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The Most Powerful Bike Funding Policy in the Nation?

How San Luis Obispo Established the Most Powerful Bike Funding Policy in the Nation

By Eric Meyer and Dan Rivoire.

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Eight years of careful planning — and a bit of luck — just paid off in a big way for the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Coalition. The central California city recently amended its transportation plan (known as the “Circulation Element” of the general plan) in three very innovative ways.

First, the city revised its transportation mode objectives, dramatically increasing the bike and pedestrian trip goals.

The new mode split goal:

50 percent motor vehicles
12 percent transit
20 percent bicycles
18 percent walking, car pools, and other forms

This is one of the most pedestrian- and bike-centric modal split objectives in the United States.

Second, the city changed its roadway analysis from Level of Service to Multi-Modal Level of Service.

San Luis Obispo rejected Level of Service — an outdated standard that measures transportation projects only on the basis of automobile delay — in favor of Multi-Modal Level of Service. MMLOS puts all modes on a level playing field so that the needs of one mode may only trump the needs of another in a manner designated by the modal hierarchy given to that location.

With this MMLOS objective in mind, the city re-prioritized the modal hierarchy of all of its streets. Some high-traffic arterials are automobile-focused, then transit, then bikes, then peds. Other streets have different hierarchies. Residential neighborhood streets are prioritized for pedestrians first. Major arterials are prioritized for transit first. It is a complex “complete streets” effort that will balance the needs of all modes in the city over time as streets are rebuilt or modified.

Third (and most important!): The city created a policy that allocates general fund transportation spending by mode to match the mode share percentage goals desired.

If you remember only one thing from this article, this is it.

This policy mandates that our city must allocate general fund transportation spending at the same ratio as the mode share goal desired. Meaning 20 percent of funding needs to go to bicycling.

This is a huge shift from business as usual in America.

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These changes didn’t happen all at once. They happened over the course of about eight years under the guidance of many minds at the Bicycle Coalition and with the help of many hundreds of citizens. If we had tried to make this all happen at once during a Circulation Element update, we would have failed.

It happened because we focused on the smallest relevant plans first. San Luis Obispo’s first opportunity for meaningful policy change came when the City Planning Commission was approving a Climate Action Plan, with the aim of reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. One of the suggested strategies in this plan was to decrease single occupancy vehicle trips. One way to do that is to encourage an increase in the mode share of alternative modes such as biking and walking. Eric pitched the idea of pushing the bike mode share goal to 20 percent, thinking that we might get 15 percent as a compromise. But in a surprise vote, the entire planning commission agreed to the new 20 percent bike mode share goal.

In the context of the Climate Action Plan this bike mode share increase didn’t seem that controversial, and the audience in the Planning Commission chamber that night was very enthusiastic. The City Council later easily approved the new Climate Action Plan.

The trouble was that other older city plans, like the Bicycle Master Plan and the city Circulation Element, still had the old 10 percent bike goal. (Note that the current bike mode share is only about 6 percent.) So a year or two later, when the Bicycle Master Plan came up for review, it was modified to match the Climate Action Plan. Since city staff were able to explain that they were merely updating the bike plan to match the more recent climate action plan, it went through without a hitch.

A few years later, the city’s transportation and land use plan, known as LUCE (for “Land Use Element and Circulation Element”) came up for review and updating. Eric was appointed chairman of the citizen task force dedicated to overseeing the update. The task force again debated increasing the modal goal over what was in the old LUCE, but what ultimately led to them to approve it was the simple fact that the Planning Commission and City Council had already approved that figure in the two other plans years before.

In addition to this new modal split objective, the new MMLOS policy and the requirement to allocate transportation funding in the same ratio as the desired modal split were also incorporated into the transportation and land use update.

This 20 percent mode bike mode share goal would never have been approved in the LUCE had it not already been part of the two smaller plans.

This is a key point and may be a pathway that others can follow to create similar changes in other jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, Dan was elected to City Council shortly after the City Planning Commission approved the LUCE update, so when it came before the council, his was the deciding vote that approved it and he is now in a position to help shepherd the new prioritization of funding. Our work to get a place on city boards, as bike advocates, paid off.

