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Bill Would Make California's Urban State HIghways Safer for Non-Motorists

Sen. Scott Wiener introduced legislation to make state highways that run through villages, town, and cities, often acting as main streets, accommodate the safety needs of walkers, cyclists, and transit users when undergoing capital improvements.
January 19, 2019, 7am PST | Irvin Dawid
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It was just over a decade that Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Sen. Mark Leno's (D-San Francisco) landmark legislation, Assembly Bill 1358, the Complete Streets Act, ensuring that all local streets and roads accommodate the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders, as well as motorists.

State highways, the domain of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), was the subject of an internal policy document known as Deputy Directive 64 [pdf], "that explicitly embraces Complete Streets as the policy covering all phases of state highway projects, from planning to construction to maintenance and repair," according to a Complete Streets Fact Sheet prepared by the California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike). However, progress has been slow.

“For too long, Caltrans has talked about complete streets as a policy, but hasn’t actually delivered these improvements in its projects," said Sen. Scott Wiener [D-San Francisco) at a press conference held at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Jan. 14.

"SB 127 ensures that as we rehabilitate state highways that run through the centers of our towns and cities, we prioritize active transportation uses like walking, bicycling, and riding public transportation.

"Streets designed for all residents create safer, healthier, and more inclusive communities. Ensuring everyone has access to safe streets also encourages alternate modes of transportation, which can help reduce vehicle miles traveled, and help us fight climate change.”

The bill "is stronger and more thorough than the Complete Streets bill Wiener introduced last year [SB 760] but let die when Prop 6 threatened to disrupt new gas tax revenue," reports Melanie Curry, editor of Streetsblog California.

According to the legislation, the bill would require Caltrans, by January 1, 2021, "when undertaking any capital improvement project on a state highway or a local street crossing a state highway that is funded through the State Highway Operation and Protection Program, to include new pedestrian and bicycle facilities, or improve existing facilities, as part of the project."

At the press conference, speakers in support of the legislation addressed traffic crashes that injured walkers and cyclists on 19th Ave. and Park Presidio Blvd., both part of State Route 1, maintained by Caltrans. 

Dr. Rebecca Plavin, a trauma surgeon at the hospital, stated that her department treats about 4,000 patients annually for trauma, "and nearly half are injured in traffic collisions...and about half of those are pedestrians and cyclists."

Additionally, the bill would establish a Division of Active Transportation within Caltrans to oversee the existing Active Transportation Program and require that an undersecretary of the Transportation Agency be assigned to it.

SB 127 is sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition, the Safe Routes to School National PartnershipCalifornia Walks, and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

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Published on Monday, January 14, 2019 in Streetsblog California
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