Imagine roadways that encourage respectful, cordial interaction among all users, and that are far safer, and even fun, for people on bikes. California has taken a big step towards the creation of exactly these types of roadways with Governor Brown’s approval this past Saturday of AB 1193, the Protected Bikeway Act.
Authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), and sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike), AB 1193 overturns an outdated Caltrans rule that had effectively prohibited local Californian agencies from building bike lanes with physical separation from car traffic. Instead, AB 1193 encourages the creation of modern, protected bike lanes that use planters, curbs, posts or parked cars to separate bikes from cars on busy streets.
“This is a game changer for bike infrastructure in California,” said Ting. “Sharing the road is one thing but designing it better is another thing altogether. By changing our streets, cycling can finally become a realistic transportation option for millions of Californians held back by safety concerns.”
Used safely and effectively for years in the top bike-friendly cities of the world, such as Amsterdam (where 57% of the mode share in the city center is by bike) and Copenhagen (with a 37% bike mode share), protected bike lanes make urban bike riding a pleasant, practical and very safe way to make local trips – including getting children to and from school. Not coincidentally these two European cities also have a very high percentage of female bike riders which is not the case yet in the U.S.
“For too long, our cities in California have focused on creating paint-only-as-the-boundary bike lanes for the few willing to ride in and next to traffic, in big part because that’s all they were allowed to do according to the guidelines. Now, they’ll be able to build protected bike lanes as a key part of bikeway networks that serve everyone interested in bicycling, not just the bold and athletic,” said Dave Snyder, the Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition.
The Why of Protected Bike Lanes
Key to the exponential growth of protected bike lanes across the country has been the Green Lane Project of People for Bikes, which focuses on helping U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. The Green Lane Project has gathered numerous reports that illustrate these safer lanes increase bike ridership by at least 50% and as much as 200%. Protected bike lanes also improve pedestrian safety by reducing sidewalk riding, and reduce auto on auto crashes by calming automobile traffic. Unsurprisingly, 96 percent of riders report feeling safer on protected bike lanes.
“California is the number one state for bicycling participation and the home of a significant chunk of the U.S. bike industry,” said Tim Blumenthal, president of the national bike movement PeopleForBikes. “The state’s new support of protected bike lanes–its latest step to make bicycling better for everyone–will not only make bike riding safer and more appealing for Californians, but will also help reduce road congestion, spur economic growth and improve personal health.”
The number of protected bike lanes has almost quadrupled in the U.S. since 2010 with 210 protected bike lanes projected to be completed within the end of 2014. According to the Green Lane Project research California currently has 11 cities with protected bike lanes built, the most of any other state with San Francisco the stand out with 15, followed with both Long Beach and San Jose with 2 each.
Put together the safety of all concerned, with the positive economic benefits of protected bike lanes, and you have a win/win scenario that cities across the nation are rapidly moving to be a part of. It’s reported that rents along New York City’s Times Square pedestrian and bicycle paths increased 71% in 2010, and after the construction of a protected bike lane on 9th Avenue, local businesses saw a 49 percent increase in retail sales. Further a report from Portland State University found that customers who arrive by bike spent 24% more than those who arrive by bike shop more often and spend more per month.
The Specifics on AB 1193
AB 1193 changes the rules about bikeway design to free local governments from the outdated Caltrans guide that controlled bikeway design even on locally owned streets and roads. It gives communities a bigger toolbox, relying on nationally-recognized safety standards, and requires Caltrans to update its standards to encourage protected bikeways. It was sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition, a network of sixteen local bicycle advocacy organizations across the state with 30,000 dues-paying members whose shared goal is the tripling bicycling in California for healthier, safer, more prosperous communities across the state. Encouraging protected bike lanes is a key strategy to attract more people to bicycling.
California’s Commitment to Growing Bike Culture
On September 16th 2014 Californian joined twenty-four other states enacting the “Three Feet for Safety.” The law went into effect as California’s state and local governments work to boost bicycling for improved health, reduced traffic congestion, and economic growth. Bicycling has increased 50% in California since 2000, according to the California Household Transportation Survey, with about two million bike trips daily in the Golden State. Earlier this year California made an impressive jump from 19th to 9th in the annual Bicycle Friendly State rankings by the League of American Bicyclists. Further, the state Department of Transportation (Caltrans) says it’s working with its partners to infuse about $360 million into biking and other active transportation projects over the next three years while local sales taxes and the state’s cap-and-trade revenue are slated to contribute more than $1 billion to improve bicycling infrastructure.