Tag Archives: bike master plan

Equitable Bike Advocacy Includes Bike Infrastructure

Even as mounting evidence such as a research report from Governing reminds everyone that bikes aren’t just for white urbanites, biking has continued to gather a reputation as a domain of hipsters. As a result, despite the diverse ridership, the folks actually advocating for bike improvements have continued to not exactly mirror the people majority of people who are doing the pedaling. Unsurprisingly, this has lead to some friction and calls for more diversity in bike advocacy. The advocacy organizations haven’t missed the memo and have begun efforts like LAB’s Equity and Women Bike initiatives. Additionally, more community-based groups like Slow Roll Detroit have taken a more active role in advocating for bikes as not just transportation alternatives, but vehicles for social change in the community.

Nevertheless, many bike advocacy organizations and staff might consistently not look very much like the largest class or group of people biking. But that might not be inherently a bad thing. The changes that they (usually) advocate for do stand to help disadvantaged communities (of color) just as much as they help MAMILs. There’s no denying the safety benefits of dedicated bikeways and few would argue that a comprehensive network of bikeways that connects a community together and to destinations where its residents can find work, school, recreational activities, and more is somehow detrimental to the communities in which it is located. With many disadvantaged communities already ticking off a higher number of people taking trips by bike, making those trips better and easier to undertake will almost certainly provide an improvement in numerous facets of their lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A man and woman ride salmon on Route 66 in San Bernardino, CA. Bike infrastructure would immensely improve the bikeability of this location.

But what if the community isn’t asking for bike infrastructure? Certainly, there is a concern that advocating for infrastructure in underserved communities that aren’t asking for them is forcing something on the community that they don’t want. Thanks to both the lingering after effects of the highway building era then decades of disinvestment and neglect and because of a concern that bikeways bring gentrification, some advocates are even going so far as to say that disadvantaged communities should not get bike infrastructure and that focusing on “northern European” designs and solutions is out-of-place in communities that frequently have mostly non-white populations. But there are two major issues with the strategy of advocating for bikes by not advocating for bikes that will ultimately do more harm than good.

First and foremost, there’s the safety aspect. Where good, quality bike infrastructure exists, biking tends to be safer. As such, it really sounds extremely backwards to suggest that in the areas that often already have some of the most dangerous streets of a region, safety improvements shouldn’t be undertaken because the community hasn’t asked for them. At the end of the day, people still will continue to have to ride in those areas, often in conditions that are embarrassingly deplorable on many different measures. Not only do they deserve to have a safe place to ride, but it is they who need it most as they frequently have few travel alternatives and many have already been victims of traffic violence too. This is a heightened issue in regards to projects that involve once-in-a-generation opportunities to change the layout of a thoroughfare. Those should not be passed.

kennedylaan intersection
A bikeway in Utrecht provides connections for all to the city center and train station.

Additionally, the backlash against bike solutions that are primarily Danish and Dutch as being inappropriate in communities of color is misguided. There are some things that are just done better in some places than in others and as it so happens, those two countries do bikes well. Not only do they tick off the highest rates of biking in the world, but the stellar provisioning for bikes provides those at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder a viable affordable option for transportation so the poor aren’t forced to own a car. That’s crucial because while certainly there are plenty of disadvantaged households in America that don’t own a car, many more are practically forced to because it’s the only realistic option in their community, something that’s really becoming a problem in suburbs.

Secondly, bikeways are a commodity and like all commodities, follow the general principles of economics. Students of the discipline know that the availability of something is directly related to its price. In this case, the fact that good, quality bikeways are still relatively scarce in this country means that the few places that they do exist attract a premium in price as people and businesses seek out locations near them. The best way to counter that is not by keeping bikeways out of some neighborhoods, but to instead make sure that they’re everywhere. Ideally, that means that the plan should not be just single lanes here and there, but entire networks that form a comprehensive grid of LTS2 bikeways that are installed as completely and quickly as possible.

However, bike infrastructure is obviously also becoming a victim of its own success. As early advocates undoubtedly had to find a way to justify to their communities why money should be spent on infrastructure that “no one uses“, study after study was undertaken in relation to the economic impact of bikeways. Most of these studies have shown that bike infrastructure can bring positive economic change to a corridor or area. But those improvements do not happen in a vacuum. Increased receipts and especially values lead to higher rents. Once again, the solution isn’t found in not building, but in building everywhere. But, that does mean that going forward, it is perhaps time to lessen the focus on the potential financial benefits of any single project in favor of safety benefits that it would provide (though people also seek to live in places that are “safe”, so that makes it a similar driver of demand).

