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!

50 reasons why everyone should want more walkable and bikeable streets

Making our streets more bikeable is beneficial to everyone. Borrowing heavily from Fast Company’s “50 Reasons Why Everyone Should Want More Walkable Streets”, by Adele Peters, we are changing these up to include biking. The entire report is here (should you be interested):

#1 Longevity

Cyclists live an average of 8 years longer than the general population, according to a study from 2011 by International Journal of sports.

#2 Waist Management

The average person burns anywhere from 210 to 310 calories for 30 minutes of riding, according to Harvard University.

#3 Healthy Heart

Purdue University released a study that shows regular cycling can reduce heart disease by 50%.

#4 General Wellbeing lists cycling as a form of transportation and exercise that is both calming and meditative. But not too meditative, keep your eyes on the road!

#5 Traffic Safety

More than 130 cyclists died in crashes in 2019 in California, according to the California office of traffic safety. Better street designs and policies can greatly reduce injuries and fatalities. Safer streets encourage more cycling.

#6 Safety in Numbers

While some countries such as the U.K. have nearly 6 million security cameras covering their streets, making our streets more walkable and bikeable increases the amount of people in an area and the number of eyes present.

#7 Less Crime

In one Kansas city neighborhood, crime dropped 74% when streets went car-free on weekends.

#8 Creates Community

Neighborhoods that are designed to be more walkable and bikeable bring more people out of their houses and into the neighborhood to positively interact with each other.

#9 Sense of Ownership

Having more people bike and walk in their neighborhoods brings awareness of the many features their areas provide. People feel more of a sense of ownership and are more likely to take care of it.

#10 Promotes Creativity

Streets that are walkable and bikeable attract public arts and spaces. Cultural events and public art encourage people to visit areas that they may have overlooked.

#11 Affordability

Not everyone can afford to buy a car and pay for auto insurance. A bicycle is relatively inexpensive to purchase or maintain. Bikeable streets means more people have mobility.

#12 Social Interaction

Studies from the 1960s show that people who lived on streets with more car traffic, knew less about their neighbors.

#13 Community Bonds

With more people interacting with each other, it increases the strength of community bonds. According to a study in Ireland, people who lived in walkable and bikeable neighborhoods had stronger “social capital.”

#14 Connections

Both millennials and seniors are more likely to walk than drive. With more people walking, biking and using public transportation, there are more chances for individuals of all ages to connect with each other.

#15 Inclusivity

Traffic infrastructure can physically separate communities and neighborhoods, as we have experienced in Sacramento. With more people riding their bikes, it makes more of the city accessible and puts less strain on lower income households who can’t afford to be car dependent.

#16 It Boosts the Economy

Cyclists are more likely to shop in neighborhoods they ride in than drivers. It also boosts employment. Overall, walking and biking provide a return of $11.80 for every $1 dollar invested.

#17 It Supports Local Businesses

Parking lots redesigned into plazas gave enormous returns in retail sales. In cities like Portland, or where 20% of the population drives less, residents save over a billion dollars a year. Much of this money goes into the local economy.

#18 Boosts Brain Power

A study in Scientific Reports found a link between improved executive functioning and regular physical activity. Other studies have some better cognitive function in older adults who regularly ride their bikes.

#19 Improves a City’s Brand and Identity

Cities such as Barcelona, that have improved their walkability and public spaces, have seen a rise of over 300%  in annual visitors in the past 2 decades. People are more likely to visit a city that is more walkable and bikeable.

#20 Improves Tourism

Walking and biking are two of the easiest ways to visit a city. Most major cities such as Sacramento, offer electric bike rentals. London saw an increase in tourist in Trafalgar Sqaure of over 300% after making it more friendly to walkers and cyclists.

#21 It Encourages Investment

The City of New York’s investment into the High Line Park, a walkable and bikeable area, led to a 2 billion dollar private investment into the neighborhood surrounding the park. The High Line Park features a 1.25 mile path that loops around public art and has become a popular destination for locals and tourists.

#22 It Attracts the Creative Class

According to the American League of Bicyclists, bike friendly areas attract what’s referred to as the creative class (scientists, engineers, educators, poets, architects, musicians, etc). The city of Indianapolis began attracting more creative professionals after the city made efforts to make their streets more bikeable.

#23 It Increases Land and Property Values

Safer accessible neighborhoods  have higher property values. When efforts are made to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, home values often go up and average of $82 per square foot. 

#24 It Activates the Street Facade

Streets that are walkable and bikeable have fewer empty storefronts. When New York City worked to make Union Square more accommodating to walkers and cyclist, commercial property vacancies went down 49%.

#25 It Reduces Traffic Congestion

The more people  use their bikes for daily trips, the less congestion we have on our roads. This is beneficial for the economy. In the Bay Area, businesses lose up to 2 billion dollars a year due to employees being stuck in traffic.

#26 Reduces Maintenance Costs

In the U.S., 203 billion dollars goes into building and maintaining roads every year. It’s much cheaper to build and maintain sidewalks and bike paths, not to mention the benefits of cleaner air from more people walking and biking. Unlike EVs, walking and biking also reduces traffic congestion.

