California Forum

Another View: Sacramento way behind in planning for bikes

Bicyclist ride around the traffic circle on 25th and G streets.
Bicyclist ride around the traffic circle on 25th and G streets.

In his commentary “Sacramento is not a friendly city for cyclists” (Forum, July 5), Daniel Weintraub catalogs the challenges faced by Sacramentans who travel by bicycle: bike lanes that just end, community destinations functionally inaccessible by bike, streets too busy to be comfortably shared with cars.

Dozens of U.S. cities are experiencing dramatic growth in bicycle ridership. Thanks to strategic investments in planning and infrastructure, Pittsburgh saw the number of people riding bikes jump by 400 percent over the past five years. Meanwhile, the share of Sacramentans who ride bikes didn’t change at all.

The conditions for bicycling in Sacramento are guided by a bicycle master plan adopted in the late 1990s and largely unchanged since. Three years ago, the city of Sacramento launched an update, but as of this spring, the project was still half-finished, with no end in sight.

So Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates persuaded the city to spend at least $150,000 to hire a contractor to finish the update. SABA and the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee also called for a plan that prioritizes equal attention to all neighborhoods based on neighborhood-level input.

Yet when the city began soliciting proposals from contractors, it specified a budget of just $50,000. Spending just 10 cents per resident won’t produce even a cursory analysis of neighborhood needs in a city with nearly a half-million residents, much less the 21st-century plan Sacramento badly needs.

Last week, Stockton awarded a $350,000 contract to update its bicycle master plan, an amount equal to $1.17 per resident. Three years ago, West Sacramento spent $125,000 ($2.50 per resident) to update its plan, and earlier this year Marysville allocated $100,000 ($8.19 per resident) for its first-ever bike plan.

State and federal transportation funding programs increasingly prioritize investments in previously underserved areas and require evidence of substantial community input to justify the need. Americans who earn less than $30,000 a year ride bikes for everyday travel at a higher rate.

In Sacramento, many lower-income residents live in older, postwar suburban neighborhoods designed exclusively for cars. All the bicyclists who died in bike-vs.-car collisions in Sacramento in the past 18 months were killed outside the central city, most of them in the south area.

Updating the bicycle master plan on the cheap will leave Sacramento less competitive for the funding to pay for improvements. In the next several weeks, the City Council will be asked to ratify a consultant contract for the bicycle master plan update. If the city fails to budget appropriately, we’re in danger of getting exactly what we pay for.

Jim Brown is executive director of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates.