Growing support for active transportation has been
manifesting itself into calls for more and safer opportunities for bicycling
and walking all across the country. In some instances, this booming trend is
the catalyst that pushes municipal planners to provide more bike paths, trails
and pathways--a response to the demands of the population.
But how prepared are the planners, designers, engineers and
work crews of our state departments of transportation to deliver this active
transportation infrastructure? Aware of the critical role of these staff in
facilitating walking and biking, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) recently led
a study of the California Department of Transportation's (Caltrans) bicycle-
and pedestrian-related technical training for its staff.
While California has made significant gains in its policies
and procedures to improve its statewide active transportation system, the
study reveals that there is still room for improvement.
For example, during a series of interviews with Caltrans
staff, it was found that fewer than 60 percent of planners, and fewer than 50 percent
of traffic operations staff, were "moderately familiar or very familiar" with
California Complete Streets policies, including Caltrans' own directive that
all of its projects accommodate all users, including bicyclists, pedestrians
and transit users.
Similarly, a majority of respondents (51.4 percent) felt that
Caltrans did not do an effective job of advertising bicycle/pedestrian training
for staff being offered by other districts or divisions.
While bicycle and pedestrian facilities are often thought of
as the province of local streets, and, therefore, local government, bicyclists
and pedestrians have legal access on all conventional highways and State
Highway System expressways, and about 25 percent of California's freeways. Of
particular importance, state highways function as the main street for hundreds
of communities throughout the state, especially in rural areas. This means that
Caltrans' ability and willingness to prioritize walking and biking has a huge
impact on access, safety and mobility in local communities.
Among the recommendations of the study, which was led by
RTC's Western Region Director Laura Cohen, and co-authored by California Walks,
California Active Communities, and the California Department of Public Health,
was that Caltrans needs to better integrate bicycle and pedestrian
considerations early in the planning process.
More difficult, but equally as important, Caltrans also
needs to foster an organizational culture that treats bicycle and pedestrian
transportation on par with other modes.
Data for the report was gathered through personal interviews
with more than two dozen Caltrans managers that play a role in bicycle and
pedestrian projects, an online survey emailed to more than 1,000 Caltrans staff, and
a review of current training offerings.
The report, "Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Training
for Caltrans Staff," is now available in RTC's Trail-Building Toolbox at