California Policy Complete Streets GHG Reduction Livable Communities Local Government Metropolitan Planning Public Transit Safe Routes to School SB 375 Sustainability

Strategic Growth Council Awards $16M in Planning Grants : Looks to Future Cap and Trade Funding


Today the California Strategic Growth Council awarded over $16 million in its third and final round of Proposition 84 Sustainable Communities Planning Grants.  This successful program has sparked innovation in sustainability planning across California’s communities by incentivizing the integration of transportation, land use, and resource conservation.

The City of Davis, in partnership with Yolo County and UC Davis, received $591,108 for their “Downtown/University Gateway District Plan” proposal — which will bring together a vision for energy, water, and transportation conservation in a critical infill site located between the three jurisdictions.  Reviewed by a panel including a dozen state agency departments, the innovative plan was the highest ranking application in the state.  Policy in Motion is so grateful to have had the opportunity to help craft this proposal with the City, County, and University and is dedicated to ensuring California continues to fund the implementation of projects like this across the state.

Today was a significant milestone for the Strategic Growth Council — having now awarded over $66 million to 126 cities, counties, and regions in California under the Prop 84 funding program.  With the total grant requests vastly exceeding the available funding, it is clear that California communities are eager to plan and build a more sustainable future.

Since the passage of SB 375 in 2008 local governments have been actively seeking funding sources to make the implementation of regional Sustainable Communities Strategies not just a goal, but a reality.

We have a transformative opportunity under California’s cap and trade program to help communities do this — but we need to ensure that we create a program that focuses on three things:

  • INTEGRATION – the combination of different transportation demand management and multi modal infrastructure is essential for not only maximizing greenhouse gas emissions, but also for cost effective investments in our communities. A Sustainable Communities Implementation Program that focuses on real projects and programs in communities would allow for innovative and integrated transportation solutions — for some communities that might be electric car sharing, others may need a central transit station, a bike trail that links across town, or a landscaped street to encourage walking. We need to empower local governments to figure out the best combinations of these investments and incentivize combined approaches because transportation is a “system” not a “silo.”
  • LAND USE – local land use planning is the most critical and most overlooked component in reducing transportation GHG emissions.  We need to take this window of opportunity to leverage sustainable changes in local land use plans, codes, and ordinances, by offering local governments much needed transportation funding that requires outdated land use plans to get a makeover. We have a critical opportunity to think about how transportation systems link and leverage land use. This is what “integration” is all about.
  • PEOPLE – we must keep in mind the cap and trade program impacts will essentially look like a new gas tax to consumers of all incomes and should keep a nexus with putting funding back into local transportation systems that serve all people — whether they be motorists, transit riders, bicyclists, or pedestrians (all of whom use some aspect of our roads). Current proposals for allocating cap and trade do not highlight the importance of this and need to include more funding for active transportation and roadway preservation. And we also must remember sustainable communities are ultimately about creating “people-oriented development” and places where families, seniors, and students all want to live, work, learn, shop, and play.  At the end of the day we want to create communities where people want to walk their dogs under tree lined streets, bike with their kids to a school nearby, take transit to work (and get there on time), and drive through roundabouts without potholes.

Cap and trade revenues will grow into billions of dollars per year in the next few years, so this source of revenue could provide the missing piece in achieving sustainable communities throughout California if done right.

But now is the time.

A performance-based approach to reducing GHG emissions is at the heart of cap and trade – it is a market mechanism geared toward innovation beyond what can be achieved purely through regulatory measures.  We have a real opportunity to use a unique funding source to re-create communities across the state.

We can do this through new sources of funding that are allocated at a regional level where the technical and policy expertise is greatest, and through competitive grants for local communities that are based on maximizing GHG reduction through combinations of transportation investments and land use changes needed to implement SB 375.

Lauren Michele, Principal/Founder, Policy in Motion.

Lauren earned a Master’s of Science degree from the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies after working as a transportation planning professional at Fehr & Peers, a climate change policy analyst at the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington D.C., and an air quality program assistant at the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.  At the UC Davis Urban Land Use and Transportation Center (ULTRANS) she focused on the links between California’s Senate Bill 375 and developing federal climate/energy legislation and the transportation reauthorization.  Her academic work includes teaching undergraduate courses in Transportation Policy at UC Davis and experiential learning while living and researching multi-modal transportation planning in Europe.

