Assembly Bill 819 to Aid Bikeway Developments

For those unfamiliar with it, Assembly Bill 819 is the important new bill that would give California cities a significant boost towards advancing bikeway designs and renovations. Introduced in February 2011, the bill aims toamend Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, relating to bikeways.” The bill’s opening statement is as follows:

“Existing law requires the Department of Transportation, in cooperation with county and city governments, to establish minimum safety design criteria for the planning and construction of bikeways, and authorizes cities, counties, and local agencies to establish bikeways


This bill would include a class IV bikeway among the bikeways subject to the above provisions and would define a class IV bikeway to include a segregated bike lane which provides exclusive use of bicycles on streets, as specified.” [1]

How would AB 819 change current bikeway advocacy plans?
Around this time last year, select San Francisco streets were newly painted with green bike boxes. The effort and lobbying put into implementing these boxes are often ignored, but it is important to acknowledge that just these 7 boxes took a year to complete. [4, 5]
Such delays in development are caused by current state laws and Caltrans guidelines, which dictate what and how new bikeways are created. And “under current state law, facilities like protected bike lanes and bike boxes–which are not established within Caltrans guidelines–must go through an expensive and time-consuming approval process.” [2]
Meanwhile, AB 819 would allow planners to “use guidelines that have been established outside Caltrans, like the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, which includes designs for protected bikeways.” Such guidelines have allowed cities like New York, Chicago, and DC to develop protected bikeways with greater ease, efficiency, and therefore success than those in San Francisco. [3]
Current status of AB 819
Last Monday, the State Assemble Transportation Committee passed AB 819, but with crucial corrections. The amended bill “would only require Caltrans to create an experimentation process through which engineers can establish bikeway standards” [3] before making any real and effective changes to bike lanes and bikeways.
Though a step forward, it is still not the greenlight the California Bicycle Coalition and other advocacy groups have been waiting for. Despite such setbacks CBC Communications Director Jim Brown says, “We’re continuing to work with Caltrans to figure out how innovative bikeway designs already used in other parts of the U.S. and Europe can be implemented in California.” [3]


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