Adrian Covert & Alexa Forrester, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
What if we told you there was a cheap and easy way to reduce traffic in Santa Rosa by as much as 25%?
It’s called Class IV protected bike lanes.
Every day, about a quarter of all car trips in Santa Rosa are less than 2 miles. That’s about a 10-minute bike ride for the average adult, comparable to the amount of time it would take to drive that same distance and park. For these small trips, biking is a time-competitive and virtually free alternative to cars that also strengthens physical fitness and generally creates good community vibes (join the Taco Tuesday Ride from Humboldt Park to Mitote Food Park if you don’t believe us). Bikes are also quiet, clean and require little public space.
Yet just 1.6% of all trips in Santa Rosa are made by bike. Bikes are used about six times less often in Santa Rosa than in San Luis Obispo, and 16 times less often than in Davis. Despite its comparatively miserable weather, Amsterdam residents are 24 times more likely to bike to their destination than Santa Rosa residents.
This is an infrastructure problem. Santa Rosa’s bike lanes are almost entirely made up of Class II bikeways — painted lines along the shoulder of a road. Riding mere feet away from increasingly distracted drivers behind the wheels of increasingly large vehicles is neither safe nor pleasant. Since 2012, nearly 500 cyclists have been injured by cars in Santa Rosa, including two who were killed. Small wonder cycling in the city is limited to the most fearless riders.
Santa Rosa could have as many as 24,000 new homes by 2050. To avoid the city becoming choked with car traffic, we must provide safe biking and scooting infrastructure for those who want that option, especially for short trips.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/close-to-home-santa-rosa-needs-protected-bike-lanes/
Colin Atagi, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
The favored plan also proposes the route have a 60 mph speed limit, as well as two lanes in each direction with bicycle and pedestrian paths. The plan is in its early stages and officials haven’t identified a cost or funding source.
Caltrans, in order to keep traffic flowing decades from now, intends to build an elevated road along Highway 37 to combat rising water levels, which are expected to eventually inundate the North Bay arterial.
The proposed project essentially stretches across the existing route along San Pablo Bay and through Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.
It preserves travel patterns, allows landward marsh migration and is resilient to sea level rises, officials said in explaining its benefits.
Read more at https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/news/hwy-37-could-be-under-water-by-2050-heres-how-caltrans-plans-to-keep-tra/
Bridgette DeShields, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
There is also a growing movement in the U.S. called “Complete Streets” – streets designed to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, enhance walkability, and increase transit efficiency. Already proven successful in London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Copenhagen with encouraging bike commuting and actually revitalizing downtown areas by bringing more people to these safe spaces, features include: protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, accessible public transportation stops, safe crosswalks, and ADA compliant walkways, curbs, signals and more.
Last month, I wrote about the benefits of bike riding, and how attitudes about cycling differ between the U.S. and Europe (and other places). Now I want to examine why that might be and how that could change. One big difference is the investment in safe, convenient bike infrastructure. Bike infrastructure often appears to have a high price tag, but in comparison to the costs to build and maintain roadways for vehicles, the cost is relatively low. A study was conducted in the Portland, Oregon area (a mecca for cycling and bike commuting) in 2013 and found that the city’s entire bicycle network (over 300 miles of bikeways) “would cost $60 million to replace (in 2008 dollars), whereas the same investment would yield just one mile of a four-lane urban freeway.”
So where are we at in Sonoma County? We have really a very small and fragmented network of dedicated bike infrastructure with the main trails (e.g., Joe Rodota, creek trail, SMART path) making up maybe 50 miles at most. It is pretty tough to commute or even take the kids out for much of a spin without having to face less safe road conditions just to get from one trail segment to the other or utilize roadways with bike lanes. In comparison, there are over 600 miles of bike trails in the Denver Metro area. However, even places like the Denver area continue to have challenges. Denver is looking to the future with a plan to institute “Vision Zero,” a transportation planning philosophy about making streets safe for all users, “no matter their choice to walk, bike, drive or take transit.” Several California cities have adopted Vision Zero plans. Los Angeles has committed to end traffic deaths by 2025 in their ambitious Vision Zero Plan.
Continue reading “The growing importance of bike infrastructure”
Laura Bliss, CITYLAB
The plan to ban private cars from Market Street—one of the city’s busiest and most dangerous downtown thoroughfares—enjoys a remarkable level of local support.
