The group discussed existing conditions, emerging best practices, and the City’s track record in bicycle planning. One of the results of the meeting was the formation of a Pasadena Complete Streets advocacy group, with the goal of identifying steps to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.
A second outcome is the below letter to the Pasadena City Council, outlining the group's concerns about existing roadway conditions and recommending a series of steps the City can take to improve the Draft Bike Plan, as well as the safety of vulnerable road users.
Dear Mayor Bogaard and Members of the Pasadena City Council,
Galvanized by the death of 25-year old cyclist Phillip O’Neil on Del Mar Blvd. on June 15th, local residents and leaders of various bike, public health, neighborhood, and student groups convened a special “Complete Streets” Forum on July 1st. The group discussed existing conditions, emerging best practices, and the City’s track record in bicycle planning. One of the results of this meeting was the formation of a Pasadena Complete Streets advocacy group, with the goal of identifying steps to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.
In regards to the draft Bicycle Master Plan under your consideration, we must first thank all involved for dedicating time and resources toward this effort. The act of drafting a plan is a first step toward making cycling a more viable form of healthy, alternative transportation in Pasadena. Likewise, we would like to thank the City’s Municipal Services Committee for its leadership and vision in supporting the development of a strong, ambitious bicycle master plan that incorporates the use of protected bicycle infrastructure.
As the draft plan is shaped and improved, we urge the full Council to demonstrate its leadership and place Pasadena on a course similar to other forward-thinking cities in the U.S. and around the world that have tested Complete Streets infrastructure. The great city of Pasadena can “do things differently”—and better! A strong, innovative plan designed to accommodate cyclists of all ages and abilities is a key step towards realizing Pasadena’s potential to become a truly vibrant community where residents can easily and safely circulate without an automobile.
- Add a Connected Network of Protected Bicycle Lanes (aka Cycle Tracks) – This should consist of east-west streets both north and south of the 210 freeway, as well as north-south streets linking the two, to create a network of safe travel across the City for residents of all ages and from the City’s diverse neighborhoods.
- Pilot Best Practices – Examples include parking-protected cycle tracks, bicycle boxes, green lanes, contra-flow lanes.
- Integrate a Clear Timeline, Benchmarks and Goals into Final Plan - Strong bicycle plans should include all of the following:
- Clear benchmarks (e.g., 20 miles of bicycle lanes/paths by 2015) to make this plan a reality.
- A transparent annual progress report to keep elected leaders, Commissioners, and the public up to date with implementation.
- A clear goal making the world-class city of Pasadena a serious contender for a Silver-rated League of American Bicyclists Bike-Friendly Community by 2015.
- Launch a Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee – The City can harness the expertise of residents who bike and walk in town to assist with plan implementation. Since bicycle and pedestrian safety is a public health issue and of utmost concern to the City, the citizen advisory committee could reside under the aegis of the City’s Transportation Advisory Committee, or the Pasadena Police Department.
- Project Prioritization, Implementation, and Data Collection - Projects should be prioritized using factors that promote equity and public health
- Areas/neighborhoods with health disparities and/or high rates of poverty – Can be determined by the following: rates of childhood/adult obesity, and diabetes; Census tracts indicating high levels of poverty, neighborhoods comprised by a majority of people of color and non-English speaking residents; residents of public and assisted housing developments and recipients of tenant- based assistance; rates of automobile ownership.
- Number of transit dependent residents/high population densities – Can be determined by housing density in the surrounding area, and proximity to Metro Rail stations.
- Collisions – Prioritize intersections/streets with the highest numbers of serious collisions. Local collision data should be compiled and mapped on an annual basis to facilitate this process.
- Connection to major employment centers and school sites
- Conduct Annual Bike Counts along major bike routes and streets – To monitor progress, the City should conduct annual bike counts that note both street and sidewalk riders. To facilitate this process, automated bicycle counters that relay count data wirelessly can be purchased at nominal cost (e.g., 2/$5,000).
