Coalition Aims To Improve Area’s Urban Cycling

  

It’s one of the great ironies of Redding. It’s a city blessed with a spectacular bike and pedestrian trail network along the Sacramento River. It’s a place surrounded by seemingly endless numbers of mountain bike trails. However, the city itself is an awful urban environment for riding a bike or walking.

A new citizens group wants to help change that latter part.

The recently formed Shasta-Cascade Bicycle Coalition aims to make sure future urban plans and street designs throughout Shasta County include safe opportunities for cyclists. Its members want to improve on the infrastructure that already exists.

The coalition will also help educate leaders and planners about cycling issues, and be a voice for promoting elements like bicycle commuting and bike safety.

“We’re looking to make the Shasta-Cascade area a place that’s safe and inviting to ride a bicycle for everyday transportation,” says Anne Wallach Thomas, co-leader of the coalition. “The safe and inviting part is important. We have world-class facilities for mountain bikes and incredible park trails. What we can’t do is leave the house and safely get anywhere.”

Becoming a more cycling friendly area offers a treasure trove of benefits.

The streets become safer for everyone who uses them and more people are encouraged to bike or walk. Cycling and walking promotes better health (and certainly produces it for those who partake in it).

Cycling friendly cities have a marketing advantage, both in terms of attracting tourists, and luring new businesses and residents to the area. Since more and more people are cycling as a national trend, residents are starting to demand better access for bikes.

In Redding, street designs have long been atrocious for cycling. Many streets and roads have no bike lanes and very little shoulder. Traffic flow patterns make cycling an awkward proposition at best and extremely dangerous at worst.



A lack of safe bike routes often pushes cyclists onto sidewalks in Redding.



On a beautiful sunny afternoon Tuesday, I rode my bike to downtown Redding and monitored traffic for nearly three hours. I saw thousands of cars on the move and a total of only seven cyclists. Of those seven, every person rode primarily on a sidewalk (which is legal in Redding -- and probably needs to be because bike corridors are so non-existent).

“If the roads were friendlier, more people would be willing to give (bike commuting) a shot,” says Nick Webb, the coalition’s other co-leader. “I’ve had lots of people tell me they don’t feel like it’s safe out there. And sometimes it’s hard to argue with them.

“But there are a lot of people out there on bikes. We have all these clubs like the Redding Mountain Bikers, Shasta Wheelmen, We Ski II. People have a stake in bikes. We want to be a collective voice, not just for the recreation side, but also for the transportation side.”

Cities with better access for cyclists and pedestrians simply have a friendlier feel, advocates say.

Wallach Thomas remembers growing up in the Palo Cedro area when everyone rode bikes. Kids rode to school and around neighborhoods. Adults rode to parks. It makes her a little angry that bicycle access has been abolished in the area in recent decades.

“My sister’s kids can’t get to their friend’s kids houses by bike, and they’re not that far from each other,” she said. “A kid can’t get to Foothill High by bike. And it’s not so much how hard it is (to get around on a bike), but what’s not happening in terms of making the situation better. It’s a huge problem. Kids in most big cities can get around so much more easily and more safely than they can here.”

Fortunately, the situation has improved on two major fronts recently. The newly expanded Highway 44 and Cypress Avenue bridges both feature wide, separated cycling and pedestrian routes. The cycling-pedestrian routes across the bridges have finally produced a safe method for biking or walking from the east to west side of Redding.

Prior to that, the options were perilous – a Hilltop Drive bridge over Interstate 5 with no shoulder, or the traffic lanes (with no shoulder) across the old Cypress Bridge (there was a sidewalk, but it was one of the few sidewalks in Redding where bikes were not supposed to travel – an irony within an irony).

However, after people ride their bikes across the new Highway 44 route, there remains the question of what they’ll do once they get to Dana Drive.

“Right now it’s almost comical. You pop out on Dana Drive and it’s, ‘Well, now what do I do?’” Webb says. “I’m comfortable riding in traffic, but I wouldn’t recommend that everyone ride on Dana Drive.

“We’re looking to build some capacity. Bikes are for normal people and normal people want to use the streets as well. We’re not talking about taking roads away from cars, but helping cars and bikes get along better.”