Lauren currently serves as Policy Director for the Transportation Coalition for Livable Communities — an organization which includes the California Alliance for Jobs, California Transit Association, National Resources Defense Council, League of California Cities, State Association of Counties, and the Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Councils of Governments throughout the state. The Coalition promotes the investment of cap and trade revenue to address both the greenhouse gas reduction goals of AB 32 and critical transportation system maintenance and operation needs that build on the framework of SB 375 and other GHG reduction strategies.

Her firm, Policy in Motion, specializes in sustainable transportation policy.  Policy in Motion offers planning practitioners, policy makers, and public agencies an understanding of how to integrate sustainability policy into transportation infrastructure and land use decisions.  Lauren Michele’s 2011 book, “Policy in Motion: Transportation Planning in California after AB 32” explores the State’s evolving policies for sustainable living through transportation planning, and identifies how outdated regulatory frameworks must be aligned with supporting paradigm shifts if California is to move forward in a truly unified vision for “People-Oriented Development” and transportation.  Lauren’s 2012 film documentary, “Policy in Motion: Growing Beautiful Communities” continues to explore how an integrated approach to transportation planning and funding based on “People-Oriented Development” (POD) can improve community quality of life while meeting California’s environmental and economic goals. Policy in Motion’s book and film are available for purchase on-line at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and


California Policy Complete Streets Education/Webinars Livable Communities Mentorship Safe Routes to School

Safe Routes to School Decision Maker Toolkit :: Webinar Launch of Web-Based Interface

Student Focus: Learn, Involve, Give

With all the hustle and bustle of the state budget, legislative frenzies, and policy activity it is easy to lose sight of the future when so entangled in today.  Here’s a few ways you can keep the vision forward by thinking about California’s upcoming leaders — our students!


  • Join Lauren Michele and the Institute for Local Government for the launch of the “Safe Routes to School Decision Maker Toolkit” — a guide for local government leaders to create safer walking and bicycling environments through transportation investment decisions in California and to improve collaboration across cities, counties, and schools. By working across traditional silos for better land use and transportation planning, policies, and investments we can create safer communities for California’s students and residents. Policy in Motion is excited to see this exciting project now in web interface and is happy to answer any questions you may have!  Check out the toolkit here and register for the webinar here.


  • The Safe Routes to School National Conference is coming to Sacramento! Policy in Motion nominee Zelia Gonzales from the Met Sacramento High School was selected by the Youth Engagement Committee to be a Youth Facilitar at the national conference….congrats Zelia! Learn more, register early here, and donate to the Charitable Bike Build! See you there :)


  • Policy in Motion’s founding principle is service to others, exemplified by the firm’sCareer Development Mentorship Program and scholarships for outstanding interns.
  • The firm is a 2013 DBE Sponsor for the Sacramento Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar and encourages others to support their outstanding Student Scholarship Program.
  • The California Transportation Foundation is also seeking to raise $50,000 for the Bimla Rhinehart Scholarship Fund geared toward future transportation professionals.
  • Lauren Michele has benefited from these programs and organizations as a student and young professional, so please help invest in California’s future leaders today with her!


California Policy Complete Streets GHG Reduction Livable Communities Local Government Metropolitan Planning Modeling/Tools NewsFlash Public Health Public Transit Safe Routes to School SB 375 State Policy Sustainability Transportation Funding

Transportation Coalition for Livable Communities Cap and Trade Investment Proposal for CARB Workshops

Today the California Air Resources Board will be kicking off its first of three workshops on the development of the AB 32 Cap and Trade Investment Plan. On February 25th in Sacramento the Transportation Coalition for Livable Communities – which includes local/regional governments and transit/transportation agencies statewide – will be laying out a vision for how revenues generated from the state’s program could re-shape California’s urban and rural landscape through integrated land use and transportation investments that build on regional SB 375 and GHG reducing plans with competitive grants for local entities. This opportunity to fund beautiful communities would invest billions of dollars in both the critical transportation investments needed in existing communities, while leveraging local land use and policy changes needed to transform how transportation planning and implementation functions in California. This approach of combined land use strategies co-implemented with livable community infrastructure in the hearts of communities will yield significant long-term greenhouse gas reductions as well as numerous community benefits, such as improved public health, open space and habitat preservation, safe routes to school, and needed support for disadvantaged communities.

-Show up for public support at the workshops tonight in Fresno from 5-8pm, Feb 25th in Sacramento from 3-6pm, or Feb 27th in LA from 4-7pm (location details below)
-Write a support letter with your organization’s logo. Click here to download a template letter to start, and email it to
-Submit your written support to CARB easily on their on-line form linked here

The Coalition’s program concept would allocate funds equitably to regional governments under statewide criteria to administer competitive grants to local entities – proposing combinations of investments, including transit service and operating costs, road and bridge maintenance, retrofits for complete streets and urban greening, and clean technology and other community infrastructure – all integrated with land use modifications to support regional plans.

