California Bike Lanes May Be Exempted From Environmental Review

If Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 2245, a bill which will exempt bike lanes from the CA Environmental Quality Act until 2018, opponents of these lanes will be deprived of a major tool to delay these projects that may accompany controversial 'road diets'.

Aaron Bialick explains the significance of the bill, written by Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-LA County, that crosses traditional party lines to encroach upon the sanctity (for the environmental community) of the embattled California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

"When traffic lanes are removed to make room for bike lanes, CEQA typically requires planners to measure impacts using the car-centric formula known as Level of Service. That would change under the new bill. As the California Bicycle Coalition explains, "AB 2245 essentially requires cities to examine the same environmental impacts for bike lane projects as under CEQA, but in a much more streamlined and cost-effective fashion"

According to the CBC, "CEQA review for bike lanes can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to complete, often costing more than the actual project on the ground. These timelines and costs deter many cities from the robust implementation of needed and necessary bike networks."

Surprisingly, a major supporter for the bill is none other than the Automobile Club of Southern California who are quoted in the Aug. 15 legislative analysis: "The encouragement of greater bicycling as a viable mode of transportation through the provision of these facilities should provide a net environmental benefit."

Also quoted is the California Chamber of Commerce, an organization known for its ability to "kill" legislation. "Additional bikeways will promote tourism and benefit the residents of the area where the project will take place", they write.

Opposing the bill is the United Transportation Union, representing many bus drivers throughout the state.

"The addition of Class II bikeway projects, undertaken by a city, county, or a city and county within an existing right-of-way, to the exemptions of current CEQA requirements, creates an unsafe condition for all motorists and bike riders in California", they write.

To read the bill, see the enrolled text: "This bill would, until January 1, 2018, exempt from CEQA the restriping of streets and highways for bicycle lanes in an urbanized area that is consistent with a prepared bicycle transportation plan..."

Full Story: New State Bill Would Streamline CEQA Reviews for Bike Lanes

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Irvin Dawid's picture
Correspondent

Jerry Brown: Yes, Exempt Bike Lanes From Rigorous CEQA Review

Autumn Bernstein of California Climate Plan provides an update on bills signed and vetoed by Gov. Brown at the end of the legislative session.

"Bike lane enthusiasts are celebrating the Governor’s signature on AB 2245, a bill that would exempt new bike lanes from CEQA review, as long as those lanes are within urban areas and are consistent with an adopted bicycle master plan."

However, bikers were not to happy with an important bike safety bill the Gov' vetoed. California Bicycle Coalition reports: "Governor vetoes SB 1464, citing new concerns about liability: We’ve learned from Sen. Alan Lowenthal this afternoon that Gov. Jerry Brown plans to veto SB 1464, our 3-foot passing bill. According to Lowenthal’s office, the Governor will argue that the provision of the bill that legalizes the common practice of crossing a solid double-yellow centerline in order to pass a bicyclist with at least 3 feet of clearance might expose the state to liability if a driver is injured while doing so."

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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