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RTC Study of California DOT Reveals Need to Improve Bike/Ped Culture

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 www.railstotrails.org.


Posted Thu, Sep 27 2012 12:30 PM by Jake Lynch


Prof. Robin Freeman wrote re: RTC Study of California DOT Reveals Need to Improve Bike/Ped Culture
on Mon, Oct 15 2012 12:29 PM

Thanks for this study.  I agree!! We are working on a trail link from the San Francisco Bay Trail inland to the Bay Area Ridge Trail which will go along San Leandro Creek through 6.3 miles of urban landscape.  It is a popular idea, but was not elevated to being shown on our Countywide Transportation Plan even though it would be the first bay to hills connector between over 2,000 miles of regional trails.  There are two rail crossings and two freeway underpasses which could be parks and access to regional light rail. We would appreciate any suggestions for moving this along.

Lynne Goldsmith wrote re: RTC Study of California DOT Reveals Need to Improve Bike/Ped Culture
on Mon, Oct 15 2012 3:53 PM

We are trying to get bike lanes striped on a Caltrans highway (major arterial) bridge upgrade project that was designed without them (DD64-R-1 and Complete Streets have been around for a while). One reason always given for not including bicycle facilities in road improvements is that there is no "bike plan," there are no bicyclists, or there are no lanes in the adjacent area.  Not required.  Caltrans engineers claim bike lanes are ineligible for funding; not true. We did find the Caltrans Guidelines for the funding call bicycle facilities a "betterment." This needs to be updated.

Frank Dookun wrote re: RTC Study of California DOT Reveals Need to Improve Bike/Ped Culture
on Mon, Oct 15 2012 11:17 PM

I live in the Los Angeles suburb of the San Fernando Valley. If it were a city, the Valley, with about 2 million people would be the 4th or 5th largest city in America. Transportation for bikes and peds are terrible. For 10 years I worked less than 2 miles from my home but it was impossible to ride a bike to work because it was too dangerous. We're way overdue for meaningful bike paths and bicycle highways that can be used for long distance bicycle commutes. Instead of spending money on a bullet train, the state should be funding bicycle infrastructure.

Daniel G. Romej wrote re: RTC Study of California DOT Reveals Need to Improve Bike/Ped Culture
on Mon, Oct 15 2012 11:39 PM

After moving here from Michigan, I was surprised at the lack of bike trails here.  And since when is losing a bicylest or two a month to vehicles acceptable?

paul Llewellyn wrote re: RTC Study of California DOT Reveals Need to Improve Bike/Ped Culture
on Tue, Oct 16 2012 7:25 PM

I stopped people in the post office and where ever and got one thousand signatures for a bike path along highway 1.

    Governor Jerry Brown allocated 800,000 for improvement, but I never saw any improvement.

    The old Northwestern Pacific rail road line( abandoned) runs from Eureka to San Rafael California and is one of the most scenic anywhere.

    Is would be a shame to loose it as public property,if you have any ideas bring them out.

    Paul Llewellyn

Catherine Lambie wrote re: RTC Study of California DOT Reveals Need to Improve Bike/Ped Culture
on Wed, Oct 17 2012 10:41 AM

My husband 82 has Alzheimers and had a stoke in 2009. I retired early to care for him. We have a recumbent tandem trike which is freedom for both of us. We find that on street bike lanes they are not wide enough for us to ride safely nor would they be safe for other handicapped equipment. We are now primarily using rail trails that are paved. We have a goal to ride all of California's rail trails. I am 62. We probably can't do them all due to surfacing, but it is a goal! We live in a rural area near Lake Isabella and can only go so far in the emergency strips along the side of the road where there is often glass and debris and then the strip runs out and we can't go further. It's really frustrating. We are riding bike paths in Santa Barbara this week. We love triking. We want to do longer trails where we can stay in a motel or camp every 20-30 miles or so. We like the Tulare - Santa Fe trail that we rode with great grandchildren and grandchildren because of the parks and bathroom stops and water fountains and how nice and wide the trail was! We think California needs to do way more to improve bike and trike culture and think ahead to provide more for handicapped and seniors when they plan please. Thank you so much for Rails to Trails!


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