So with that in mind, organizations interested in engaging in equitable advocacy should do one of two things. When faced with substantial projects, such as placing or moving curbs, the bike aspect absolutely should not be compromised. In many communities, projects like that only happen once a generation or less. It is imperative that whenever they occur, that the very best designs for both safety and efficiency are used because redoing it later would be costly in not just monetary terms, but also lives and political capital. However, for projects that are less involved, it might be better to take some time to further engage the community to develop a concept that truly works for them instead of just ferrying outsiders through.

As more bikeways get built, more communities are asking for them. We need to make sure that they’re able to access those changes and benefit from them. While bikeways do bring change to a community, that change doesn’t have to be bad if the community gets involved to make sure that it works for them, including by broaching other topics that go beyond the bike aspect. Communities need to get in front of change and embrace it instead of waiting for it to arrive and trying to delay it. Doing so will bring many benefits for all.

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The New Tools that Will Help Protected Bike Lanes Flourish in the Inland Empire (and the rest of California too!)

All across the country, cities are rolling out protected bike lanes in unprecedented numbers. Early adopters like New York City and Chicago have been joined by a bevy of contenders as metropolises race to provide a better riding environment for all users from 8 to 88. These facilities have been hugely popular and have resulted in phenomenal gains in ridership numbers and often have increased safety of their respective corridors.

This curb-protected cycletrack on the campus of UCR is the only real protected bikeway the Inland Empire saw get installed last year.
This curb-protected cycletrack on the campus of UCR is the only real protected bikeway installed in the Inland Empire last year, but more could be on the way thanks to new legislation.

However, the benefits of safer bikeways continue to largely elude the residents of the Inland Empire. After years of being the most sprawled region in the nation and having the worst street environment for vulnerable road users in the state of California, leaving that legacy behind has been a long, drawn-out process. Thus far, the response has been what are largely meaningless token efforts in the grand scheme of things.

Regional Planning

Both SANBAG and WRCOG maintain non-motorized transportation plans, though they’re slightly different. The SANBAG document is mostly a snapshot at the city level and includes information on what each city and town has done and will be doing, but doesn’t include a lot of regional connectivity. Meanwhile, the WRCOG document [PDF] is primarily focused on establishing non-motorized corridors, many of them located along flood control channels, but doesn’t really give much information on what is occurring at the local levels. Those county-level documents are augmented by Bike and Trails Master Plans that have been completed by various cities.

But when it comes down to it, much of that planning has turned out to be useless. Hardly any of the Riverside trails have been completed and while several cities have been working on the stuff that is contained in their local Bike/Trails Master Plans, a lot of it is also just fluff. Most of those documents take the easy way out and put bikeways where it would be convenient and they usually disappear completely at intersections and other conflict points. Much of the stuff that might be better either doesn’t connect anywhere or is waiting for funding.

Class II bike lanes in the Inland Empire often are not even wide enough to fully fit the words.
Class II bike lanes in the Inland Empire often are not even wide enough to fully fit the words.

The result is a bunch of Class II ‘BIK LANs’* next to four- and six-lane arterials, hardly an 8-88 environment. That is standard even in new developments, while older ones are left with sharrows if anything at all.

Bike lanes give way to poorly-positioned 'sharrows' along 6th St. in Corona.
Bike lanes give way to poorly-positioned ‘sharrows’ along 6th St. in Corona.

Furthermore, compromises in design to meet LOS (level of service) requirements was often at the detriment of planned bikeways. Does an intersection “need” a dedicated turn lane? No problem, just end the bike lane sooner!

Change is Afoot

All of that is about to change. The passage of SB 743 in 2013 ripped out measuring traffic impacts using LOS from an environmental review done under CEQA. In its stead, a new metric of VMT (vehicle miles traveled) has been proposed. While LOS measures how fast cars can move through a segment of road or an intersection, VMT measures how many more miles a development would add to the average for the region.

