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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Arcata Eye: For traffic's sake, create bicycle boulevards

Image of bicycle boulevard pavement marking in Berkeley, California
From the Arcata Eye, in Arcata, California, 12.12.06:

Five million dollars per year.

That is what California appropriates for bicycle infrastructure. It might sound like a lot of money, but not when you consider that Caltrans is working up the Environmental Impact Report for a frivolous $60 million project to save motorists 60 seconds on their trip to Eureka.

Compare that with $5 million for bicycle infrastructure spread over the most populous state, a state that has plenty of dangerous places to bike, and you can see the imbalance in our transportation policy. (Read more)
The $5 million dollars referred to here is the Bicycle Transportation Account (BTA), administered by the California Department of Transportation, affectionately known as Caltrans. This beloved agency has done more to uglify California than any other entity since the Gold Rush mining era, having only two aesthetic principles: 1) horizontal slabs of concrete, and 2) vertical slabs of concrete.

Some might suggest that Caltrans has changed in recent years, allegedly becoming more responsive to community demands for alternatives to driving. Others, such as this author from Arcata, continue to believe that Caltrans gives non-motorists only a healthy dose of lip service. Like noted atheist Richard Dawkins says, we are waiting for evidence.

The shameful pittance allocated to the BTA--$5 million is a rounding error on most highway construction contracts--is indeed a disgrace, as this writer suggests. More disgraceful is that the BTA was once a few crumbs bigger at $7.2 million. The legislation creating the BTA had a sunset provision which reduced the fund by $2.2 million, unless the sunset was lifted by new legislation.

To its credit, the California Bicycle Coalition did get legislation to continue the status quo $7.2 million BTA funding--no increase to meet unfunded demand, merely stay-level in non-inflation adjusted dollars--through to Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar's desk in 2005. The Governator vetoed the bill, SB523. Yes, Mr. Fitness and Health Arnold killed the bill. And clearly he was advised to do so by Caltrans. And this was mere prelude to the massive highway pork of Proposition 1B, passed this November at Arnold's urging and lacking any funds for bicyclists or pedestrians.

Happily, the BTA is not the only source of government funding for bicycle facilities. Many local organizations, notably the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, have been effective at finding creative ways to squeeze money out of reluctant government agencies.

Image: Web capture. A bike boulevard in Berkeley, California.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the in-depth coverage concerning bicycle infrastructure in California.
This issue as well as many others has spurned the creation of the New California Network (NCN). NCN is a nonpartisan catalyst designed to modernize state government. Through sound analysis and meaningful engagement with Californians, NCN strives to improve the performance, transparency and accountability of the government to create fiscal responsibility.

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Yokota Fritz said...

Good essay, as usual.

California will be required to spend almost $15 million of its federal highway apportionment for the "Safe Routes to School" program in federal FY 2007. How is that program coming along in this state?