A bikeway master plan that envisions a grid of bike lanes across much of Redding could be adopted as soon as next month.
The proposed “Bikeway Action Plan 2010-2015” calls for nearly doubling the length of bike lanes from the existing 24 miles to 46 miles over the next five years, as well as establishing an additional 38 miles of signed bike routes. Over the next 15 years, the system would grow to 222 miles, including 103 miles of bike lanes and 80 miles of multi-use paths. The document is the most detailed and ambitious bike plan ever prepared by the City of Redding.
“The goal of the plan,” explained Redding Community Services Director Kim Niemer, “is not that every single city street is going to be a good cycling environment. It’s that you should be within a quarter-mile of a good north-south route and east-west route.”
You may be asking two very different questions at this point: I thought Redding was broke – so where is it going to get the money for bike lanes? And, what project is going to get built first?
To the first question, the city, like every other municipal government in the region, is seriously short of money these days. In fact, Redding even laid off the bike plan project coordinator, Chris Glover, during the process and had to rely heavily on volunteers to complete the 39-page document. Once the bike plan is adopted, however, it will make Redding eligible for state grants. Yes, the state is broke too, but it always has some money for transportation projects, and a portion of that money is designated for non-automobile projects.
The plan also will become part of the city’s “complete streets” strategy, which is a trendy planning technique and required by state law. Complete streets are those that consider not simply the needs of automobile drivers, but pedestrians, bicyclists, people who rely on wheelchairs and scooters, transit operators, and a street’s merchants and residents. Thus, as the city undertakes usual road maintenance, it may add bicycle enhancements as part of a project – striping a road for a bike lane, adding a foot or two to the shoulder, modifying an intersection to make it safer for cyclists. The city will also ensure that municipal facilities have racks for parking your bike.
New roads will be designed with bicycles and pedestrians in mind, Niemer said. But because not that many new roads get built, the focus is on slowly but surely retrofitting existing streets and intersections.
So, which project will come first? The plan doesn’t answer that question, because it is not project-specific. Once the plan is adopted, the city will follow up quickly with a list of capital improvements based on the plan’s priorities, Niemer promised.
I can tell you that the Shasta County Regional Transportation Planning Agency is putting together a grant application for bike lanes on Old Alturas Road and Old Oregon Trail, both of which currently are nasty for bike riders. Redding hopes to tie into that project with new bike lanes on Shasta View Drive and, possibly, the city’s portion of Old Alturas.
As I mentioned earlier, the plan got finished largely because of the efforts of about 30 dedicated volunteers and interest-group representatives. The most valuable thing those folks did was on-the-ground reconnaissance. They studied how motorists and cyclists actually co-exist on different roads, examined pavement conditions, searched out the best bike route connections, and even counted bicycle riders.
“We did all of the footwork, all of the location analysis for all of the roads,” said Jack Yerkes, vice president of the Shasta Wheelmen bike club and a member of the bike plan advisory committee. “We designed the maps for the City of Redding. We ride the routes, so we know what’s out there.”
Above, one of four maps included on the last pages of the plan. For the best readability, scroll to the end of the draft plan online.
The plan contains four maps. A “suitability” map essentially depicts current conditions for cyclists. A “status” map shows existing and proposed bike lanes, bike routes and multi-use paths. A third map demonstrates how the bike plan coordinates with bus routes. Finally, the planner in me loves the fourth map, which juxtaposes bike routes with land use. Brian Sindt, The McConnell Foundation’s trails guru, prepared the maps.
“I’m amazed at how many volunteers worked on the plan. It really is the bike plan from the citizens,” Sindt said.
Before I go further, I should define some terms: A “bike lane” is a striped lane on a roadway. The city currently has about 24 miles of bike lane. A “bike route” is merely a road that lends itself to cycling and which has signage designating the route. The city now has 77 miles of bike route. A “bike path” is a separated lane or pathway, within a road’s right-of-way, exclusively for bicycles and pedestrians. Redding has very little in the way of true bike paths. Instead, Redding has about 20 miles of multi-use paths, such as the Sacramento River trail and the Blue Gravel Trail along Buenaventura Boulevard.
Much of the plan emphasizes not recreational pedaling, but making the bicycle a realistic means of transportation to work, school, shopping and social engagements. This is tricky because Redding is such a large city geographically. Some will argue it’s not even realistic because eight or nine months of the year it’s either pouring buckets of cold rain or hotter than Hades. To this I respond with Bicycling magazine’s rating of Minneapolis as the most bike-friendly city in the United States. If routes are safe and destinations convenient, people will ride bikes in just about any weather condition.
The project that has many people excited is the Dana-to-Downtown bike path that Caltrans is constructing along Highway 44. The river and Interstate 5 have long been barriers for cyclists, and the new path – expected to open later this year – should provide a great connection. There are concerns about how exactly the path will dump cyclists and pedestrians onto Hilltop Drive, which is notoriously difficult to navigate for anyone not in a car. I can tell you that Caltrans and city officials are well aware of the situation, and I think you’ll see some accommodations.
Of course, any city’s cycling environment is only as good as the motorist-cyclist relationship. Longtime cyclists tell me that, in general, drivers around here are better about sharing the road than they were 15 or 20 years ago. Still, the new plan recommends ongoing programs to educate both motorists and cyclists abut traffic safety and sharing the road.
“I’m glad to see this happening. The City of Redding is really helping to make the roads available to bike riders,” said Yerkes, a cyclist for 60 years. “This plan is going to put Redding on the map as a bicycle-friendly community.”
The Redding Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the Bikeway Action Plan on May 25. If all goes well, the plan could head to the City Council for adoption in June, according to Niemer. You may find a PDF of the city’s draft plan here. Keep in mind this version will change a bit before the plan reaches the Planning Commission.
I should add that Shasta County is in the midst of preparing its own bike plan update. An open house discussion of the county’s plan is scheduled for 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Monday, May 17, at the Redding Library. You may find a PDF of the draft county plan here.
Paul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a frequent contributor to Planning magazine and the proud owner of three bicycles. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at email@example.com.