As an area with few high-paying/skilled jobs, the Inland Empire would be particularly impacted as many of the residents working in such industries make daily treks to LA/OC/SD counties for employment. Until more skilled jobs start coming this direction, it will be exceedingly hard for a developer looking to build anything but “affordable” housing to show that the residents are likely to not drive 40 miles each way each day for work. Which is fine. Trips to work of that magnitude will likely not be mitigated effectively for years to come.

Actual Mitigation

But SB 743 is a powerful tool for local bikeway and livable streets advocates. While local residents may continue to drive to surrounding counties for work, that’s not all the driving they do. It is estimated that as high as 40% of all driving is done to destinations that are two or fewer miles away. That is a distance that can be biked easily by the vast majority of people, but they aren’t going to do it in the presence of lots of motorized traffic that is traveling anywhere from five to ten times as fast as they are.

That’s where protected bike lanes and other next generation bikeways become crucial. Under the LOS-based CEQA, traffic was accommodated, not mitigated. That resulted in wide, fast roads and vast wastelands where they meet. Under the new rules being finalized, developers would be required to provide actual mitigation measures that would make sure that VMT is not raised. Protected bikeways allow them to still build while lowering local VMT to counter the added VMT of residents driving to the surrounding counties for work. That offers incredible opportunities for great bikeway connections within cities and the region.

New Standards of Excellence

There has been some progress on toward getting better bikeways in that AB 1358, California’s Complete Streets Act, does require all users, including bicyclists, to be considered in General Plan Circulation Elements as an integral part of the transport network. Unfortunately, many of those standards coming out of those plans are still not adequate for providing a network of protected bikeways usable by all aged 8-88.

Last year’s passage of AB 1193 changes all of that. With Caltrans being required to finish standards for protected bike lanes within the next year, agencies in the region and indeed the entire state will soon have the life-saving option of protected bikeways at their disposal. Hopefully, Caltrans goes a step beyond the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide and includes separation criteria in the standards. A Class II bike lane might be a decent choice for somewhere like a neighborhood street, but it really shouldn’t even enter consideration for arterials showing traffic counts of 35000 pce and a speed limit of 50 MPH.

Those two changes are the foundation to getting the best bikeways included from the very beginning without having to beg for it. Planning is certainly good, but bikeways shouldn’t be limited to only those included in a plan and certainly not be seen as “extras” contingent on all the stars aligning. Fortunately, it is now easy for agencies to make sure that protected bikeways are automatically included. Building an road where traffic counts will warrant multiple lanes? There should be no question that a Class II bike lane is no longer a viable option. Likewise, it should be obvious that if there is a protected bikeway on the street, then it needs to continue as a protected intersection whenever the parallel road has signals too.

 A Future of Better Biking

Bicycles should play a crucial role in the future of the Inland Empire and it is hoped that the updating of standards plays a pivotal role in that endeavor. However, it is still important that IE residents stay vigilant and make sure that the public officials are fulfilling their duties. Active involvement is needed to ensure that the standards truly provide the best biking environment. Several cities have master plans for bikeways/trails as well as various goals and policies seeking to support biking. It’s time to make sure that those promises become action.

*A ‘BIK LAN’ is a bike lane that is so narrow that the words “bike” and “lane” can’t even fit without some parts, generally the letter “e”, ending up in the gutter pan.

Weekly Review

With a new year comes new plans and development. As we head into the second full week of the year, a lot of exciting things are already shaping up for you to get involved in. Here go a couple.

Jurupa Valley General Plan
The City of Jurupa Valley is holding several meetings concerning the completion of an Interim General Plan.

The City of Jurupa Valley has had a challenging history in its short life. Right after coming into existence, Jerry Brown yanked a major funding source from them and there was concern that the City might be quickly dissolved back into a pocket of Riverside County. Nevertheless, they’ve managed to survive and as they look to celebrate a fifth birthday soon, they’re al looking to become more permanent and want to plan what they’ll be in the future. The City is looking for guidance and input as they seek to develop an Interim General Plan. They will be holding several meetings over the next four weeks, so check out the list [PDF] and attend the one that works best for you.

Perris Optimus Logistics Center DEIR

TODAY [PDF] is the last day to submit any comments you might have to the City of Perris that pertain to the planned Perris Logistics Center in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Report [PDF] for the project. In typical fashion, the plan is to scatter stoplights, dedicated turn lanes, and other similar “improvements”. Stuff that is patently bad for bicycling. Of great concern are the intersections where the roads will balloon in size. That’s not good for speeds and definitely not good for fostering a comfortable riding environment.

