Tag Archives: San Bernardino County California

Get Assessed: Two FREE Opportunities to Improve the Streets

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.

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Progress Report: Pacific-Electric Trail in Rialto

PE Trail sign
How many people think their tax dollars aren’t getting used?

Recently, rumors were heard concerning the Pacific-Electric Trail and it being extended into Rialto. For years, the trail has ended rather unceremoniously at Maple Avenue on the border of Fontana and Rialto. As it turns out, the rumblings were true! Construction started sometime last month [PDF] and is slated to be finished in December. It’s a tall order, but swinging by last week found that most of the ~1.3 mile corridor was fenced off by the contractor and dug up with drainage improvements going in.

But as usual, a project like this doesn’t happen with any sense of urgency. This project has been a long time in the works. In 2010, the City of Rialto identified the trail extension as a partially funded capital improvement [PDF] in their four year outlook. Not surprisingly,  although trails can be great transportation alternatives and that was mildly alluded to, it really isn’t seen as a true transportation corridor to be considered as a transportation improvement and was therefore absent from that section [PDF] of the CIP. (Which is ironic since it follows a historic corridor that the town was built around.)

It then made it into the SanBAG Nonmotorized Transportation Plan that was released in 2011. In that document, the corridor was identified as a 3 mile project stretching basically the entire width of the City along the old Pacific-Electric right-of-way. It is now used by Union Pacific to serve a lumber yard near City Hall. As a result, the extension under construction now only encompasses about half of the originally proposed length (1.3x/3 miles) and ends rather unceremoniously mid-block behind some industrial buildings. Expect to see a lot of people continue their journey on to Lilac Avenue beside the tracks when the trail opens.

Rialto_Pac-Elec_map
Location of segment under construction.

Since that track maybe sees 2-3 trains a week, some sort of agreement should be reached that could allow the access to be maintained while at the same time  extending the trail. The vast majority of the time, the track sits  empty and it’s pretty evident that it’s a lightly used corridor since quite a few of the crossings don’t even have gates.

Now for the fun part: let’s look at the money. The expected cost for the original plan was $1mn/mile for a back-of-the-napkin estimate of $3mn for the entire project in the SanBAG NMTP. As can be seen in the release above, the price has soared to over $3mn per mile. The total price is now ~$4.5mn for less than 1.5 miles of trail. Funding presumably came from several grant sources, though not the recent ATP. Rialto did win some money from it for SRTS which could hopefully be used toward improving access to the  schools from the trail for students. As can be seen in the map, the trail goes right past several communities and two schools.

From the looks of it, the trail will continue the irritating configuration that it has further west in other cities. It’s a great recreational pathway, but many hoping for a useful commuting corridor run into a problem at almost every. single. street: the Trail user is presented with a ‘STOP’ sign or traffic light at almost all instances where the Trail crosses another street. This leads to a lackluster experience filled with slowing at best and takes away from the effectiveness of the Trail as being useful for people looking to go somewhere. It would be great if those crossings can be upgraded to allow trail users a stop-free experience. Some Fontana intersections already have in-ground flashers, which could be easily  upgraded to HAWK signals. Other places could get a combination of raised crossings/islands/pinchpoints,  or complete street closures. But no matter what, something needs to be done to make the trail easier to use.

Anyway, that’s all for the future. It’s great to see that something is [finally] being done after years of waiting. Hopefully, the promise of a Christmas ride holds true so that all the kids can have a safe place to enjoy their presents. Anyway, pictures are worth far more than continued talking, so here’re 18,000 words from the project area.

Welcome

Well folks, good day and welcome to the very first post here in iNLand fIEts! From these very humble beginnings, we hope to follow along as we transform the Inland Empire from the sprawl capital of the country to a more livable, workable, likable, and enjoyable urban space.

First, I’d like to explain the name. While most of us would certainly recognize the “Inland” part, I’ve added a little flair, highlighting the letters NL, which are the country code of the Netherlands. Why the Netherlands, you ask? Because they are long recognized as world leaders in building bikable cities. While they certainly haven’t gotten everything perfect, valuable lessons can still be learned from them and it’s foolish to brush them aside as not a relevant example of how things could be done here as well.

The second word follows along these same lines as well. “Fiets” is the Dutch word for bicycle and it also contains our regional code, IE, right in the center. That’s a rather interesting place to put it since quite frankly, the current reality on the ground couldn’t be further from the truth. However, I have faith that through some hard work and dedication, we can make the IE a much better place for someone who chooses (or otherwise) to get to the store via bicycle vs. getting in their car.

The transformation will not be easy. Old habits die hard. What we see on the ground in The Netherlands today is the result of over four decades of research and investment. At the same time, that means that we can (and should) skip those same four decades of trial and error, going straight to the good stuff from hence forth. Bookmark this page to keep up with the developments as they occur. And of course, leave comments on what you think. Ciao, and happy riding!