The Transportation Coalition for Livable Communities has developed a series of principles included in a program concept proposal to CARB. You can download the program concept letter here. If you support this program concept please let CARB know that these core concepts should be considered for inclusion in their Investment Plan:

  1. Regional allocation of funds to ensure that every region of the state receives a fair share
  2. Favoring integration of land use strategies and transportation investments to achieve the highest GHG emission reductions.  Studies consistently show that combining transportation investments with complementary land use changes significantly increase the GHG emission reduction and co-benefits.
  3. Use a competitive process at the regional level, under criteria developed by the state, to prioritize local project proposals that co-implement transportation investments with land use changes that most cost effectively meet the goals of the program and further stimulate innovation and flexibility at the local and regional level.
  4. Improved modeling and verification systems for GHG evaluation to ensure effective results.

Members of the Transportation Coalition for Livable Communities

California Transit Association • League of California Cities  • California State Association of Counties • Self-Help Counties Coalition • California Association of Councils of Governments • Sacramento Area Council of Governments • Southern California Association of Governments • Metropolitan Transportation Commission • San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Council • Transportation California • California Alliance for Jobs • Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District

Date Location
5 pm – 8 pm:  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mariposa Mall Building – Room 1036 

2550 Mariposa Mall; Fresno


3 pm – 6 pm: 

Monday, February 25, 2013

California Environmental Protection Agency,
Byron Sher Auditorium, 2nd floor
1001 I Street; Sacramento
This meeting will also be webcast. 


4 pm – 7 pm: 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ronald Reagan Building – Auditorium
300 South Spring Street
Los Angeles

Materials (for all workshops):



California Policy Complete Streets Education/Webinars NewsFlash

Documentary Now Available on Amazon and Policy in Motion!

Al Gore may have produced An Inconvenient Truth, but on August 10th Policy in Motion premiered a film documentary depicting the very convenient truth that by investing in better communities we can improve quality of life, economic growth, as well as meet environmental goals. Joined by state agency policymakers and leaders in local implementation, a new conversation began around integrated approaches to fostering sustainable communities through collaboration and innovation. Lauren Michele awarded two student scholarships to interns with Policy in Motion’s Career Development Mentorship Program: UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies Graduate Student Brigitte Driller for her help on the Department of Public Health’s Safe Routes to School “Active Transportation Planning and Funding Guide for Local Policy Makers”; and Met Sacramento High School Senior Jeremy Gray (now at film school in New York!) for his incredible commitment, creativity and joy in Directing Growing Beautiful Communities.

Policy in Motion Pictures Presents… Growing Beautiful Communities.

All Proceeds Go to Student Scholarship Fund:

Growing Beautiful Communities is an independently-produced documentary building upon the themes in Lauren Michele’s book Policy in Motion: Transportation Planning in California after AB 32. Through interviews with policy leaders and planners in transportation and sustainability fields, the film illustrates how the POD (People Oriented Development) concept can be used as a process to not only help California meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals but also to create sustainable communities and beautiful places to live. POD is driven by six main areas explored in the film: Job Growth, Community Schools, Places to Play, Quality Travel, Resource Management, and Housing Diversity. Growing Beautiful Communities depicts how an integrated approach to transportation planning and funding can improve community quality of life while meeting California’s environmental and economic goals.


California Policy Complete Streets Federal Policy GHG Reduction High-Speed Rail Livable Communities Metropolitan Planning Public Health Public Transit Safe Routes to School SB 375 State Policy Sustainability Transportation Funding

Transportation Funding: Past, Present, Future

Funding Beautiful Communities

The nature of transportation funding is a cycle of birth and death. Despite clear state policy goals to address the transportation sector’s 38% contribution to California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory, funding for needed sustainable community investments to implement such goals has seen levels of uncertainty that make progress equally uncertain. From years of local public transit cuts and underfunded local road maintenance needs to recent slashes for complete streets and Safe Routes to School in the federal transportation bill – hope still prevails with billions approved by the State for high speed rail, possibilities for redevelopment reincarnation, and the promise of new cap and trade revenue from fuels. California not only has opportunities like leveraging its investments in high speed rail with cap and trade funding for sustainable communities, but will need to act on them given the dismal federal transportation reauthorization vision for integrated transportation and land use systems.