But even more concerning is the callous disregard for the City’s Trails Master Plan [PDF], which includes bikeways on many of the streets identified in the EIR analysis as needing widening improvements. What’s more, the traffic analysis was done by the same consultant group that did the Trails Master Plan. It seems like they should have the files on their computer still since the City approved it not even two years ago. All they had to do was look back at the document to realize “oh crap, maybe this isn’t a great idea” for the majority of the stuff that they put in the Traffic Analysis of the EIR.

No surprise, that conversation apparently didn’t occur and without robust standards, we have to fight to get anything beyond BIK LANs next to an expressway. Hopefully, Caltrans develops competent standards for Class IV cycletracks, especially for applications when one is necessary versus using a painted Class II lane. The VMT-based traffic analysis standards are also something to look forward to and will hopefully help alleviate this kind of nonsense for future projects.

Share Info!

That’s all for today, but there’s almost certainly more going on. If there are any projects or planning that you know is occurring, get in touch and share it! One that we’re looking out for is the  Draft Environmental Impact Report for the forthcoming World Logistics Center project that is under consideration for the City of Moreno Valley. That document is due within the next month or so. At that time, it will be interesting to see what comes out of that as far as traffic mitigation goes, though history hasn’t shown the consultants who do most of the traffic analyses for this area to be particularly inclined to do anything beyond throw around traffic signals and turn lanes. But we’ll see for sure soon. Until then, ciao!

Update: The City of Chino is also preparing to prepare an Environmental Impact Report for a project being dubbed the “Brewer Site”. More information on that project is to be found at the link above. This is an exciting new time for projects like this since the traffic impacts must now  be evaluated using VMT instead of LOS and plopping houses in the IE for people to drive to LA/OC/(SD) will require far stronger mitigation measures for local trips and really an opportunity to get some innovative new solutions. So check it out and get some comments in, even if only a few lines.

Progress Report: Orange Blossom Trail in Redlands

It appears that 2014 is ending on a higher note for bikeways here in the Inland Empire, particularly in San Bernardino County. Redlands is joining Rialto in getting work done on a trail that has been in the pipeline for a long time: the Orange Blossom Trail. When complete, the Orange Blossom Trail (OBT) will form a loop through the City of Redlands from the Santa Ana River Trail, providing a direct bikeway connection from Redlands to other towns downriver.

Currently, scattered portions of the OBT currently exist where completion has been required as a condition of development. However, the segment now under construction is being done thanks to two grants received by the City for this specific purpose. This segment will also form the longest continuous portion of the OBT to date, stretching a total of 1.3 miles from Grove St. To Wabash Ave. With a total grant award amount of $877,695, the OBT’s price tag clocks in at $675,150 per mile, which is over $300k per mile cheaper than the price normally attributed to a Class I bikeway. [Note that the official legal designation for a Class I bikeway is a bike path, not trail.] And the OBT includes a bridle path.

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at how the OBT is being constructed. From Grove St. to Judson Ave., actual train tracks are still present. For that portion, they have elected to build a 10′ wide Class I bikeway on the north side of the tracks and a 6′ wide bridle path on the south side. They are separated by the tracks themselves which at Grove St., has created the perfect gap for skateboarders. The track continues to a couple feet past Judson Ave., after which the bike and bridle paths converge. After converging, they continue along the roadbed of the railroad.

It appears that they’re completing it in segments instead of the whole length at once. Thus far, parking spots, gutters, and ramps have been completed at the Grove St. end and both the bridle path and bikeway are completed almost to Judson on that block. Gutters and ramps have not yet been poured at Judson, but the bikeway and bridle path pick up again and are completed to a couple more streets down in a similar fashion. The asphalt is wonderfully smooth and is (at least at present) decent wide enough to allow people to ride 3-4 abreast.

While a trail is good, a network of bikeways is great. Redlands is quietly getting the network aspect covered as well. Over the last few years, streets have been getting (buffered) bike lanes as the City carries on with its repaving initiative. Several of those streets cross the trail and provide excellent access opportunities to it. Additionally, the trail goes directly to the University of Redlands [property] and empties onto a relatively quiet street that would be a decent bike boulevard. Other schools are also located along the route, so it has the potential to provide an outstanding SRTS opportunity.

