Often, the “high cost” of bike/ped infrastructure is thrown out as a reason why it doesn’t need to or can’t be included on a project. This is almost always a patently false assertion and data continues to come to the rescue. Nevertheless, many agencies do not allocate their funds properly, resulting in an imbalance in priorities. As a result, bike/ped funding receives mere pittances, especially here in the Inland Empire. That is particularly glaring when receipts are low. While there are plenty opportunities to combine bike/ped projects into others, that often requires having a vision and plan.
Planning isn’t cheap, but doing stuff without a plan isn’t necessarily a good way to go about things. However, that acts as a barrier to agencies that don’t do a good job of allocating the funds correctly because it would take prohibitively long just to gather the funds for the planning, to say nothing of anything beyond that. Fortunately, there are two opportunities now open to California agencies to help get some stuff done for their communities at no charge to them. Yes, they’re free. Just apply.
The first is for technical assistance available from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. This opportunity appears to be mainly geared toward policy and programming side. However, with the recent influx of SRTS monies into the region from the ATP, there will be many opportunities to get some stuff going in several of the communities in the area and this grant could be a godsend to those agencies. There is so much to be done around here that the influx of money will probably have the usual players in the arena worn down to the bone. The focus is on fostering cooperation, so it appears that all groups can apply as long as they’re working a SRTS program. Applications are due by September 26th, 2014, so definitely get on your elected officials, staff, non-profits, etc. to get in an application ASAP.
The second opportunity is from the State of California’s Office of Traffic Safety. Administered by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies., they send out two experts who conduct a Bike/Ped Safety Assessment. It can be either targeted to specific problems (i.e. lots of kids or elderly pedestrians get hit, resident complaints about unsafe crosswalk,) or just have them paint a broad brush. The City of Murrieta was one local agency that was the beneficiary earlier this year of a visit from them. This opportunity has no hard deadline. However, the assessments are conducted on a first come, first served basis, though it appears that they also take the standings in the Office of Traffic Safety rankings into account and give priority to places that aren’t doing well. The opportunity is open to any agency too, so it’s important to ask as soon as possible.
Many of the cities in the region unfortunately do not score well at all, so let’s make sure that they are putting forth an effort to right that. Several scored big in the ATP funding cycle, so many of them are slightly ahead of the pack. However, there are still many more opportunities for local agencies to put forth an effort toward bettering their streets, regardless of if they won. A better tomorrow can’t come soon enough, with this being a potentially important first step. Don’t let it slip away.