Recommendations to make Sacramento a safer city for bikes

Dave Walker illustration

The City of Sacramento has an Active Transportation Commission (ATC), comprised by a group of appointees from each council district, plus the Mayor, and appointees from the Personnel and Public Employees committee. While the City continues to proactively pursue efforts that will improve walking and biking, the ATC believes that we’re not moving quickly enough. Both the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change and draft Climate Action Plan express urgency needed around strategies that will reduce greenhouse gasses (GHG) and vehicle miles traveled (VMT). This is only possible when our entire community can safely and conveniently access destinations without relying on a private vehicle to do so. 

For decades, the City’s investments in car centric infrastructure have created a disconnected active transportation network that has left many people, especially our historically underserved communities with limited transportation options. The ATC is asking for a level of investment from the City now to ensure Sacramento is able to create a more sustainable city for everyone, regardless of their District or zip code. In the spirit of progress, the ATC identified 9 ideas that will improve walking and biking across the City in conjunction with efforts already underway. 

Here are the 9 recommendations:

1. Increase Funding for Active Transportation: The City needs to allocate more funding towards active transportation projects to build a sustainable city accessible to everyone.

Many cities have recently benefited from increased funding. In 2005, Congress authorized the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Project (NTPP) that provided 25 million dollars to four communities to fund active transportation projects. The result saw an increase in walking and biking trips in some areas up to 48.3%, according to a report from the League of American Bicyclists.

With over 700 transportation projects waiting for the shovels at Public Works, and many are a high priority as determined in the Transportation Priorities Plan, this is the most important of the nine recommendations.

2. Expand Speed Management Program: Lowering vehicle speeds through effective speed management measures will greatly benefit pedestrians and cyclists and contribute to reducing collisions.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s study showed that reducing speed limits in downtown Seattle reduced collisions resulting in injury by 20%.

3. Develop a Citywide Safe Routes to School Program: Establishing a comprehensive Safe Routes to School program across all schools in the city will encourage more students to walk and bike by providing necessary resources and support.

Portland area teacher Sam Balto successfully started a bike bus for his school that literally sees over a 100 kids participating. Schools across the country are following suit. As the capital city of California, whose climate is particularly suitable for nearly year round outdoor activities, we should be taking the lead with bike buses and safe routes to school.

4. Re-establish Slow & Active Streets: Revive the Slow and Active Streets program based on lessons learned from the pilot program and follow the example of cities like San Francisco to create safer, low-traffic routes.

Survey after survey has shown that many people would ride their bikes more often if they felt safe doing so. Many feel apprehensive about sharing the road with cars. Creating routes that slow or limit vehicular travel and create active streets for people would go a long way to encouraging more to walk and bike.

5. Create a Sacramento Quick-Build Bikeways Program: Establish a dedicated funding program for quick-build bikeways projects that utilize low-cost materials and accelerated timelines to rapidly improve street safety and accessibility.

Bikeways don’t have to be drawn-out, expensive projects. They can happen quickly and cheaply with the right amount of planning. Like slow and active streets, creating more space where people feel safe to ride will increase ridership. This can have a myriad of benefits from cleaner air to increased economic growth. Studies show that bike commuters and pedestrians are more likely to shop at local businesses.

Source: Getting Around Sacramento

6. Finalize the Construction Detour Policy: Urgently complete the construction detour policy to ensure safe passage for pedestrians and cyclists during construction projects and monitor its implementation to ensure compliance.

As it stands, our city doesn’t have a detour policy in place. For those who choose active transportation, the lack of a plan creates hardship. In some cases, it makes passage by foot or bike impossible.

It’s urgent that the city move forward to finish a detour policy. Sacramento has great potential to be an excellent bike city. Making sure people have a consistently safe route to commute using a form of active transportation is imperative for that to become a reality.

7. Increase Secure Bike Parking: Allocate additional funds to expand bike parking infrastructure to meet the growing demand and enhance safety and convenience for cyclists.

As it stands, there are many places where no secure bike parking exists. Besides sharing the road with distracted motorists, many people are hesitant to use their bikes over their cars for fear of theft. More secure bike parking would help alleviate this fear.

8. Pilot an Electric Bike Library: Seek funding opportunities to establish an electric bike library program similar to Oakland’s initiative, providing affordable long-term rentals and promoting alternative transportation options.