But it’s not all dismal!

On August 10th Growing Beautiful Communities will depict how an integrated approach to transportation planning and funding can improve community quality of life while meeting California’s environmental and economic goals.

Uncertainty can breed creativity. I made a documentary on that premise. California can make history. The State can leverage the lack of federal vision to do something really innovative for transportation funding in California – the same way the lack of federal GHG reduction leadership led to state climate action plans across the country starting here.

California has the potential to capitalize on its $8 billion investment in high speed rail and do everything the federal transportation bill is missing for transformative transportation — we can achieve a vision for sustainable communities and reduced greenhouse gas emissions through the creation of an integrated transportation funding program which:

  • Draws on a new source of transportation revenues, offering multi-year financial stability to communities and regions implementing projects
  • Creates flexibility to use funds for needed transit operations and maintenance investments
  • Provides funding for road and bridge repair to improve transportation efficiency
  • Expands active transportation, complete streets and transportation enhancement infrastructure
  • Incentivizes transportation innovation from regional and local governments
  • Measures meaningful performance to tie transportation investments to GHG emission reduction, as well as other benefits like health, energy, water, cost-effectiveness, and agricultural resources.
  • Integrates intercity, rural, and local transit, roads, and active transportation infrastructure with regional land use planning and local project implementation
  • Invests in existing communities by offsetting the high cost of infill development
  • Promotes inter- and intra-jurisdictional collaboration between institutions like local/regional planning departments and school and medical campuses

We can learn from the past, capitalize on the present, and make the future a reality through innovative transportation funding.

Complete Streets Livable Communities NewsFlash Research Safe Routes to School

Research Shows Dramatic Health Benefits of Walking & Biking

Research Shows Dramatic Health Benefits of Walking & Biking

From the California Dept. of Public Health – November 2011; Neil Maizlish, PhD, MPH, Epidemiologist

A public health research team recently developed the Integrated Transport and Health Impacts Model (I-THIM) that makes it possible to estimate the health co-benefits and potential harms from active transport and low carbon driving in urban populations. The team applied the model to the Bay Area, and the results are dramatic.  According to the report, “Reducing risks from chronic disease of the magnitude suggested by I-THIM would rank among the most notable public health achievements in the modern era, and reduce the estimated $34 billion annual cost in California from cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions such as obesity.”

Download the 2-page report summary
Download the technical report
Download the powerpoint overview

At 15% of all miles traveled by active transport, disease reductions include:

↓ 14% of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes

↓ 6-7% of dementia and depression

↓ 5% of breast and colon cancerMajor public health impact

$34 billion annual health costs from cardiovascular disease in California

Complete Streets Livable Communities NewsFlash Public Health Publications Research Safe Routes to School

When We Have Safe Routes to School We Have Safe Routes for All

I read two articles tonight which caught my attention related to Safe Routes to School – right after a neighborhood bike ride home with my 17 year old nephew from his downtown Sacramento high school where I am volunteering as a mentor to students working on campus bicycle programs.  The first was a tragic article in the Sacramento Bee on Michelle Murigi who was fatally injured just one week before her 17th birthday a few blocks from her high school campus.  The second was on a new report released today by the National Center for Safe Routes to School on how to prevent such tragedy through ways to engage schools in increased safety measures, better infrastructure and education programs.

15% of students in California walk to school each day

— many crossing high speed streets without sidewalks or crosswalks

Key Findings from the California Statewide Travel Demand Model

Source: UC Davis Urban Land Use and Transportation Center

  • 15% of all school trips are made by walking, however, funding to support safe infrastructure, programs and plans at schools are far below the demand
  • High income students produce 19% of total school trips – contributing 17% of total trips by automobile
  • While 40% of low income students walk to school, only 8% of high income students walk – many schools lack adequate facilities to support active transportation.
  • Middle income students bike to school more than low and high income students combined – the fact that bicycle trips only account for 1% of total school trips may reflect the lack of investment, planning, and programs needed to foster bikable neighborhoods

Study Identifies Four Key Strategies of Successful Safe Routes to School Programs

National Center for Safe Routes to School Releases New Travel Mode Report

(Chapel Hill, N.C.) January 24, 2012 — Do Safe Routes to School programs that increase walking and bicycling have some characteristics in common? A new report conducted by the National Center for Safe Routes to School has found that may indeed be the case.

