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With all the hub-bub about California Street we need to pull back and take a 10,000 foot view of what is and could be going on downtown for people on bikes. Currently, a re-striping plan that has been in the works for months has been hijacked by the local media. Yes, a painted buffered bike lane is a new tool in the street design box for better bikeways, but what will it really do increase safety on California Street for bicycles? What will it really do to increase the numbers of bicycles coming downtown? At what point is there true impact for Downtown to see a tipping point? When and where, and what for, do we spend our limited political and community capital? Do we want a town where we are fighting block by block to get some room to ride next to the fuming cars with nothing but paint between us and the texting driver, or do we want to have a space that we can truly call our own.
I am sure many of you reading this have seen and been watching other cities grow and progress their cycling infrastructure and want to mimic their improvements and benefits, but we here in Redding are at a unique advantage already. We have a vast network of paths connecting many different and wonderful parts of our community and has been growing for years and will continue to grow along the rivers and open spaces. We are lucky because we have plenty of space on many of our streets and greenbelts for the creation of the "Urban Trail."
Now it is time to transition the River Trail into the Urban Trail, rolling from the river side to straight down the middle of the downtown mall. Or a "downtown loop" keeping the bike lane on California and Pine streets on the left/inside creating a loop around the mall, allowing the double right to remain on Pine and so the cyclist won't have to deal with the conflict zone from the right turn onto the freeway. Imagine living in Palo Cedro and being able to ride to the Sundial Bridge physically separated from vehicles just like you can from Old Shasta. Or after riding to the Dam roll to the downtown mall for a nice big burrito and have your bike securely locked at the door. Everyone should all be able to get to and from the Sundial Bridge with our families safely, from any neighborhood, whether we live on Shasta View or College View, Bonnyview or Parkview. Imagine riding your bicycle to dine, see a move or grab a gallon of milk, go to work, school or church, all without having to navigate with cars on our main roads.
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Creating this vision will not be easy or happen this summer, but when we are done it will be the best quality of life we can offer here, not just for spandex clad cyclist but for runners, walkers joggers, the causal commuter, students, grandmothers, and families. This will take time, effort, planning, understanding process and compromise, but in the end we will have the freedom to choose to move around this community without a car safely with the whole family.
This is not to say that bike lanes don't have their place but we have to be careful how much political and community capital we put into gaining anything but the best facility because cycles of rebuilding and maintenance are becoming more scarce. The basic 6' bike lane was originally the plan by Caltrans was going to happen relatively quietly, as a part of a regular maintenance project, without reducing traffic lanes or cost to the project. There are plans in the works to bring the River Trail to Downtown but if we take away a lane now we may get increased push back if we need to take more space later. We don't want to appear like a drug addict to those that don't understand the vision, we need to be clear about what we really want to see ultimately on our street and get it right the first time.
If you feel compelled that California Street could have a better bikeway than a simple painted buffered bicycle lane next to moving traffic and are willing to have a little patience to build something better, consider reading and signing this petition to Caltrans.
Also consider attending Thursdays Caltrans Open House to voice your opinion, even if it is different then the one stated here.
UPDATE: Backlash is a real thing, especially if you don't use the community process or put something permeant in they can take it away.
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.
An Open Letter to Caltrans & The City of Redding Regarding California Street - You Can Keep 3 Lanes and add a Bike Lane
It appears from the news that Caltrans is considering taking California Street to two lanes to add a bike lane. This is contrary to what I heard on the May 16th Caltrans bicycle ride that lane removal was not being considered.
I never thought I would be advocating against what might be considered a good bicycle improvement at first glance. I am a driver of a large vehicle, also a motorcyclist not just a bicyclist.
I have experienced more aggressive acts than I can count directed at me by angry drivers in my 20+ years of cycling experience when riding exactly how and where I am supposed to be according to the facility provided to me. If they take time to exchange words their message is clear: they feel I should not be on the road. So I prefer to not be on the road if it appears that I (as a cyclist) am taking it away from them. These incidents include but are not limited to; baseball bats, baby seats, full cups of tobacco chew, urine multiple attempts to run me over from a single driver, and guns brandished, yes plural guns. The incidents have happened while riding with groups, by myself and even directed at cyclist that are clearly women I am riding with. Cops mostly either don’t care, can not enforce the law due to evidence requirements or are to busy.
I prefer to do nothing rather than the wrong thing on California Street. I fear the headline: “Driver Angry About Lane Removal Kills Cyclist.”
I will only support lane or parking removal on California Street if a protected facility is being put in its place.
I think the right thing for now, is to put in a bike lane on California Street with out removing a lane. By not removing a lane at this time this project (and future projects) avoid backlash and anger directed at unprotected humans riding bicycles on the road.
In either scenario, 3 lanes or 2 lanes you can still have a bike lane. This way I have a place to ride while not “taking” anything away from motorists.
I would ultimately like to support the removal of a lane to install a protected facility that connects the River Trail to downtown. A fully protected “Urban Trail” would be the safest investment and be the most appealing facility to help create a vibrant revitalized downtown.
Respectfully, Carson Blume
Want to know more? Read the next post: So whats REALLY up with California Street