Together these new policies create one of the strongest funding mechanisms for bicycle infrastructure in the nation. We hope that other cities might be able to learn from our efforts.

None of this would have been possible without the efforts of hundreds of members of the public and the tireless efforts of many Bicycle Coalition Advocates who showed up at City Planning and City Council meetings to voice their concerns and desires. It is the public that creates the demand and the advocate’s job is simply to help the public and the city find the way forward.

Photos: Top: New Green Lane markings at California Blvd. and the Northbound 101 Freeway offramp. Below: A new bike bridge being installed on the Bob Jones Trail at the south end of the city. Photos:City of San Luis Obispo from 2014.

Originally published by the kind folks at The Alliance for Biking and Walking.

 

 

Rand Paul Attacks Federal Funding

Just yesterday, July 24, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced an amendment to the Transportation Appropriations Committee that will strip all Federal funding for biking and walking facilities. Please help us maintain the Transportation Alternatives (TA)* program – that will help build a bikeable and walkable SLO County.PaulAttacksFederalFundingPaul’s amendment would prohibit ANY MONEY from being used for TA*, and to redirect it all towards bridge repair. Contact our Senators and ask them to save Transportation Alternatives by voting NO on amendment 1742. It’s quick, painless, and will help ensure the Bob Jones Trail is completed in your lifetime.

Caron Whitaker, the League’s Vice President for Government Relations, told POLITICO that the amendment is off the mark. TA represents just 2 percent of transportation funding, and that percentage would hardly put a dent in bridge repair.

“Stripping the Mayors of this funding and putting the entire TA program funding to bridge repair couldn’t fix our country’s bridges in 40 or more years […] However, putting this 2 percent put towards transportation needs in our cities, towns and counties can make transportation in those communities more safe, efficient and accessible.”

-Caron Whitaker, VP for Government Relations
League of American Bicyclists

Obviously repairing our bridges is important, both for safety and economic development reasons, but dedicating the small amount of TA funding to bridge repair would not be highly effective. Taking this small amount of funding away would dangerously undermine efforts in communities to provide safe and efficient transportation options for everyone. With rates of bicycling and walking fatalities on the rise, this is a trade we can’t afford to make.

The Senate hopes to finish this bill today, so please act soon!

Read more from our national partners at the League of American Bicyclists here.

*In 2012, Congress passed a new transportation bill, MAP-21, that dismantled dedicated funding for biking and walking by combining Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails into one program, Transportation Alternatives (TA), and cut the funding by 30%. The only saving grace was a local control provision to ensure that Mayors and communities could access dollars to support their local transportation priorities.

BIG Win for Bicycles in San Luis Obispo

Earlier in 2013, the San Luis Obispo City Council made expanding our bikeway network a major city goal. Later, on Monday, June 17th, the Council approved a two year budget that makes incredible strides towards strengthening our investment in safe biking and walking infrastructure.

The next budget cycle will include unbelievable investment in our bikeways. The Bicycle Coalition is excited to announce the increase in general funds towards bikeway improvements from $25,000 to $100,000 a year. That’s 4x the previous annual investment!

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This full list of projects below illustrates the dedication and partnership between the City Council, Staff, and your Bicycle Coalition over the next two years:

  • Bicycle Traffic Counts
  • Bicycle Education
  • SLO City Bike Rodeo
  • Bike Parking
  • $1,759,000 for the Railroad Safety Trail
  • $600,000 for the Bob Jones Trail
  • $120,000 for path maintenance
  • $200,000 for bicycle facilities improvements
  • $50,000 for sidewalk repairs
  • $220,000 for sidewalk ramp construction
  • …and more!

We know that we are joined by tens of thousands of people in our community in saying THANK YOU to our council for believing in the positive impact of complete bikeways in our lovable city.

You too can take a moment to send City Council members a thank you note for quadrupling funding for bikeways. Find their contact information here.

