Complete Streets Legislation Clears Legisalture

A Complete Street in Portland

Last week, the state legislature finally passed AB 1358, The Complete Streets Act.  This legislation would require that all modes of transportation be given equal consideration when Caltrans or any other government body in California spends funds on a road project. Other states that have passed similar legislation include Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts and Virginia.

Passage of this type of legislation is at the top of the "to do" list for bicycle and pedestrian reformers throughout the country including the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition and the California Bike Coalition

I guess state legislators know how to say "Happy Birthday."

For such a groundbreaking piece of legislation, it received scant notice in the press.  Over the last week, the only news story on A.B. 1358’s passage can be found in a Sacramento Bee editorial, which devoted one paragraph of an editorial to the legislation over the weekend.

Pedestrian safety: Assembly Bill 1358 would require cities and counties
to accommodate all users – including bicyclists, pedestrians and
transit passengers – when building new streets and highways. This
"complete streets" bill by Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco would
encourage the building of more sidewalks and bike lanes statewide. It
dovetails with the governor’s efforts to fight obesity and reduce
greenhouse pollution.

However, as with all things in Sacramento these days, this important piece of legislation is caught in the logjam created by the Governor’s insistence that he will not sign any legislation until after the legislature passes a balance budget.  However, that timeline doesn’t work for local bike advocates.  The LACBC wrote their members yesterday with instructions of how to write to Governor Schwarzengger.  Their draft letter and instructions can be found after the jump.



How to write a support letter for AB 1358 

1) Address your letter this way:      
The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor, State of California

California State Capitol Building

Sacramento, CA 95814

Fax 916-558-3160 

Re: Support: AB 1358 (Leno)                        

2) In your own words, briefly explain (2-3 sentences) your reasons for wanting the governor to  sign AB 1358, possibly including some or all of the following points:                       

– Enacting the Complete Streets Act complements Gov. Schwarzenegger’s groundbreaking
initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California by improving conditions that enable people to travel by bicycle, on foot or by public transit.                      
– Streets designed to accommodate all users benefit the public health by encouraging more people to choose active transportation modes like bicycling and walking. 
– Streets designed to accommodate all users are safer for all users, and can help reduce  California’s rate of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities from vehicle collisions, which is among  the  nation’s highest.                               
– California will be the first state in the nation to embrace Complete Streets principles for all local streets and roadways.                     
-Consider including a brief anecdote (1-2 sentences) about how the Complete
 Streets Act might
improve your community.

Close with your signature and printed full name, mailing address, city,
state, zip, phone number (optional) and email address (optional) 

4) Print your letter and deliver it by fax or mail (don’t send it by email-it’s unlikely to be read in that form).   

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor, State of California
California State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax 916-558-3160

Photo: Ohio Cap City/Flickr

  • Next up? Instead of “consideration” of bicycle users, there should be specific measurement standards that engineers have to use as part of that “consideration”.

    The LADOT currently “consider” bicyclist and pedestrian safety when deciding whether or not to speed up car traffic – they “consider” it, say it doesn’t matter, and speed up car traffic anyway.

    How is legislation going to do anything other than satisfy activists? Can I sue a city for not, literally, providing safe accommodation for pedestrians? I just don’t see this law doing that.

    Here is a sample of California Code that has done what, exactly, for bicyclists:

    SECTION 885-886

    885. The Legislature hereby finds and declares that traffic
    congestion, air pollution, noise pollution, public health, energy
    shortages, consumer costs, and land-use considerations resulting from
    a primary reliance on the automobile for transportation are each
    sufficient reasons to provide for multimodal transportation systems.