The Shasta-Cascade Bicycle Coalition is picking up where the NorCal Bike Partnership left off. The latter group was a coalition whose members worked within agencies like Shasta County, Caltrans and the city of Redding. It works better for a group that’s independent, however, to lobby, educate and push for better planning from the governmental agencies, Wallach Thomas said.



The coalition hopes to encourage more bicycle commuting.



The bike coalition has state and federal legislation on its side.

State laws require Caltrans projects to consider bicycle and pedestrian issues, and city projects must be compatible with elements identified by the National Complete Streets Coalition.

The Shasta-Cascade Bicycle Coalition wants to make sure leaders and planners are well aware of the requirements, and well aware that the community is watching.

Safer streets for bicycles and pedestrians “are essential family issues,” Wallach Thomas said. “When I was a kid, I remember people slowing down for bikes. Kids always used to bike to school. I don’t understand what happened. It’s so not in people’s minds around here.”

The coalition meets the second Thursday of every month at the Shasta Driving School at 1305 Sacramento St. (one block east of the Vintage Wine Bar and Restaurant). Jon Pecaut, who runs the driving school, is also an avid cyclist.

“It’s so great that Jon’s really into both cars and bikes," Webb said.

For more information on the bicycle coalition, visit the group’s meet up site, or e-mail Webb at monkeywebb@hotmail.com or Wallach Thomas at awallachthomas@TNC.ORG.

Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight's D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com.

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10 Responses »

  1. Thanks for the informative article. It is nice to know there are people in this world with passion for such a good cause. Perhaps when the streets are more bike friendly, I will take my 1961 Schwinn Traveler for a cruise through the city instead of always sticking to the river trail or my neighborhood streets. This is great news for Redding!

  2. Nice article! It's great that the author got on his bike and saw things from a cyclist's point of view. There's so much potential in Redding for good biking. Can't wait to see the changes!

  3. Another huge traffic bypass could be created by finishing the A.C.I.D. canal trail from Caldwell Park to Anderson. This nearly level corridor would improve access to many important destinations and thereby increase bike and pedestrian use. Additionally it would create another use for this decrepit infrastructure feature, and perhaps cause some much-needed maintenance to be done.

    • What a great idea for multiple use on the ACID Canal berms!

      Maybe then the damaging motocross and risky transients won't abuse the aquaduct's more obscurred areas so much if they were developed and better publicly utilized. That alone would be a blessing!

  4. Great article - Time to make the streets safer for all again. Can't wait to pedal around Redding instead of sticking to the river trail.

  5. Thank you for bring news of the Shasta-Cascade Bicycle Coalition. City of Redding does have substantial connectivity problems which are well known and addressed in the new bike plan already approved. It will take time which is frustrating and makes some think nothing is being done. Besides once being part of a national century old obsession with the automobile, Redding has the quadruple trouble of a major river, a busy interstate highway, a vital railroad dividing a fifty six square mile foot print.

    As Bill Ulch will testify, protesting neighbors can block the best of general plans, community needs and government hopes. The extension of Hawley Road should have connected the Mt. Shasta Mall to Oasis Road. This would have obviated the need for local use of I-5 which is forbidden to bikes. The A. C. I. D. Trail, the North Sacramento River Trail at Benton Tract, Candlewood Trail, Palatine Trail, South Rail Trail, Sulphur Creek Trail, Magnolia Neighborhood Trial, Greenwood Trail, Canyon Hollow Creek Trail and others have all been vigorously and mostly successfully fought by people who believe their individual property rights are threatened by fellow citizens trying to get safely from one place to another.

    It is not easy or inexpensive to ameliorate decades of infrastructure designed solely for the automobile. However, City of Redding is willing and wanting what the Coalition stands to advance. Getting more citizens involved in the machinery of planning and construction is the key to having a more vibrant Davis like city in the midst of one of North America's finest physical settings.

  6. More bike lanes would be great, but an overall change of attitude of those behind the wheel toward bicyclists would be better. This area is beautiful and has some of the best bike rides around...dirt and road. Until I feel safer on the roads, I will stick to exploring the dirt trails.

  7. Kudos to the Shasta-Cascade Bicycle Coalition!

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  1. Finding Traction for the Redding Area’s Bicyclists | anewscafe.com
  2. Mixing with Motorists: Bicycles as Transportation on Shasta County Streets | anewscafe.com
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