Foon Rhee

How bicycling makes a city hipper and safer

Sacramento stacks up pretty well among larger cities as a bicycle commuting city. But it has a long road to become truly bike-friendly.

About 2 percent of commuters ride their bicycles to work in the Sacramento metro area, according to the latest numbers. That’s three times higher than the national average, ranking behind only Portland, San Francisco and San Jose among the 25 largest metros.

That also means nearly all workers in the region are still driving to the office, so there’s a lot of room for growth. Especially during Bike Month in May, Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates and other activists are doing their best to push the city to make it easier and safer for bicyclists.

One measuring stick is the report card from the League of American Bicyclists. Sacramento gets a “silver” ranking, but to go for “gold,” it would have to add many more bike lanes, dramatically reduce crashes and fatalities, and spend more of its transportation budget on bicycling.

There’s some movement on that score. In its midyear budget tweaks, the City Council set aside $2.25 million for bike lanes and other projects in each district. In the proposed 2017-18 budget, the council tentatively voted Tuesday to spend $2.3 million on public access easements – a key step toward finally completing the bike trail on the long-delayed Sacramento River Parkway through the Pocket.

“There’s a crying need and demand for a more bike-able city,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said.

Also, on May 21, the city took up one suggestion in the league’s report card – closing off 2 miles of busy Broadway to cars as Sacramento’s first Open Streets event for walking and bicycling.

Yet it took way too long for bike sharing to arrive in Sacramento, only this month after five years of study. It also took far too long to come up with a compromise last year to keep sidewalks safe for cyclists and pedestrians alike, a major concern in midtown.

To speed progress, the city must chip away at its bicycle master plan, adopted last August. It calls for making bicycling “a fundamental part of Sacramento’s everyday transportation system” for riders of all ages, abilities and neighborhoods; for increasing bicycle commuting to 7 percent by 2020; and decreasing fatalities to zero by 2020.

The plan calls for more dedicated bicycle lanes so there’s an uninterrupted network through more of the city. Under the blueprint, 148 miles would be added to the existing 316 miles of on-street bikeways. Also in the 88-page plan: more safe places to park bicycles, better traffic enforcement, more aggressive efforts to stop bicycle theft and recover stolen bikes, and more education and community outreach. The next step is to come up with an implementation plan and priority list for projects by 2018.

Sacramento needs to pedal faster toward that bike-friendly future.

By the numbers

How Sacramento stacks up as bicycle friendly:

Measure

Sacramento

‘Gold’ status

Bike lanes of total roads

22%

43%

Commuting rate

2.3%

5.5%

Crashes (per 10,000 cyclists)

453

100

Fatalities (per 10,000 cyclists)

5.7

0.6

Share of transportation budget

7.7%

14%

Source: League of American Bicyclists

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