Shifting Modes: A Comparative Analysis of Safe Routes to School Program Elements and Travel Mode Outcomes identifies the following four key factors that successful SRTS programs share:

  1. Identifying an in-school leader, often the principal, to champion SRTS.
  2. Conducting activities that reinforce walking and bicycling, such as frequent walker/biker programs and Walk to School Day events.
  3. Generating parent support for SRTS.
  4. Establishing policies that support SRTS, such as early dismissal for students who walk or bicycle home from school.

“SRTS programs across the country are increasing the number of students walking and bicycling to school, and this research reveals some of the ways they did it, which is important for two reasons,” said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. “For transportation and public health officials, it establishes a baseline of data for future research to extend and enrich; for local SRTS program organizers and leaders, it identifies four distinct similarities among successful programs.”

In the Shifting Modes study, National Center researchers explore how school-level dynamics that underlie planning and implementation of SRTS programs relate to the percentage of students who walk and bicycle between home and school. The National Center examined three schools with SRTS programs that measured increases in walking and bicycling to school and compared them to a sample of schools that shared similar demographics but did not increase walking or bicycling to school. To view the complete report, visit

Because the study was limited to schools with three years of data and only those schools that adopted SRTS programs early and met stringent data collection criteria were examined, the study’s sample is small. The student travel mode data were complemented with structured interviews with local SRTS program coordinators. This approach yielded insights into ways to increase the percentage of students who walk and bicycle to school.

The National Center also developed a brief document specifically for the SRTS practitioner. Getting More Students to Walk and Bicycle:  Four Elements of Successful Programs highlights how practitioners can use the study’s findings to increase student participation in walking and bicycling to school. The four key strategies identified in the Shifting Modes study are compared to two schools that have been nationally recognized for increasing walking and bicycling to school; the programs at both schools shared all four identified strategies. To view Getting More Students to Walk and Bicycle, visit

“We encourage those who are on the ground implementing SRTS programs to consider which of these identified strategies might work for their schools and communities,” Marchetti said. “Every school has different needs; however, the key factors identified in the study were common across programs in urban, suburban and rural settings.”


About the National Center for Safe Routes to School

Established in May 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School assists states and communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The National Center serves as the information clearinghouse for the federal Safe Routes to School program with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Part of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, the National Center also provides technical support and resources and coordinates online registration efforts for U.S. Walk to School Day and facilitates worldwide promotion and participation. For more information, visit


California Policy Complete Streets GHG Reduction Metropolitan Planning SB 375 State Policy

San Diego and SB 375: Lessons from California’s First Sustainable Communities Strategy

On October 28th 2011, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) approved the first sustainable communities strategy (SCS) under Senate Bill 375.  A new report (pdf), San Diego and SB 375: Lessons from California’s First Sustainable Communities Strategy, co-authored by Eliot Rose, Autumn Bernstein, and Stuart Cohen raises several key issues for consideration in regional planning and current limitations of transportation funding structures.

SB 375 in itself is not a silver bullet for the creation of sustainable communities across California; however, as Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs) are being updated with Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCSs), long standing issues with federal and state regulatory barriers and local implementation challenges will become increasingly apparent.  Policy in Motion would like to emphasize the need to question the definition of “SB 375 Success” in terms of how the process in itself is laying the foundation for the State’s next evolution of legislation and reforms to funding structures, environmental review, and land use/transportation planning.  As in any process, success is a moving and growing target toward a greater vision, and continual progress along that journey is a necessary component requiring evaluation – meaning that no matter what a plan outlines today there needs to be a mechanism in place to monitor the impacts from the land use and transportation strategies laid out those plans, and some form of consistency in monitoring outcomes to ensure performance measurement objectives are being evaluated. State leadership providing clear guidance, expectations, resources, and communication will be integral for MPO success in the SB 375 journey.

For more information on the greater vision and challenge in fostering “people-oriented development” and sustainable communities, check out Lauren Michele’s recent book on Policy in Motion: Transportation Planning in California after AB 32


California Policy Complete Streets Metropolitan Planning NewsFlash Transportation Funding

Comstock’s Magazine: Lauren Michele Quoted in Feature on SACOG’s Funding Challenges in Bicycle Implementation


Spinning Wheels: Funding limitations, competing priorities stall bikeway development

Story by John Schumacher | Photo by Mike Graff

Sacramento's cycling proponents would like to see infrastructure expanded for bikes and pedestrians.

As chief executive officer of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), McKeever oversees planning and funding processes for cycling transportation projects, so he’s interested in what works and what doesn’t.

As a cyclist, he’s looking for a ride to the office that is safe and smooth — as well as enjoyable and convenient.

He rides different routes, uses dedicated bike lanes and takes advantage of “road diets,” a concept that reduces the number of vehicle lanes or narrows them to provide safety and room for other users, on some midtown streets.

Day by day on his three-mile jaunts, McKeever, 56, notices changes that hint at Sacramento’s cycling future. Notably, he sees more bike commuters on the road now than when he began riding to work two years ago.

“You hit a critical mass once it becomes common enough and not an oddity or boutique behavior, then suddenly, more and more people take notice of it and start taking advantage of it,” he says. “Once you get a critical mass of cyclists on a route, motorists get used to the fact they’re there. It’s easier for (drivers) to adapt their behavior.”

McKeever says Sacramento is “on the cusp” of that transformation.

Plenty of challenges exist to what some planners and cyclists see as Sacramento’s emergence as a region that embraces cycling. Funding limitations, physical barriers and competing priorities stand between the Capital Region and its aspirations to join the likes of Minneapolis or Portland, Ore., as mid-sized cities with well-earned biking reputations.

Nearly 6 percent of Portland’s population regularly commuted by bike in 2009, followed by Minneapolis with 4.3 percent and Seattle with 2.9 percent, based on a League of American Bicyclists ranking of the nation’s 70 largest communities.

Sacramento ranked 11th with a little more than 2 percent of commutes made by bike, down from 2.7 percent in 2008, when it ranked fourth, but up from 1.3 percent in 2006.

Sacramento has 279 miles of on-street bike lanes and 82 miles of off-street bike paths, according to Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, up from 200 miles of on-street lanes and 60 miles of off-street lanes in 2006. Local planners say they hope to add to those totals and make the routes safer as a better, more efficient cycling transportation network emerges.

Several interests seek to influence the ultimate contours of Sacramento’s cycling panorama.

SACOG’s Regional Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Master Plan, updated in June, features more than 1,500 projects. Its goals include doubling the percentage of trips by cyclists and pedestrians from 6.6 percent in 2000 to 13.2 percent in 2020 and reducing by 20 percent the number of cyclists and pedestrians killed or injured in traffic accidents.

The bicycle advocates group is putting together its own cycling transportation blueprint, a plan meant to focus on 20 to 40 projects that could make the biggest difference in the region.

Regional cooperation with SACOG has been good, participants say, but local governments have their own plans, too. Individual cyclists also have opinions about how cycling planning should proceed.

Funding always is an issue, especially in an era of budget cuts. Through 2035, SACOG is planning $3 billion in spending for cycling and pedestrian projects plus $595 million for rehabilitation work out of its projected $36 billion budget, according to Matt Carpenter, SACOG’s Director of Transportation Services.

SACOG, which taps federal and state funding, last year awarded a total of $8.6 million to 12 local cycling/pedestrian projects. In Sacramento County, Measure A funds contributed $2.9 million to cycling/pedestrian projects in the past fiscal year, the Sacramento Transportation Authority reports.

In addition, Assembly Bill 147, which seeks to expand eligible uses for transportation mitigation impact fees for transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, is awaiting Gov. Brown’s signature. Currently, the use of transportation mitigation impact fees is limited to bridges and major thoroughfares, so a jurisdiction cannot use them to add or widen roads to support new projects. AB 147 would allow a city or county to use these fees to add or improve transit facilities such as bicycle lanes and pedestrian paths.

With multiple parties involved, visions of how the region’s bicycling system should look vary, but they are bound by common threads: Connectivity. Safety. Education.

SACOG’s McKeever says creating more connections is critical.

“I think connectivity is the right word to describe what we’re trying to accomplish,” he says. “For any mode of transit, you have to make it practical and convenient. There’s only so much inconvenience human beings are willing to put up with.” (To further that aim, includes a bicycle trip planner.)

Movement is being made toward defeating the blockades that hinder transit within the community:

Sacramento is nearing completion of a bicycle/pedestrian overpass spanning Interstate 80 to connect North and South Natomas.

Tricia Hedahl, executive director of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates (SABA), says she dreams of putting Eastern Avenue on a road diet, making it easier for riders to connect to the American River Parkway bike trail.

Ed Cox, the city of Sacramento’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, talks of plans for a bridge connecting Curtis Park to Sacramento City College and light-rail.

“Freeways, rivers, streets — all those things are formidable barriers to bicycling,” Cox says. “It’s a matter of how we overcome them. The barriers are what’s dividing us.”