    885.2. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
    (a) California’s bicycle programs have not been fully developed or
    (b) The Legislature and Congress have enacted laws to reduce
    traffic congestion and improve air quality.
    (c) The components of a successful bicycle program include
    engineering and design of safe facilities, education of bicyclists,
    and the motoring public on lawful use of the highways, and
    enforcement of traffic laws.
    (d) Efforts to improve safety and convenience for nonmotorized
    transportation users are a proper use of transportation funds.
    (e) The design and maintenance of many of our bridges and highways
    present physical obstacles to use by bicycles.
    (f) The bicycle is a legitimate transportation mode on public
    roads and highways.
    (g) Bicycle transportation can be an important, low-cost strategy
    to reduce reliance on the single-passenger automobile and can
    contribute to a reduction in air pollution and traffic congestion.

  • By the way, it looks like the above could give a local agency grounds to sue CalTrans or the MTA for not approving “transportation” projects that go to making car transport slower in favor of bicycles or pedestrian projects.

    It is such a uniform practice in government to exclude anything but car-only projects from heaping piles of general “transportation” funds – I think it would be an easy case to make in court.

    Will Bikes Belong wake up and start fighting for their right to hawk bikes in numbers thus far only dreamed of? Will domestic manufacturers realize that rising fuel costs will make domestic bike production and component manufacture viable soon?

    Maybe, maybe not.

  • I’ve been thinking about these issues a lot also. I think it’s important we understand and compile what legislation we have that supports bicycles and pedestrians and really be more aggressive with enforcing these policies.

    As far as Complete Streets goes, I think this legislation sends a message to statewide and national officials that Complete Streets are important and are a possibility. The frame of Complete Streets is all inclusive, and that works our advantage of creating more livable, bike and pedestrian friendly environments.

  • A point of correction: AB 1358 does not address funding, Caltrans or state-funded projects. The Complete Streets Act requires cities and counties, when updating the circulation elements of their general plans, to ensure that local streets and roads accommodate all those who use them, including bicyclists, pedestrians and transit rides, as well as motorists.

    But there’s a Caltrans connection. Caltrans has an internal policy called Deputy Directive 64 that calls for consideration of the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians for state highway projects, including design, construction and maintenance. That policy is being updated and strengthened to more clearly align with Complete Streets principles and could be unveiled in the next few weeks.

    In both cases everything depends on implementation. For AB 1358 the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research will develop general plan update guidelines that will (ideally) carry out the policy expressed in the bill. And DD-64 is just a statement of policy — next will come development of specific implementation guidelines. The work is just beginning!

    Jim Brown
    Communications Director
    California Bicycle Coalition

  • “Consideration” runs headlong in to the the way the road is measured and designed by engineers.

    The deeper problem, for bicycles and pedestrians in the U.S., is industry-wide practices that exclude bicycles and pedestrians. So, an engineer “considers” bikes and pedestrians – they consider them to be deleterious to “traffic”, and thus a negative impact to the quality of life in an area.

    What needs to be done?

    (1) Sue for enforcement of “consideration”
    (2) Lobby for better measurements of the roadway.

    I’ll expand on point number 2. In L.A. the General Plan calls for the following SPECIFIC, INDUSTRY-WIDE, STANDARDS to measure the performance of the roadway:
    -Level Of Service (LOS)
    -Average Daily Trips (ADT)
    -Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT)
    -Mobility (distance a driver can travel in set periods of time)

    These are all exclusively car-only measurements. The general plan has a one-liner tucked away somewhere about “considering bike safety” or “considering pedestrians” – but there are no standards that can be applied by a professional engineer.

    We need better standards for roadway performance!

    Here is what I would use (in certain portions of roads):
    -Historic retail sales tax data
    -Livability surveys
    -Street user counts compared to census data
    -Noise measurement
    -Air quality measurement
    -Crash and accident database and monitoring
    -Throughput of people (not just cars)

    All of these would show that things get measurably better when a road is designed to accommodate people, and not just the throughput of automobiles. They are cheap and easy to implement.

    These would be “plug and play” – a local agency should be required to use these sorts of standards as part of their “consideration”. Otherwise, we’re left with FLUFF LEGISLATION that blunts the impact of our growing cycling and livability advocacy movement.


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