One place where the trail will almost assuredly fall short is where it meets other roads. Standard engineering practice doesn’t like “mid-block” crossings, but it’s past time to get over that hesitation. There are several potential solutions to raise their specter and thus, safety, too. Instead of the default having the trail stop, they should design it so that it only has to yield at larger roads such as Dearborn or Judson and has full priority at smaller ones. Raised tables with HAWKs and islands would be ideal ways to help provide a stop-free experience. Unfortunately, those will have to be for a future grant.

The best part about the OBT is that it is being done by the City, not as part of a development. Often, trails put in by developers are ultimately useless and only loop around the development. Even though the OBT isn’t connected with any single development at all, it still has suffered a similar fate as there are several completed sections further west that don’t connect to each other.

Still, once it’s completed, it will be more useful than a loop around the community. It passes near a diverse collection of neighborhoods that ranges from mobile home parks to  moderate-sized McMansions. Additionally, it passes near jobs (including Esri), shopping opportunities, and schools. As a result, the OBT could really unify the residents and provide a good non-motorized route for getting across a good portion of the City. It’s far past time for this to be done, so it’s great to see that the work is finally happening. It will be a welcome addition to the Inland Empire when completed.

Here’s how it looks right now:

Diving Into the ATP

Caltrans released the staff list of recommendations for this year’s round of the Active Transportation Program funding cycle last week. In it were some winners and others for us out here in the Inland Empire.

The Active Transportation Program combined several fragmented pots of money allotted for several different years into one single feeding frenzy. Emphasis was placed on projects that benefit disadvantaged communities and Safe Routes to School and the proposals delivered.The vast majority of the proposals purported to tick one or both of those boxes, which led to some noggin scratching at some of the “disadvantaged” communities on the initial list.

Nevertheless, lots of good did come out of it. Without making this a publication to rival the length of Atlas Shrugged, a brief look at the local projects competitive at the State level [PDF] is prepared below. It’s organized by county and is based off preliminary staff recommendations. Formal adoption of the awards for the State/Rural level will occur on the 20th, after which everything that didn’t get funded goes down to the MPO level. For the Inland Empire, that means SCAG will be doling out its portion of funds to the remaining projects.

Riverside County
  • County Department of Public Health
    •  SRTS Active Transportation Program City of Perris $350k
    • SRTS City of Jurupa Valley $500k
  • Jurupa ValleySRTS Troth St. $627k
    • Pyrite St. SRTS $665k
  • Moreno Valley – Citywide SRTS Ped Facility Improvements $1.64mn
  • Perris
    • Murrieta Road Ped Improvements $1.10mn
    • Perris Valley Storm Drain Channel Trail $1.20mn
  • Riverside – Downtown and Adjoining Areas Bicycle and Ped Improvements $877k
  • San Jacinto – Safe & Active San Jacinto SRTS $989k

County IE total*: $7,950,000

San Bernardino County
No access
Colton’s award will allow them to identify opportunities to improve the connectivity of the facilities in the City, such as a connection here to the trail.
  • Colton – Active Transportation Plan $265k
  • Omnitrans ** – West Valley Corridor Connector $3.5mn
  • Ontario – SRTS Active Transportation: Bon View, Corona, Euclid, and Vineyard Avenue Elementary Schools $1.16mn
  • Rialto – SRTS Plan $1.45mn
  • SanBAG
    • SanBAG SRTS Plan $400k
    • Metrolink Station Accessibility Improvement $4.68mn
  • Yucaipa – Safe Routes to Calimesa and Wildwood Elementary Schools $872k

County IE total*: $12,327,000

*Not included in these counts were awards to cities outside of the area generally considered to be the “Inland Empire”, which can admittedly be somewhat nebulous. If all projects are included from all areas of both counties, Riverside County total would be $21,931,000 and the San Bernardino County total $13,422,000.

**Though listed as part of the county ‘VAR’ on the Caltrans worksheet, Omnitrans has been included as part of San Bernardino County totals because it operates almost exclusively within communities in San Bernardino County, with only two or three lines entering Los Angeles or Riverside counties. Without the Omnitrans award (but including all awards within the County), the San Bernardino County total would be $9,922,000.