In a city known for stunning vistas, San Francisco’s Market Street offers a notoriously ugly tangle of traffic. Cars and delivery trucks vie with bikes and pedestrians along this downtown corridor, as buses and a historic streetcar clatter through the mix. Dedicated lanes for transit and bikes end abruptly several blocks from the street’s terminus at the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
But the vehicular frenzy is ending, in part: Starting Wednesday, private vehicles—meaning both passenger automobiles and for-hire ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft—may no longer drive down Market, east of 10th Street. Only buses, streetcars, traditional taxis, ambulances, and freight drop-offs are still allowed. The closure to private vehicle traffic heralds the start of a new era for the city’s central spine, and perhaps for San Francisco at large, as it joins cities around the world that are restricting cars from downtown centers.
“We need to do better than use Market as a queuing place for the Bay Bridge,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, the newly arrived executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “Today represents the way the world is finally changing how it thinks about the role of transportation in cities.”
After decades of debate, the vision for a car-free Market Street has arrived at a remarkable level of support among activists, politicians, planners, and businesses. (Especially compared to the rancor and legal challenges that greeted New York City’s long-delayed effort to create a car-free busway along 14th Street in Manhattan.) In October, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors voted unanimously in support of a $600 million “Better Market Street” capital construction plan. Ground is set to break on construction for a protected bikeway, repaved sidewalk, fresh streetscaping, and updated streetcar infrastructure by the start of 2021.
Read more at https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2020/01/market-street-car-free-san-francisco-bike-lanes-transit/605674/
Christian Kallen, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE
If Sonoma Public Works Director Colleen Ferguson has her way, the route of Broadway from MacArthur to the Plaza will have room for more parking, bike paths in each direction, and encourage foot traffic to support local businesses – without costing the city an extra dime.
“The city’s planning documents definitely show bike lanes on both sides of Broadway,” said Ferguson. “And it’s clear that the volumes of traffic on Broadway now can be accommodated by one travel lane until you get to the Plaza – you don’t need two lanes like we have now.”
What would it take to bring Ferguson’s vision to fruition? Apparently just some paint, thanks to the planned repaving of Broadway – aka Highway 12 – by Caltrans slated to begin next summer.
The majestic street, the so-called “gateway” to historic Sonoma, is far wider than it needs to be (and without the military rationale Napoleon needed to build the Champs de l’Elysee, a similarly over-wide boulevard in Paris).
That’s one reason there’s almost never a traffic jam on Broadway – though the T intersection at the Plaza where it runs into Napa Street can be congested.
“It’s 70 feet from curb to curb,” said Frank Penry of GHD, the city’s consultant for the Broadway Streetscape Enhancements & Traffic Circulation Project, part of the city’s annual budget currently under review.
Read more at https://www.sonomanews.com/news/9696161-181/sonoma-plans-new-traffic-bike
Aaron Short, STREETSBLOG USA
A 13-year study of a dozen cities found that protected bike lanes led to a drastic decline in fatalities for all users of the road.
Cities that build protected lanes for cyclists end up with safer roads for people on bikes and people in cars and on foot, a new study of 12 large metropolises revealed Wednesday.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and the University of New Mexico discovered cities with protected and separated bike lanes had 44 percent fewer deaths than the average city.
“Protected separated bike facilities was one of our biggest factors associated with lower fatalities and lower injuries for all road users,” study co-author Wesley Marshall, a University of Colorado Denver engineering professor, told Streetsblog. “If you’re going out of your way to make your city safe for a broader range of cyclists … we’re finding that it ends up being a safer city for everyone.”
Marshall and his team of researchers analyzed 17,000 fatalities and 77,000 severe injuries in cities including Denver, Portland, Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City and Chicago between 2000 and 2012. All had experienced an increase in cycling as they built more infrastructure. (Update: All of those cities also have varying rates of gentrification, which needed to be factored into the results, specifically because of “the safety disparities associated with gentrification.” Researchers said safety improvements in largely gentrified areas “suggest equity issues and the need for future research.”)
Researchers assumed that having more cyclists on the street was spurring drivers to slow down — a relic of a 2017 study that found that cities with high cycling rates had fewer traffic crashes. But it turned out that wasn’t the case.
Read more at https://usa.streetsblog.org/2019/05/29/protect-yourself-separated-bike-lanes-means-safer-streets-study-says/
Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Highway 101 overcrossing connecting Coddingtown Mall to Santa Rosa Junior College and a contentious railroad crossing with an uncertain future are among the bicycle and pedestrian projects proposed in an aspirational city plan that would more than double the number of bikeways in the city.
“It is an ambitious list,” said Nancy Adams, a city transportation planner. “Once you get the road map, now we have to start talking and having the hard conversations on how do you start and get something accomplished.”
