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.

Jim Dyar

is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at jimd.anewscafe@gmail.com

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