Sacramento cyclist Jeffery Rosenhall, 38, bicycle commutes four miles to work, from Tahoe Park to midtown, and envisions a network of well-promoted cycling routes.

“If they wanted to go downtown, they’d have a route publicized as a safe route.

If they wanted to get to the American River Parkway or wanted to get to (Sacramento) State, there’s a system of bicycle-friendly routes that connect different parts of the city,” says Rosenhall, a community specialist for the California Department of Health, envisioning an ideal setup.

Consistent vertical signage and strong branding that alerts the public to recommended cycling routes are necessary amenities for a first-class cycling city, Rosenhall says.

Lauren Michele, owner of Policy in Motion, focuses on climate policy analysis, education and implementation relative to transportation and land-use projects. She desires improved connections within communities and says she supports Safe Routes For All, a grassroots movement to integrate schools with transportation planning.

“A huge amount of daily travel … is related to schools,” says Michele, who identifies the involvement of teachers and parents as important facets of the process for improving transportation options. “How can we get kids comfortable bicycling and walking to school? If we can do that, we’ve achieved bicycle nirvana.”

But safety is a critical concern. Two recent fatalities on Carlson Drive near Sacramento State — one at J Street, the other a block away at H Street — have prompted Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates to focus on the Carlson corridor even though it’s not in SACOG’s master plan.

“That’s a major thoroughfare,” Hedahl, the executive director, says. “If we can make that a top-notch, world-class facility, it will put Sacramento on the map.”

Attention to that area also could improve connections to M Street, a wide, residential street — far less busy than H and J streets — that long has been a preferred route through east Sacramento.

Cox, the city of Sacramento’s bike and pedestrian expert, says concerns about the Carlson corridor are valid, but he would not label it a priority.
“We’ve got needs all over the city that have been waiting for a very long time,” he says. “At the same time, we are doing work on (Carlson) through our traffic engineering division.”

Safety can be improved in ways other than expanding routes  and making physical changes to existing ones, some experts contend.

“We don’t necessarily need more bike lanes,” says Michelle Murdock of Sacramento, a 47-year-old cyclist, editor and lawyer. “What we need is more control … slow things down.”

Rosenhall, the Tahoe Park bike commuter, agrees. A certified bike instructor who teaches adult rider safety, he says cutting speeds and traffic volume — and utilizing designated lanes — make a difference. His perspective is influenced in large part by rides he takes with his 3-year-old son.

“I can be comfortable on all but the hairiest streets,” says Rosenhall of riding by himself. But, “riding with my son definitely puts me in a category closer to everyone else.”

And for “everyone else,” safety is a top priority, says Chris Dougherty, a city of Sacramento planner and SABA board member.

“If we’re really trying to overcome the hurdles of getting more people on bikes, we need to do a lot more on infrastructure to encourage people and make them feel as safe as possible,” he says.

Dougherty commutes 20 miles round trip from Land Park to the Northgate/Del Paso area. He supports making changes to J Street, which is a heavily traveled east-west thoroughfare beginning in the heart of downtown and ending where it becomes Fair Oaks Boulevard near Sacramento State. Instead of three lanes of auto traffic — which characterizes the street until it reaches east Sacramento — he envisions two, leaving room for a “cycle track,” a 6-foot bike lane between parked cars and the sidewalk. Portland has had success using cycle tracks as part of its transportation system.

“What it does is it creates a buffer,” Dougherty says, before characterizing city cycling as “downright dangerous.” “That would be a good way to tackle good, safe infrastructure on some of the higher-volume streets.

“I feel safer riding downtown, midtown … through peak rush-hour traffic because it’s almost at a standstill. When they’re blowing by you at 45 miles an hour, it’s a very unnerving feeling.”

Experts and enthusiasts don’t look far for another potential solution, pointing to quieter streets running parallel to busier arteries as ideal bike routes.

“Roads that aren’t busy thoroughfares are very useful,” says Teresa Giffen, 34, of Sacramento, a technical editor for an environmental consulting firm. “I would never want to ride my bike down Watt Avenue.”

Yet, the need for cyclists and motorists to coexist is clear, and Cox of the city of Sacramento says cyclists must be educated about practical and lawful rules of the road.

“The biggest problem is riding against traffic,” he says. “The motorist has no expectation there’s going to be anyone there. (Drivers) want to turn right; you’re going to be looking to your left. You’re not expecting a cyclist to come out (from the right) riding in front of you.”

Cox also noted a pressing need for children to wear helmets when riding and to learn cycling etiquette.