The updated bicycle and pedestrian master plan, which contains dozens of projects meant to make it easier to travel around Santa Rosa without a car, won unanimous approval from the Planning Commission on Thursday. It is set to go before the City Council in March.
The plan is inherently optimistic about the city’s ability to pay for future expansions of its walking and biking network. But cash-strapped Santa Rosa’s leaders have devoted recent budget discussions to cutting spending and replenishing reserves depleted by the October 2017 wildfires to pay down pension liabilities.
The city doesn’t have funding for all of the plan’s projects at this time, Adams acknowledged. The proposed Highway 101 crossing connecting the mall and college campus in north Santa Rosa has funding for its design, but the city hasn’t identified how to pay for its construction, she said.
In all, the city has proposed adding 129 miles of bikeways throughout Santa Rosa, increasing its network of bike paths to 242 miles. Alongside the expansive list of potential projects comes data showing that bikes and feet are far from the most popular ways to get to work in Santa Rosa.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9289467-181/santa-rosa-bike-path-plan
David Rabbitt, Jake Mackenzie & Susan Gorin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
To stay informed:
Follow Highway 37 on Facebook: facebook.com/route37/
Sonoma County Transportation Authority documents: http://scta.ca.gov/projects/highway37/
UC Davis Road Ecology Center: https://roadecology.ucdavis.edu/
Highway 37 was closed for nearly half of January. This 21-mile east-west corridor carries 44,000 vehicles each day and provides a critical link for commuters, weekend trips and freight hauling.
The recent news stories and editorial (“A glimpse of Highway 37’s flooded future?” Jan. 26) about flooding, correctly point out that local policymakers are working hard to figure out how to make the much-needed improvements happen quickly. It is not a simple nor easy task, but work is underway.
Two key facts have been established:Initial studies conducted by Caltrans and UC Davis provide preliminary analysis about how sea level rise will impact the corridor. It is dramatic information that shows complete inundation by the end of this century.
Traffic counts and analysis have been conducted to identify who is using the corridor at certain locations. The results show an even split among the four counties, but the direction of travel is very dependent on the time of day, with commuters going west in the morning and east in the evening.
There are five areas where action is underway:
1. Caltrans is pulling together plans and resources to raise the roadway where flooding occurred and pumping was needed.
2. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has a contract already in place to analyze alternatives for all the problems facing the Highway 37 corridor — traffic congestion, flooding during storm events and other approaches such as bikeways, buses and rail. The $1 million evaluation of design alternatives will be completed in December.
3. Decisions on if and how a proposal to privatize a portion of the roadway — from Sears Point to Mare Island — fits into the solution.
4. Community outreach through public meetings, websites and social media have begun and will ramp up in 2017 as we have more detailed concepts related to environmental impacts, design ideas and funding options.
5. Funding is the most significant challenge. State and federal transportation money will be needed for a project of this size. Estimated costs far exceed $1 billion. And, at the same time, it is not the only large highway project we need to work on. In Sonoma County, we need to finish Highway 101; plus there are important projects on Interstate 80 at 680 in Solano County, on Highway 101 at 580 in Marin County and on Highway 29 in Napa County.
The funding challenge has led to an exploration of charging drivers like a toll bridge. In other corridors where this approach has been used — such as the Golden Gate Bridge — the user fees help provide the funds for improving and maintaining the corridor.
As the three Sonoma County representatives on the four-county policy committee, we ask for your help to find the best solutions.
The authors are members of the State Route 37 Policy Committee. Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt is chairman of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and chairman of the State Route 37 Policy Committee. Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie is incoming chairman of the Metropolitain Transportation Commission and a member of the State Route 37 Policy Committee. Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin is a board member for the Transportation Authority and is also a member of the State Route 37 Policy Committee.
Source: Close to Home: Plans to fix Highway 37 need public support | The Press Democrat
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Press Democrat map showing new lanes.
Santa Rosa has given the green light to new bike lanes designed to help cyclists navigate some of the city’s busiest intersections.
The city has installed its first bright green bicycle lanes on Santa Rosa Avenue and has plans for 10 more in locations where bicyclists and vehicles are likely to cross paths.
Workers recently gave the pavement a verdant paint job at the intersection of Third Street and Santa Rosa Avenue in conjunction with the work to reunify Old Courthouse Square.
The other intersections — including busy locations on Mendocino Avenue, Stony Point Road, Sonoma Avenue and Marlow Road — are slated for facelifts this spring.
“This is just kind of round one to see how it works,” said Rob Sprinkle, the city’s traffic engineer.
Read more at: Santa Rosa bike lanes go green | The Press Democrat