Next week, the City of Long Beach will host Pro Walk Pro Bike, a multiday conference that will bring together advocates from across the country. The excitement in Southern California is already palpable. Every time I talk with advocates, public health professionals, planners and engineers in the bike/ped world, the question is always, “Will I see you at Pro Walk Pro Bike?” The reasons for this excitement are many, but perhaps the most important one is that, in the wake of a disappointing federal transportation bill (MAP 21), there is still an ever growing wave of support for active transportation and the health and economic benefits that it brings.
Over the last several months here in Southern California, the National Partnership team has been reaching out to the County Transportation Commissions and Public Health Departments in each of the seven counties. What we’ve found is that, they are ready and eager to work together. That being said, each county is at a different stage of implementing their bicycle plans, Safe Routes to School projects and first and last mile connections to transit.
- In Los Angeles County, Metro recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization SCAG to triple the amount of funding for active transportation.
- Imperial County recently created a new Safe Routes to School Coalition and is planning its first Safe Routes to School noninfrastructure program through its public health department.
- In San Diego County, the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization SANDAG is embarking on a plan to build 30 years of bicycle project in just 10 years by bonding against its county transportation sales tax Transnet.
- Long Beach has set out to become the most bicycle friendly city in the country and one can now ride almost five miles from east to west on a series of bicycle boulevards, separated bike lanes and green lanes all the while feeling safe and respected as a cyclist.
- In 2010 Lancaster invested $10 million to create a walkable downtown which has since spurred over $100 million in private investment. In addition, the city is pursuing the implementation of its Master Plan for Trails and Bikeways and multiple Safe Routes to School improvements.
- The Bird Rock neighborhood recently underwent a massive traffic calming effort led by the City of San Diego. This effort included the construction of multiple traffic circles, street reconfigurations and the installation of bicycle facilities. This investment led to several new developments along the improved streets and neighborhoods to either side of Bird Rock are now clamoring for similar treatments.
- The City of Glendale recently passed a new Bicycle Master Plan and has plans to implement approximately 60 percent of the plan in the next two years using a variety of local and federal funding sources. The goal is to build out as much of the Bicycle Master Plan as possible in as short a time as possible to get new riders on the street.
- Santa Clarita is redevloping its downtown and moving forward with multiple Safe Routes to School infrastructure grants.
So while the federal government may not be taking strides to increase active transportation funding, the demand for this funding from local and regional governments is growing and will continue to do so as more and more examples of its benefits are discussed and shared. This makes the arrival of Pro Walk Pro Bike in Southern California a timely opportunity for advocates to get excited, learn about innovative bike/ped facilities and research, and to plan on how to make sure the next federal transportation bill strongly supports the growing demand for active transportation funding. See you there!