Advocacy Alert

Help Secure Cap and Trade Funding for Safe Routes to School and Bike/Ped

SRTS_NationalThe California Air Resources Board will be holding public hearings for input on the investment of cap-and-trade auction proceeds to support the State’s effort to reduce the greenhouse gases (GHG) that contribute to climate change.  Active transportation offers unique advantages to reduce GHG emissions and improve public health, reduce congestion, and improve public safety.

Increasing investments in Safe Routes to School programs, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and first-last mile connections to public transit will support the goals of AB 32 and SB 375.  We encourage the administration to set aside a significant portion of the cap and trade revenues for these purposes.

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Increased levels of bicycling and walking must play a part in reducing GHG emissions if
California wants to meet the targets set by AB 32.

A shift of automobile trips to bicycling or walking trips has a direct, positive impact in that trip emissions are reduced by 100 percent.  Approximately 60% of trips in California are under one mile, and are currently taken by automobile. These trips can easily be accomplished by walking or bicycling, drastically reducing GHG emissions.

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Join us in providing comments to the administration on this important topic.  The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has developed the following talking points and nexus document for your information. (They are jam packed with information! Check them out).

We encourage you to submit a written comment here by March 8th to show your support for these funds to be used to help fund our bike/ped infrastructure and programs!

Advocacy Alert

The Future of Bicycles in CA

Governor Brown’s 2013-2014 budget proposal includes a new funding mechanism of $134 million for bicycle and pedestrian projects – the new Active Transportation Program (ATP). Our partners at the California Bicycle Coalition have outlined specific requests for the ATP as part of their online petition including maintaining funding for Safe Routes to School, a wildly successful program that began in California and has since been adopted at the federal level.

Despite the growing numbers of Americans choosing a bicycle for transportation (a 43% increase in the last 10 years), the funding levels for these facilities are still at risk. Just last year, researchers at Princeton University found that 83% of Americans want to maintain or increase funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects – yet a lack of funding for these projects continues to be the norm.

Here in SLO County, we rank 9th of 58 California counties for bicycle fatalities over the age of 15. Governor Brown’s budget proposal will directly affect the local efforts to reduce these numbers and increase safety and mobility for all road users. Now is the time to tell Governor Brown that we know it is good for the future of our children, our economy, and our state.Petition

The petition will be closed Monday January 28th at 5:00 PST – before it gets transmitted to the Administration for review before the release of the bill on February 1st.

83% of Americans Support Federal Funding for Biking

A recent report from our national partners at America Bikes found that 83% of all respondents support maintaining or increasing the federal funding streams that pay for sidewalks, bikeways, and bike paths.

We know this is true, we see it everyday, with increasing ridership both locally, and nationally. Americans want active transportation options, a way to get around their communities safely, and while being active. The threat to eliminating funding for biking and walking is real, and would roll back the options in our transportation system back into the 1950s.

More and more Americans are turning to biking for transportation on a daily basis. In 2009, Americans took 4 billion bike trips, and the number of bicycle commuters has grown 43% since 2000.

One of the most noticeable parts of the report, is that support for biking and walking funding is bi-partisan, is not related to geography, and is strong across all age groups. In a time where biking trips are rapidly increasing, it is a mistake to put the safety of road users at risk by eliminating funding.

…Many lawmakers have zeroed in on eliminating funding for biking and walking as a wishful solution to our country’s fiscal woes, though cutting these critical but small programs has virtually no impact on the federal deficit. Currently, only 1.5% of federal transportation spending funds sidewalks and bikeways.

If you want to continue to see better bikeways and bike paths locally, support our Connect SLO County initiative, aimed at completing our bike paths. We are dedicated to making sure people of all ages can get around by bicycle, and are your voice for bicycles in SLO County and beyond!

You can view the entire report from America Bikes online here.

Advocacy Alert

Save Our Streets: Act TODAY!

We need you to ask both chambers of Congress to save our streets.

The current Senate transportation bill is a serious threat to biking and walking programs. To improve it, we’re asking our senators to vote for the Cardin-Cochran amendment, this will give local governments the freedom to build sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways that keep people safe.

