The mission of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition is to promote bicycling for transportation and recreation. Before we take a position on any proposed program, public policy, or infrastructure project we ask:
- Will it get more people on bicycles?
- Will it make bicycling safer?
We’ve recently drafted a more specific and strategic standard to guide us as we answer those questions. We will be advocating for the County and each of our nine cities to adopt the following activities and priorities.
Update Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plans more frequently, and track progress.
Why is this important? Best practices and standards change – for example, Class IV protected bike lanes didn’t exist in 2010 when many plans were originally created. In addition, some funding sources are only available for projects that appear in a city or county’s plan. The process of updating a plan doesn’t need to be long and expensive – an addendum updating design standards and adding projects can be used.
All the time and money that goes into creating a plan is for naught if there isn’t someone responsible for actively tracking progress on that plan. Larger jurisdictions should follow Santa Rosa’s example and hire an Active Transportation Planner; smaller cities can at least assign one existing staff position to monitor bicycle & pedestrian projects.
Follow the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)’s Designing for All Ages & Abilities: Contextual Guidance for High-Comfort Bicycle Facilities.
Survey after survey has found that the number one reason people do not ride bicycles is because they are afraid to be in the roadway on a bicycle. They are generally not afraid of other cyclists, or pedestrians, or of injuring themselves in a bicycle-only crash – they are afraid of being struck by someone driving an automobile. While about a third of the population may never get on a bike, only about seven percent are confident, strong, enthusiastic – while SIXTY PERCENT say they would like to but have safety concerns.
We must design our streets and roads so cycling is an option for residents of all ages and all abilities – it should not be reserved for those who are the most fit and daring. NACTO’s guide contains internationally recognized best practices for transportation equity.
Focus on networks and destinations rather than projects.
There are few things more frustrating than a bike path or lane that ends abruptly. Low-stress routes connecting people from where they are to where they want to go – particularly destinations like schools, major employers, supermarkets, civic services – are needed to shift car trips to bike trips. Unfortunately, many of our planning documents focus on short, individual road segments that don’t necessarily connect.
Follow the example of Portland, Oregon and make Class IV protected bike lanes the DEFAULT for on-street bike facilities.
Studies show that the creation of Class I and Class IV bike facilities reduces collisions, injuries, and fatalities for ALL road users, not just cyclists! Class II bike lanes do not. We have consistently defaulted to Class II lanes when improving streets, which will neither improve safety nor encourage new cyclists. This doesn’t mean, however, that EVERY project will necessarily end up with a Class IV lane, BUT the decision to use a less safe facility must be justified.
POLICIES & PROGRAMS
Increase the quantity of safe and secure bike parking.
A lack of bike parking is a frequently stated impediment to those who could otherwise complete everyday errands by bicycle. Jurisdictions should conduct bike parking audits to document the location and quality of existing facilities. Too many existing racks are of poor quality and are not installed with proper clearance, rendering them useless; requiring that racks – and their installation – meet the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals guidelines and ensuring that inspectors verify correct installation when signing off on construction will result in improvement.
Conflict between cyclists and pedestrians can be avoided by converting motor vehicle parking spaces into bike corrals (ten bikes will fit in the space of one car). Encouraging or requiring valet bike parking at large events can encourage cycling and discourage driving.
Offer other incentives for cycling and encourage businesses to do so.
Examples include flexible schedules, free rides home for emergencies, lockers and showers, repair stations, employee recognition programs, etc. Apply for the League of American Bicyclists Bike Friendly Community certification is a great step.
Require regular Bike-Friendly Driver training for commercial drivers and engage in campaigns targeting driver behavior.
Along with poor road design, driver behavior – excess speed, passing too closely, cellphone use, alcohol and other drug use, etc. – is a major contributor to injuries and fatalities.
Improve engagement and infrastructure in underserved communities.
Pavement quality, existence of bike facilities, and availability of public transit are frequently worse in low income and/or BIPOC neighborhoods, resulting in transportation inequity.
Make a commitment to Vision Zero
Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. First implemented in Sweden in the 1990s, Vision Zero has proved successful across Europe and is gaining momentum in the United States.
All ten local jurisdictions have been participating in a Sonoma County Vision Zero planning effort, funded by a grant secured by Sonoma County Transportation Authority and Sonoma County Department of Health Services. It will soon be time for each jurisdiction to make its own commitment to implementing the Vision Zero concept on their own streets.
- Implement land use policies that incentivize active transportation and disincentivize driving. Examples include eliminating auto parking minimums while increasing bike parking minimums in new construction and increasing the cost of parking.
- Implement and enforce other traffic control measures. Reducing speed limits, improving signage, adjusting traffic signal timing and automated speed/traffic light enforcement improve the safety of ALL road users.