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San Francisco Bay Area’s Caltrans District 4 reportedly posted an online survey for potential and current bike riders about what elements would be necessary in a bike highway that they would want to use. The survey is open now, and will be up until the end of Feb.
The District 4 team’s working definition for a bike highway is “a high-quality, uninterrupted, long-distance bikeway that reduces barriers to destinations that people want to travel to and from, especially places which may normally be difficult to bike to.” That could mean a combination of bike paths on existing streets and fully separated trails, with the idea being that they are designed for all bike riders.
Bike highways are rare to nonexistent in California, with very few long-distance bike paths existing, but none that serve cities or long distance bike commuters. Caltrans information officer Jeffrey Weiss reportedly said they’re looking to European countries to find examples of bike highways,“It’s something that we should explore, but we didn’t want to just plan a highway without public input.” The survey is the first step in that direction.
The survey will address the reasons why people ride, what barriers they face that prevent them from riding, and what kinds of design elements would be important to them on a bike facility.
“The idea of bike highways was just one of many data points we got from earlier studies,” including the development of District 4’s bike plan, Weiss added. “We are using the information that we collect from the survey to inform our decision on what bike corridors we may select in the future. Hopefully we’ll have another level of outreach in the fall, once we’ve collected this high-level information. The more information we gather, the better we can implement a corridor that has the features that people want.”
District 4 has already completed a bike plan and is developing a plan for accommodating pedestrians safely. This puts it far ahead of other Caltrans districts, and none of the others has been investigating bike highways. The information recouped by District 4 will likely help inform all other Caltrans districts as they begin catching up with their own active transportation plans.
California is notoriously unsafe for bicyclists. In 2018, California was the second state with the most pedalcyclist deaths in the country. However, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Los Angeles began to turn a tide. Back in Sep. 2020, non-profit news organization Crosstown reported that that month marked a record for bike safety in Los Angeles. As more cyclists hit the roads, the month had the fewest bicycle-vehicle collisions since the city began releasing data in 2012. Per data from the Los Angeles Police Department, there were 18 bike-vehicle collisions recorded in the city that month, down from 185 during the same period in 2019 — making it the lowest number ever recorded.