biking, and housing to reduce vehicles miles traveled.” She highlighted three strategies the agency is focusing on:

  • High speed rail, which White called “the cornerstone of electrifying transportation in California.” California expects high speed rail to replace “dirty” air trips between the Bay Area and the L.A. region. The project also includes electrifying Caltrain, which will have the added benefit of doubling the capacity of the popular Bay Area rail service.
  • Supporting local transit for trips between five and a hundred miles long. The state transit account this year, said White, was for $1 billion, and the state generally contributes several hundred million dollars every year for local and regional transit.
  • Active transportation. The Active Transportation Program (ATP) is investing in projects to make safe, inviting walking and biking trips an alternative to driving, especially for trips that are less than a mile. “These represent over 30 percent of all trips, and many are unfortunately still made by automobile,” said White. “A mode shift to walking and biking not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but has many co-benefits for health, and for healthier life styles for children and families,” she added.

Read more…