- Launch a Pasadena Distracted Driver Awareness Campaign – Utilize City buses, bus shelters, and other communication channels (e.g., In Focus) to promote driver/bicycle safety.
- Develop City Sponsored Bicycle Education Campaign/Classes – Partner with local organizations to provide residents, especially youth, with access to bicycle education opportunities such as “Rules of the Road” workshops. Allow cyclists cited by Pasadena Police Department for to complete a cycling safety class in lieu of paying a fine.
OTHER RECOMMENDED ACTIONS BY THE CITY COUNCIL, OUTSIDE THE SCOPE OF THE BICYCLE MASTER PLAN:
Not long ago the City created a set of Guiding Principles to help shape the Pasadena’s future development. The Bicycle Master Plan is closely aligned with number 5: "Pasadena will be a city where people can safely1 circulate without a car." The city needs to demonstrate its commitment to its own ideals by setting aside local dollars to keep vulnerable road users safe.
Local Funding Set Asides for Active Transportation - The city of Pasadena has one of the highest automobile vs. bicycle and automobile vs. pedestrian collision rates among similarly-sized cities, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.
o In 2010, Pasadena ranked #4 of 53 CA cities in both Pedestrian and Bicycle Collisions o Of even greater concern, we ranked #1 of 53 cities in Total Fatalities and Injuries
Motivated by growing public support and safety concerns, an increasing number of forward-thinking cities have focused on bolstering non-vehicular infrastructure in recent years. These cities have adopted a dual funding strategy by setting aside funds and applying for hard-to-get grant monies. For example:
o San Louis Obispo, population 45,000, commits at least $100,000 per year in local funding for bicycle improvements.
o Santa Monica dedicated $2.5 million to fund the implementation of its recently updated Bicycle Master Plan.
o Temple City, population 35,000, set aside $80,000 over two years for the implementation of its first bike plan in 2011.
Recommended funding strategies
- Set aside 25% of Local Tax Return funds for Bike/Ped Improvements (a percentage that is consistent with SCAG regional mode share data for walking and biking trips in Los Angeles County)
- Reform Pasadena’s Transportation Improvement Fee (Municipal Code 4.19.060) so that “pedestrian and bicycle improvements” are specifically called out and immediately permissible uses for these funds
- Allow “traffic reduction and transportation improvement fees” to fund pedestrian and bicycle improvements
o Change the transportation/traffic metric used in studying development impacts away from “Level of Service” to “Auto Trips Generated” or an improved metric that takes into account the positive benefits of increased pedestrian & non-auto transportation modes.
Studies on impact speeds between automobiles and pedestrians/cyclists are unequivocal: speed kills.
This fact has not been lost on the community, which recently witnessed its third fatal collision between an automobile and bicycle in less than three years. The current draft bicycle plan does not do enough to address this dangerous mix between high-speed traffic and bicyclists/pedestrians, particularly along east-west corridors.
Safety should drive street design. Bicycle infrastructure should be designed to protect all residents. Signs and stencils do not protect the bodies of men and women, children and the elderly from 2,000lbs of steel, plastic, and rubber. Those signs, in fact, can have the opposite effect by lulling someone unfamiliar with the City intoa false sense of security. The mere presence of a “Bike Route” or “Share the Road” sign does not transform a high-speed, east-west artery into a safe street for cyclists.
Research and anecdotal evidence make clear that roadway stencils and “Share the Road” and “Bike Route” signs do not transform an arterial with average traffic speeds in excess of 30mph into a safe place for a school child or active grandparent to ride his or her bike. This is the primary reason why most residents, and all those who are unwilling to accept a high degree of risk, avoid cycling in Pasadena.
Streets with high traffic speeds and traffic volumes require a physical separation between the bodies of cyclists and motorists. These physical buffers will create safe conditions for cycling.
The proposed Plan, however, lacks these necessary physical buffers and relies instead on signs that would deign a heavily-trafficked and high-speed artery a “bicycle route.”