Other cities have also initiated similar programs. Calgary has started an electric bike library at some of their light-rail stations to encourage people in the suburbs to use active transportation.

Sacramento has a small fleet of e-trikes at Colonial Heights library, and SABA has a fleet that we are taking to community events to offer people a chance to get on a bike and experience the difference of an ebike.

9. Develop an ATC Dashboard: Create an online dashboard to provide the public with easy access to information about the Active Transportation Commission’s efforts, including letters to the mayor and council, policy updates, grant applications, project reviews, bicycle and pedestrian data, and progress towards GHG and VMT reduction targets.

For more info on these recommendations and ways to be engaged with the ATC, find your Active Transportation Commissioner here. We encourage you to reach out to your Commissioner and discuss any of these recommendations. For more info on each recommendation, the entire report can be found here. The ATC will be bringing these before City Council on August 29th, 2023 and we hope you’ll join us in bringing these recommendations to our electeds.

Visionary City Planner is coming to Sacramento Feb. 21

Who: Brent Toderian, founder of Toderian UrbanWORKS
What: Keynote Speaker, State of Downtown breakfast
Where: SAFE Credit Union Convention Center, 1401 K Street
When: Tuesday, February 21, 8 AM

Brent Toderian, an internationally respected practitioner and thought leader on advancing urban environments, will serve as Keynote Speaker at the annual State of Downtown breakfast hosted by Downtown Sacramento Partnership on Tuesday, February 21.

Toderian has more than 30 years of experience in advanced urbanism, city planning, urban design, transportation, and change management. He served for six years as chief planner for the city of Vancouver, Canada. He also served as Manager of Center City Planning + Design and Chief Subdivision + Neighborhood Planner in Calgary.

He founded TODERIAN UrbanWORKS (TUW) in 2012 where he continues to consult with cities across the globe to build thriving, liveable communities.

Toderian does not advise cities to maintain a staid status quo (hello, Sacramento!), which makes SABA excited to see what visionary ideas he’ll showcase to our elected officials and city planners.

We would love to have a solid representation of bike and ped advocates in the audience. Seeing Toderian’s ideas presented will provide a strong foothold for attendees to refer to when pushing local officials for better and safer active transportation options and infrastructure.

While our city center could never be called visionary, and if anything, it has gotten even less appealing since the pandemic and our new reality of remote workers. There are empty city and state buildings, bringing less foot traffic, revenue, and livelihood to the area. Empty, non- generating buildings are obviously not a recipe for success. But this means that there’s abundant opportunity for improvement.

There are so many changes that could be done to energize downtown, make downtown safer for everyone, help reach the state’s climate goals, and increase the tax base. We’re excited to see what comprehensive ideas Toderian brings to Sacramento’s city leaders.
Toderian is a strong advocate for placing the importance of people over cars. Let’s face it: roads inspire nobody. But city parks, patio dining areas, parklets (converted parking spaces), outdoor music venues, and community events DO inspire. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, people want and need to feel connected. Isolation isn’t healthy. This includes sitting in a car alone for hours a day and turning over the majority of public space to mostly single-occupancy vehicles.

If California were a sovereign nation, our state would have the fifth largest economy in the world. We should have an inspiring, thriving downtown capital city that reflects that. Right now, our downtown is, frankly, boring and built around fast car travel, making it unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians.

Tweet, January 29, 2023

For an example closer to home, the Cultural Trail in Indianapolis is 8 miles long, cutting through a variety of urban neighborhoods. Over half of business owners along the trail indicated they have seen an increase in customers since the Cultural Trail opened, and 48 percent indicated they have seen an increase in revenue. The trail boasts an economic impact of $864M. It’s not rocket science to understand that creating spaces where people want to spend time is good for business.

Sacramento needs a long-term visionary plan to revive downtown and support the local economy. We need more people in our city center, which simply means making downtown more attractive and interesting for employers, families, workers, and tourists.

From a bicycling perspective, there are some positive changes slated for the future, including the Central City Mobility Project that proposes permanent reconfiguration of high-speed, one-way roads into slower, safer, two-way avenues. The plan will also add miles of protected bike lanes in Sacramento and it includes a new rail station which will efficiently bring more people into town.

While this is good, Sacramento really needs a downtown plan that looks out 5, 10, and 50 years ahead, steering the city towards economic success and sustainability. Toderian’s ideas could help inspire that.

The defeat of Measure A in November—which would have raised taxes, increased sprawl, and widened highways that would have brought MORE congestion—tells us that Sacramento residents have had enough of archaic thinking and inaction by our city.

If we use some simple and relatively inexpensive techniques, including transforming space for cars into space for people and safe, separated bike lanes, Sacramento would quickly see results. Americans have been hoodwinked to believe that reallocating even a single parking spot away means death to local businesses. Studies have shown that this is simply not true.

Retweet from Carlton Reid, Forbes Magazine.

Our city has a target bicycling mode share goal of 12% and we are currently at a dismal 2%. Without bold moves, we will not see bold progress. Or any progress. We’re already behind the curve and need to act now.

Here in Sacramento, 57% of our carbon emissions are from vehicles. With almost half of urban car trips estimated to be 3 miles or less in length, imagine the local air quality improvement if just 10% of those trips were converted from single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) to bikes or e-bikes. Even one trip by bike a day would do a lot towards reaching our climate goals.

Tweet, January 23, 2022

In addition to safe cycling routes to downtown, we need better bus and light rail service. Both should be subsidized to make access to downtown more equitable and affordable for everyone. Prioritizing public transit makes driving a car less appealing and a less efficient means of getting around.

We recently saw a decision by our Mayor and City Council to decrease the cost of downtown parking prices. Subsidizing parking costs is ridiculously antiquated. No wonder we’re not seeing progress. How can we when our elected officials’ decisions take us backwards?

The fact that the website details for Toderian’s presentation includes information on SIX different car parking structures for attendees but nothing on how to arrive via transit or where to securely park a bike is a succinct reminder of how far we have to go.

Tweet, January 25, 2023

Toderian’s consulting firm advocates for sustainable cities and looks at every facet that entails, from more bike lanes, to housing within reach, to efficient transit, to lowering emissions.

Tickets in the gallery seating section start at $35 but do not include breakfast. So be sure to fuel up before you ride over.

We hope to see you there!


As many are aware, the COP26 just wrapped up convening in Glasgow, Scotland. But you might not know that SABA, along with 350 organizations from around the world signed an open letter calling on governments to boost global cycling levels. Our joint message was simple: the world needs more people cycling if we are to combat the climate crisis.

The Cop26 was dedicated to transport focused almost exclusively on fossil fuel-powered means such as motor vehicles and aviation, with almost no attention paid to sustainable methods of transport such as cycling and walking, which already exist.

The EU’s Matthew Baldwin brought up the missing subject and along with the letter signed by organizations around the world, a sentence on active travel was added to the Glasgow Declaration.

“We recognize that alongside the shift to zero emission vehicles, a sustainable future for road transport will require wider system transformation, including support for active travel, public and shared transport.”

In other words, we’re not going to reach our goals with zero emission vehicles alone. Leaders in Glasgow argued that cycling should be a part of a broader approach to a variety of multimodal transportation options. When a third of emissions come from transportation you have to switch modes.

Carlton Reid, transportation writer for Forbes and other publications was in Glasgow talking with leaders:

“The climate transition is not simply about replacing every petrol or diesel car with an electric car,” Ed Miliband told [Reid] in the COP26 Media Center.

“We need to create a better society where people can walk and cycle, with all the health benefits that brings,” added Miliband.

Jill Warren of the European Cyclists’ Federation argued, “If you make cities more cycling-friendly, you don’t just get the emission reductions; you get the livability, you get the absolutely enormous health benefits. These add up to over $60 billion in economic benefits a year.”

California signed onto the Climate Declaration as did Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Monica. The capitol of California, sadly, was MIA.

We appreciate that the City “took a chance” with the Slow and Active Streets pilot, but we recommend that the City double down and raise bike and pedestrian infrastructure to the top of their climate change implementation list of goals and actions. Let’s start by finishing the creation of a low stress interconnected bike network.

It’s obvious: bicycling is low cost, low tech, and high impact. Don’t underestimate the power of the bike.

Job Posting: Executive Director

SABA seeks a dynamic person in the Executive Director position to lead the overall affairs of SABA in a manner that guides the organization’s mission as defined by the Board of Directors. The Executive Director oversees the administration, programs and strategic plan of the organization. This position will directly supervise all staff and contractors as appropriate. This is an exempt part-time position. The Executive Director reports directly to the Board of Directors.

To apply, please visit this job posting on Recruitment will remain open until the position is filled.

Please visit this link for a detailed job description.