Even a few Californians were shocked to hear that their home state is now the third most bike-friendly in the USA. That’s according to the 2017 list put out annually by the League of American Bicyclists.
When looking only at West Coast states, California ranked second on the League’s 2017 list. In terms of bike safety policies, California actually ranked first in the nation. The League also noted that California is the sixth best state in the nation in terms of allocating funds to bicycle safety.
California’s high status in this year’s bike-friendly study is truly astonishing, especially when one considers the Golden State came in eighth place two years ago. Believe it or not, California was all the way down at 19th place in 2008.
Why has California found favor with the League of American Bicyclists’ judges this year? First off, League members said they liked the fact that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) finally put together a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian safety plan.
The League also notes that they admire Caltrans’ ambitious goal of encouraging pedestrians and bikers throughout the state in its blueprints. Caltrans spokesmen have said on numerous occasions that they hope their infrastructure plans will triple the number of bikers in California by 2020. Caltrans also set itself the goal of reducing pedestrian and bicycler fatalities by 10 percent every year.
Another positive League authors note in Caltrans’ favor has to do with Caltrans’ stated interest in collecting information on bicycle fatalities across the state. In the League’s opinion, the more data Caltrans has on car collisions with bicyclists, the better equipped it will be to make infrastructure changes to prevent crashes in the future.
As mentioned above, the League praised the California government for spending such a huge amount of money on building safer biking conditions across the state. Thanks to California’s high gas tax (S.B. 1), the state was able to raise funding for its Active Transportation Program from $130 million last year to $230 million this year. California lawmakers have also been keen to fund their Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant.
Although California did well in so many areas of this year’s bike-friendly report, there’s one area the League feels the Golden State is lacking: law enforcement. In the legislation and enforcement part of the survey, California ranked 23rd out of 50.
The main issue League authors have with California’s laws is the vague definition of “bike lanes.” It’s unclear under the current legislation how bicyclists should conduct themselves in areas of the state without designated bike lanes.
The League also blames law enforcement’s weak hand as a major contributor to California’s high bicycle fatality rate. In 2017’s study, California had the forth-highest bicycle fatality rate both per capita and in absolute numbers. Readers should keep in mind, however, that California has the highest number of bikers in the entire nation.
At the end of the League’s “report card,” authors listed actionable steps state leaders can take to improve their score next year. In California’s case, study authors suggested authorities create a statewide database of bicycle conditions and fatalities, fully repeal and replace the state’s mandatory bike lane law, and dedicate the majority of available resources to bike safety initiatives.
In case you were wondering, Washington came in first place on the League’s bike-friendly study. Second place went to Minnesota. Rounding out the top five were Massachusetts in fourth and Oregon in fifth.
Anyone can read the full text of California’s Bicycle Friendly State Report Card on this website.
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