In the House, we are asking representatives to oppose the House transportation bill. Despite the fact that walking and bicycling infrastructure is a low-cost investment that creates more jobs per dollar than any other kind of highway spending, the House bill eliminates dedicated funding for walking and biking.

Contact our leaders TODAY and tell them how important dedicated funding for biking and walking is to you and our future.

Let our Senators know:

  • Safety matters. Bicycle and pedestrian deaths make up 14% of all traffic fatalities, but only 1.5% of federal funds go towards making walking and biking safer. These programs provide funding for sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways that make streets safe for all users.
  • Local governments deserve a voice in transportation. The Cardin-Cochran amendment ensures that cities and counties have a voice in making transportation decisions for safer streets in their communities.
  • Active transportation is a smart investment. Walking and biking infrastructure is low-cost, creates more jobs per dollar than any other kind of highway spending, and is critical to economic development for our communities.

On the other side of Congress, the House is considering a transportation bill (HR 7) that reverses 20 years of progress in making streets safer for people. Despite the fact that walking and biking make up 12% of trips but receive only 1.5% of federal funding, the House bill eliminates dedicated funding for walking and biking. It’s time to defeat this bill.

Tell your representative:

  • HR 7 takes us back to the 1950s by eliminating dedicated funding for biking and walking AND eliminating transit out of the highway trust fund. We need a transportation bill to meet our multi-modal 2012 needs, not auto-centric 1950 needs.
  • HR 7 doesn’t invest wisely. Federal transportation laws should invest our finite resources in cost-effective, efficient infrastructure solutions that create jobs and keep the economy moving. The House bill eliminates walking and biking, despite the fact that walking and bicycling infrastructure is low-cost, creates more jobs per dollar than any other kind of highway funding, and is good for our healthy future.
  • HR 7 makes streets more dangerous for kids. By repealing the effective Safe Routes to School program, the House bill makes the streets more dangerous for kids on their walks and bike rides to school.

Congress needs to know that that finding effective, efficient transportation solutions to keep people safe on the streets should be a national priority. 

Please contact your representative and senators today.

For more information and great updates, visit America Bikes.

Advocacy Alert

New Bill Eliminates Bike/Ped Programs!

New House Bill Reverses Decades of Progress

It’s so much worse than we thought… Today, the House released its transportation bill, the American Energy and Infrastructure Act.

Last week, we knew the bill would be bad news for biking and walking. But we didn’t think it would go so far as to completely remove every reference to bicycling and walking in the federal transportation policy. Despite making up about 1% of federal funding and over 13% of fatalities, it’s on the chopping block…

House leadership is pressing to eliminate bicycling and walking in the transportation bill:

  • Transportation Enhancements is gone, the primary source for bike-ped programs
  • Safe Routes to School is gone, reversing years of progress in creating safe ways for kids to walk and bike to school
  • Allows states to build bridges without safe access for pedestrians and bicycles
  • The Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program (CMAQ) is less likely to support pedestrian, bicycle, and transit improvements because air quality is no longer the operative measure.
  • Eliminates bicycle and pedestrian coordinators in state DOTs
  • Eliminates language that insures that rumble strips “do not adversely affect the safety or mobility of bicyclists, pedestrians or the disabled”
  • Eliminates language that specifically includes traffic calming and bike-ped safety improvements as eligible for HSIP funding

But we can still save biking and walking in this bill!

The benefits of biking and walking extend into all aspects of everyone’s life:

  • We save money on commuting costs, which we spend elsewhere
  • We improve our health with every trip we take
  • We reduce congestion on our roads by driving less
  • We reduce our impact on the environment by not creating pollution
  • We connect with our communities by being outside and ringing our bells at our friends as we pass by
  • WE HAVE FUN!

After the bill is out of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee this week, hopefully with some amendments to reinstate bike-ped programs, we will need everyone to contact your Representative before it goes to the House floor for a vote!

If we lose here, we risk losing decades of progress. We know we are asking a lot of you and we thank you for all you’re doing to preserve biking and walking. Tell your friends!

Read more about the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act via AmericaBikes.org

Contact your Representative to ask them to support biking & walking via BikeLeague.org

Find your Representative to contact via AmericaBikes.org