“When kids are, like, 12, 13, 14, their parents get the impression they know enough about biking; ‘Go ahead and ride in the street,’ “ he says.

“Most people go out and ride in the street. They do some pretty crazy things. If there was any way we could focus more education effort on that group, I think it would really help us.”

What can Sacramento learn from other mid-sized cities?

Minneapolis offers 84 miles of off-street paths and 46 miles of on-street bikeways. That city has six funded bicycle boulevard corridors, areas where low-volume and slower-speed streets are made more cycling friendly through traffic calming, signage, pavement markings and intersection crossing treatments.

The city is one of four nationwide to receive $21.5 million in federal funds through the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot program, designed to increase bicycling and walking and reduce driving.

“What we’re most proud of here is our trail system and off-street paths,” says Shaun Murphy, Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Project coordinator for Minneapolis. “It’s so easy to get everyone out on bikes. Our off-street path system goes around the whole city. You don’t have to risk your life to ride.”

Portland, meanwhile, is the only city among the nation’s 70 largest to receive platinum status from the League of American Bicyclists. The city boasts 324 miles of bikeways: 202 miles of bike lanes, 76 miles of off-street paths and 46 miles of neighborhood greenways. Those 324 miles cost less than $60 million, about what one mile of urban freeway costs, according to Dan Anderson, a spokesman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Another Portland feature, Sunday Parkways, features rides on closed streets through different neighborhoods each week. A recent ride through North Portland drew 31,600 cyclists, the Bureau of Transportation reports.

The city’s goal is to increase from 10 percent to 25 percent the amount of trips made by bike by 2030,  Anderson says.

“The best way to get people on bicycles is to offer them a safe and comfortable place to ride,” he says. “You don’t do that by putting them on the busiest roads, the most hectic intersections. You do that by building a network.”

Along with cycle tracks, Portland has “sharrows” — shared lane markings showing cyclists the best place to ride and reminding drivers to share the road — a feature Anderson says has helped.

Can cycling become a part of mainstream transportation in the Sacramento region? Local planners and cyclists say we’re already there in areas such as midtown, downtown, Davis and Folsom.

“But we’re falling behind,” Tricia Hedahl, the SABA executive director, says. “In the past, we were more reactive. … Now we’re shifting our focus and becoming more proactive.”

SACOG chief Mike McKeever says he expects reduced transportation funding will shift planners’ focus to smaller, yet beneficial, investments. The desired result, he says, is a region where cycling is a bigger, safer part of the transportation tapestry.

“I think we’ve made noticeable, tangible progress in the last 10 years,” he says. “Hopefully, we’ll see significant further increases.”


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NRDC releases A Citizen’s Guide to LEED-ND (LEED for Neighborhood Development)

NRDC is pleased to announce the publication of A Citizen’s Guide to LEED-for Neighborhood Development. The Guide is a handbook to help anyone interested in green practices learn, in user-friendly fashion, the ingredients that can make a neighborhood-scale development green. It is available on the web for free. For more about the Guide, start here. To proceed directly to download, go here.

LEED-ND is a comprehensive and logical rating system that reflects the most current thinking about smart, green, sustainable, and well-designed neighborhoods. For neighborhood-scale development to be certified by the US Green Building Council as environmentally exemplary, it must meet the criteria contained in the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system. The rating system was developed by USGBC, NRDC, and the Congress for the New Urbanism. It is administered by USGBC.

But the principles embodied in LEED-ND can be applied to situations other than those in which a development is seeking certification. While the formal LEED-ND process is a technical one, the Citizen’s Guide is user-friendly and accessible, to help anyone learn about environmental standards for green land development and become an advocate for implementing these standards in their own communities. NRDC hopes this handbook for citizens will help promote greater widespread adoption of sustainable practices to create more inclusive, healthy, and environmentally sound places for everyone.

The Guide simplifies the three major sections of the formal rating system:

• Smart Location and Linkage: Where to Build
• Neighborhood Pattern and Design: What to Build
• Green Infrastructure and Buildings: How to Manage Environmental Impacts

It also includes some creative suggestions to help users get started using LEED-ND’s diverse standards to evaluate and improve development proposals, to guide improvements to neighborhoods, to inform community planning and zoning, or to inform other policy-making.

The Guide also includes a “Sustainable Neighborhood Development Checklist.” The checklist is a sort of “crib sheet” for every LEED-ND credit and prerequisite, presenting them in an easy-to-use format for evaluating development proposals, assessing existing neighborhoods, and informing community planning and policy.

For more information about A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development, start here. To proceed directly to download, go here.

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