THEREFORE, the city should take the following actions to ensure safer streets for all users:
Invest in truly “Complete Streets” – roadways safe and accommodating to all types of users and a variety of modes, with special interest for pedestrians and cyclists, as those are both the most vulnerable and desirable modes/users. City staff should select appropriate, evidence-based infrastructure improvements utilizing existing best practices and procedures. The graph below highlights the types of infrastructure that should be used under different roadway conditions, with generally greater distance and protection being necessary as average automobile traffic speeds and average daily volumes increase.
Existing research indicates that protected bike lanes not only reduce rates of injury, but increase modal share, particularly among women, seniors and children.2 The need for such improvements is clear. While 19% of all trips in Los Angeles County (and 33% of school trips) are walking and cycling trips, a troublingly high 39% of the roadway fatalities in the region are walking and bicycling fatalities.
According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, cyclists of all abilities also intuitively recognize which streets are most dangerous to ride on, and prefer the infrastructure/streets with the best safety records. The chart above outlines this finding, and illustrates again that the gold standard in terms of safety and preference is the protected bike lane or “cycle track.” These results flew in the face of some commonly held perceptions that young males & experienced riders prefer to ride on major streets without bike infrastructure. On the contrary, researchers found that everyone had the same order of preferences.
As a result of this growing awareness, cycle tracks are increasingly being adopted and embraced by cities across the United States. Chicago, Seattle, Boston, New York, Indianapolis, San Francisco and Minneapolis, to name a few, have all invested in parking-protected bicycle lanes or “cycle tracks”in recent years.
Locally, cities such as Long Beach and Los Angeles are doing so. In the San Gabriel Valley Temple City is currently building its first “cycle-track” as part of the Rosemead Boulevard project (pictured below). For your convenience, we have added links to short videos of these projects at the conclusion of this letter.
Public Health, Complete Streets and Sustainability
After decades of auto-centric transportation and land-use planning, short car trips have become a major source of air pollution, emissions, traffic congestion, and fuel consumption in Pasadena and Los Angeles County. The vast majority of trips as short as 1 mile are driven. The travel time is no faster in a car than on bike, but people do not choose to bike because they do not feel safe.
The sedentary lifestyles resulting from our automobile-focused transportation and land-use planning are taking a severe toll on the health and well-being of our communities. According to the most recent data, the rate of childhood obesity in Pasadena is an alarming 20.7%, and adult obesity only slightly lower at 19.4%. Minority populations suffer disproportionately, with obesity rates of 29.4% among adult Latinos and 29.2% among adult African-Americans.
The benefits of greater bicyclist and pedestrian modal share are myriad. Parking is freed up for those who need/desire to arrive by automobile, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) are reduced, physical activity is integrated into the lives of more residents, and the use of an increasingly scarce resource, automobile parking, is made more efficient.
Fortunately, relatively simple changes to the built environment (e.g., protected bike lanes, traffic calming measures such as road diets and narrower street lanes) will improve safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. Physical changes to the roadway are also generally more effective and sustainable, when compared to other measures such as increased traffic enforcement or a reduction in posted speed limits.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition
- Chicago’s first protected bike lane (Kinzie St)
- Indianapolis’ “Cultural Trail” Bike/Ped Cycletrack
- Innovative Bicycle Infrastructure
- Parking and Physically Protected Bicycle Lanes
o http://www.streetfilms.org/floating-parking-bike-buffer-zones-in-separated-cycletracks/ o http://www.streetfilms.org/physically-separated-bike-lanes/
Badger, E. Dedicated Bike Lanes Can Cut Cycling Injuries in Half. The Atlantic Cities, 22 October 2012. Via http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2012/10/dedicated-bike-lanes-can-cut-cycling-injuries-half/3654/# (Accessed 7/8/13).
Anne C. Lusk, Patrick Morency, Luis F. Miranda-Moreno, Walter C. Willett, and Jack T. Dennerlein. Bicycle Guidelines and Crash Rates on Cycle Tracks in the United States. American Journal of Public Health: July 2013, Vol. 103, No. 7, pp. 1240-1248. http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2012.301043 (Accessed 7/7/2013).