Editorials

Sacramento’s opportunity to improve cycling

Bicyclists have little room navigating along Freeport Boulevard, a four-lane commuter route in Sacramento.
Bicyclists have little room navigating along Freeport Boulevard, a four-lane commuter route in Sacramento. Sacramento Bee file

Seven months ago, when Mayor Kevin Johnson touted his Sacramento 3.0 plan, he said it would create 10,000 new apartments and homes downtown over the next 10 years.

He said new residents will get around town, not just in cars, but via light rail and streetcars. But he missed one very big piece of the landscape: The increasing numbers who are riding bicycles or walking to work, restaurants and ball games.

Today in midtown, sidewalks bustle with crowds and streets teem with bikes. At times, pedestrians and cyclists share the sidewalk, dangerously. In neighborhoods beyond downtown, cyclists navigate with few bike lanes to protect commuters, recreational bikers and those who need bicycles for daily errands.

Johnson and the current City Council aren’t alone in being slow to address this situation. City officials have been studying the burgeoning numbers of cyclists for nearly two decades.

All that examination should have yielded some action, but until a recent lawsuit, the city did little. The master bicycle plan has not been updated since the 1990s. The League of American Bicyclists ranks Sacramento next to last on a 1-to-5 scale for “bicycle friendly” cities.

The city needs to think about bike lanes like it thinks about streets. Instead of fragmented bike routes across the city, commuters need a continuous network of lanes to get in and out of downtown.

Now, Sacramento appears ready to shift its bike plans into high gear, and The Bee’s editorial board welcomes the prospect. It’s long past time to make safe, easy cycling a priority.

The city is in negotiations with a transportation consulting firm to finish updating the bicycle master plan, and in the next couple weeks, Sacramento will begin recruiting a specialist to execute it. Officials hope to roll out a new plan in May, during National Bike Month.

The editorial board has been urging the city to pick up the pace on creating a functional transportation system for cyclists. The city needs to think about bike lanes like it thinks about streets. Instead of fragmented bike routes across the city, commuters need a continuous network of lanes to get in and out of downtown. Neighborhoods need bike lanes to make cycling safe and convenient for parents and children, for senior citizens and for low-income residents who use bicycles for transportation.

Biking and walking downtown should be part of the mayor’s Sacramento 3.0. More young people are being drawn to the city’s urban core. The arena is under construction, and more developers see the potential downtown. But when all those residents want to ride their bikes to Golden 1 Center, how are they going to get there? All bike lanes stop at 15th Street. How will they safely get to the Kings game, and then ride home? Bike lanes need to connect people to where they want to go.

The city should count on more bike riders. Caltrans’ strategic plan, released in April, calls for tripling the percentage of bicyclists in the state by 2020.

Sacramento should try to match that goal, and to get there, the city should come up with a strong vision of where it wants to be in five years, and implement it. City officials say they are putting more people in place to focus on a bike plan as they search for funding.

The city’s new bike czar should be an ambitious person on a mission with a track record of implementing a modern bicycle master plan. But beyond that, whether it’s the mayor, the council or a combination, Sacramento’s bike-able future needs a champion in City Hall.

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