#27 Reduces Healthcare Costs

Nearly 200 million dollars a year is spent on obesity related illnesses in the U.S. Both increased walking and biking reduces inactivity and stationary lifestyles and can promote weight loss.

#28 Reduces reliance on fossil fuels

Scientists estimate we have just over 50 years of oil left. Cars use oil inefficiently. Biking or walking does not require the use of nonrenewable resources. Biking reduces one’s carbon footprint.

#29 Minimizes Land Use

Sidewalks and bike paths take up much less space than roads. It allows more people to live in an area that is not car dependent. 

#30 Reduces Air Pollution

When Paris tried their first car free day in 2015, smog was reduced 50%. Biking and walking more is the most effective way to reduce a city’s carbon footprint.

#31 It Cuts Ambient Noise

When there are fewer cars on the road, there is less noise in the area. When Paris experimented with their car-free day, sound noises dropped three decibels. Plants and trees can also help reduce ambient noise.

#32 It Improves Microclimates

Pavement contributes to the Urban Heat Island Effect, while tree-lined sidewalks and paths, cool neighborhoods down considerably. In some areas, it can lead to a reduction in temperatures of up to 39 degrees.

#33 Improves Water Management

Sidewalks that have been designed with permeable surfaces can absorb water during heavy rains and reduce flooding. 

#34 Beautifies Cities

Many cities are made predominantly of roads. Roads comprise of over 70% of Chicago. Areas that are more walkable have more space for trees, plants, and public art. These interventions go a long way to improve the aesthetics of a city.

#35 Increases Active Use of Space

In neighborhoods that are walkable and bikeable, people are more likely to use parks and other public spaces. In the city of Copenhagen, efforts to make the city more walkable led to citizens tripling their use of city space.

#36 Makes a Better Use of Space

Streets that have been redesigned to support other forms of mobility often incorporate better use of underutilized spaces. In New York, over 700 miles of underused spaces were found under elevated structures.

#37 Encourages People to Drive Less

Foot traffic increased 35% when Copenhagen pedestrianized its main street. Most of the trips we take are under two miles. When streets are designed to encourage walking and biking, people are more inclined to ditch their cars.

#38 Promotes Public Transit

For many people, the biggest hurdle to using public transit is the last mile. The last mile often refers to the distance between a person’s home and the closest transit stop. When our streets are designed to encourage walking and biking, people are more likely to utilize public transit and walk or bike that last mile.

#39 Increases Permeability

Walkability and bikeability makes cities more permeable, which means easier to move around in. Better road design, such as road diets, make streets more inviting for walking and biking. People will bike more if they feel more comfortable and safe while doing so.

#40 Bridges Barriers

Neighborhoods are often disconnected from each other because of poor road design and infrastructure. In the city of Rotterdam, citizens crowd funded the construction of a bridge that now crosses over a busy intersection. Sacramento already boasts several pedestrian/bike bridges, but we could use more.

#41 Makes Cities more Competitive

In 2018, when Amazon was looking for a second HQ, all their finalists were bike friendly cities. When Melbourne redesigned their pedestrian center, their population grew 830%. Walkability and bikeability make cities more attractive.

#42 Builds Political Support

When the mayor of Pontevedra, Spain made his city car-free, his political support skyrocketed. He was reelected five times.

#43 Builds Engagement

When citizens spend more time outside, they become more attached to their neighborhoods, and are more likely to engage in civic activities. Crowdfunded public projects are becoming more common place in many cities.

#44 Encourages More Stakeholders to Participate

Community involvement drops 10% for every 10 minutes of added commute time. In cities like Los Angeles, where commuters spend an added 64 hours in their cars commuting, efforts are being made to help citizens make better use of their public spaces.

#45 Inspires Civic Responsibility

Mexico City has appointed a pedestrian superhero, a citizen responsible for defending walkability in their efforts to reach zero traffic deaths.  Making our streets more walkable and bikeable creates a greater sense of responsibility in our residents.

#46 Promotes Sustainable Behaviors

A study in Canada found that if people drove one less day a week, it could reduce greenhouse emissions by nearly 4 tons a year. Making cities more bikeable can help people make the cultural shift away from cars.

#47 Makes Cities More Resilient.

If people have access to safe paths for walking and cycling, they may become more resistant to the inconveniences that arise when mass transit breaks down or gas shortages happen.  It’s also protective against rising gas prices.

#48 Sparks Urban Regeneration

When Madrid built a walkable park along a river, it led to investments in new sports areas, cafes, plazas, and historic landmarks.

#49 Allows for Flexible Micro-Solutions

When an area is more walkable and bikeable, it leads to more pop-up interventions and DIY fix stations.

#50 Supports Cultural Heritage

When the area around a cultural landmark is both walkable and bikeable, more people will visit it. When Beijing began to modernize its city, areas around major cultural landmarks were made accessible only by walking or cycling, which helped to preserve these landmarks that might’ve disappeared due to urban sprawl.