Most of us in the community have been to and used, or at least know of the Sacramento River Trail. It connects the Downtown Mall, Bechelli, Sundial Bridge, Turtle Bay, Hilltop Bluffs, Cadwell Park, Old Shasta, Keswick, Stanford Hills and Lake Redding Estates together without needing to come into contact with vehicles. This trail is great for recreation and helps some people commute from one part of town to another. But we can do better. There is a lot of chatter about adding bike lanes and buffers for commuting in the down town area. Thus increasing business and even helping to revilitize downtown. This is all well and good, but you will only get a certain type of cyclist to use these facilities. There are different types of cyclists and they are willing to use different kinds of facilities if provided.
- Strong and Fearless - Rides anywhere, just because they feel comfortable on the open road doesn't mean they wouldn't mind having the best kind of facilities. Very few people are this way.
- Enthused and Confident - Uses bike lanes and bigger shouldered roads, changes route to avoid conflicts, really likes places like the River Trail. This is a slightly larger group than Strong and Fearless.
- Interested but Concerned - Your classic, puts the bike on the back of the car to get to the River Trail because they just don't feel safe sharing the road. This is often the majority of people in a community.
- The last group is, "no way, no how will I ride a bike!"
If we connect major shopping & dining areas with neighborhoods, schools, churches and community centers. Use physically protected urban trails that connect to the existing River Trail, we can really start to help revitilize this community with the bike and all the benefits that go along with it for transportation, lifestyle and recreation.
Now we have academic proof of this, Portland State University's National Institute of Transportation and Communities released it's study of separated on street facilities. People for Bikes has a shorter break down of this study. Below is their info graphic breaking down the increase in usage. I think we can do better.
Most of these are just separated by reflective plastic flex post or parking spaces. In an age of distracted driving and ever increasing anger towards cyclist. When and where we can, we should physically protect cyclist with something like short sections of planters with trees or shrubs. Or circumvent the streets all together with paths like the River Trail. This is not to say that in certain situations a conventional bike lane or shoulder widening should not be done. Think of the Urban Trail as an extension of the River Trail. Mimicking the main arteries of the town. We also have a lot of opportunity with the creeks & greenbelts throughout our city. Think, Churn Creek Trail, dirt on one side paved on the other.
We must also do this intelligently as to not over promise and under deliver results. By simply extending the River Trail into parts of town with a physically protected Urban Trail we have a user base that will use the new sections that are constructed. If we were just to construct an urban trail along California Street without connecting it to the River Trail how would people safely get there to use it? It would effectively connect to nothing. An empty path could lead to backlash against the project and future projects.