Creating a bike-friendly Sacramento

In this story we go to Sacramento where bike advocates are promoting a healthy lifestyle and bike-friendly public policy.

Jim Brown
Executive Director, Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates

I think there’s just an assumption that bicycling is a healthy activity. We don’t talk about it. We hear a lot about the risk of, you know, hazardous interaction with cars.

What we don’t talk about is the fact that those real concerns are far outweighed by the health benefits. Both the individual health benefits but also the community wide benefits that come from cleaner air in particular.

Neighborhoods that are more bikeable tend to have more vibrant retail activity. People on bikes travel slower, so we see more and we stop more. People on bikes spend more in the neighborhoods they travel through than the people who drive through those neighborhoods. Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates has been around for 24 years, since 1991.

We’re really focused on these community wide benefits that come from giving people better choices for transportation. But we have not seen the investments in infrastructure and planning that really produce the kinds of networks and connections that really suit trying to travel by bikes

Particularly in lower-income neighborhoods, we know that lower income people typically ride bikes for everyday travel at a higher rate than the rest of the population. But they are living in these older suburbs that are not designed for bikes.

Stockton and Fruitridge is an interesting part of the city. Stockton Boulevard used to be the route of Highway 99, before it was turned into a freeway in the early 60s. Fruitridge Road, it’s a main route across part of the city and it has no bike lanes at all. As a result, you have the highest number of bike versus car collisions in the city occurring around that intersection.

We see a lot of fragmented bike routes, bike routes to nowhere. We see construction projects disrupting what bit of a network we do have. When it occurs in the central city we often don’t see a detour. Perhaps the belief is that there are alternate routes on adjacent streets. When I’m on L Street I don’t have many alternate routes that I can get to because the cross streets don’t have bike lanes on them.

100% of the legislatures live in Sacramento. They don’t live in Davis, they don’t live in Portland, they don’t live in San Francisco. They don’t live in more bike friendly places, they live in Sacramento. So we have this unique opportunity to influence how law-makers from throughout the state see the opportunities for making neighborhoods more bikeable.

Sacramento Valley Station is the Amtrak depot in Sacramento, it’s served mainly by the Capitol Corridor Train, which happens to be a national model for bike access. It has a much higher percentage of passengers who access the system by bicycle. Capital Mall is south of I Street, and if your destination is the state capital, what you’ll immediately discover is that the station sits on I Street and 5th Street. I Street is westbound to I-5. 5th Street is northbound one way. You can’t actually go south out of the station. The reverse trip is even more challenging because 5th Street is a very intense street to ride north on, and it’s currently passing through the construction site of the NBA Arena. So you’ve got heavy equipment, you’ve got lane closures.

I think the way to look at safety is that Sacramento is one of the car friendliest places in the state. Sacramentans drive more than Los Angelenos. And so the result is you’ve got a roadway system that is really geared towards cars and not very much geared towards bicycling. So that creates some inherent safety conflicts

We’re really focused on these community wide benefits that come from giving people better choices for transportation. We’re improving health. We’re making the streets less congested. We see a lot of wide ranging benefits to the whole community by providing people with better choices for bicycling. That’s why we’re so focused on creating the conditions that make it easy for people to choose to ride a bike.

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