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ShowImageBy Eric Meyer (with Dan Rivoire) spring 2015

Eight years of careful planning — and a bit of luck — paid off last year in a big way for bicyclists in San Luis Obispo. We amended our transportation plan (known as the “Circulation Element”) in three very innovative ways.

First, we revised our transportation mode objectives, dramatically increasing the bike and pedestrian trip goals.

The new mode split goal:

50 percent motor vehicles
12 percent transit
20 percent bicycles
18 percent walking, car pools, and other forms

This is one of the most pedestrian- and bike-centric modal split objectives in the United States.

Second, we changed our roadway analysis from Level of Service (LOS)to Multi-Modal Level of Service (MMLOS).

San Luis Obispo rejected Level of Service — an outdated standard that measures transportation projects only on the basis of automobile delay — in favor of Multi-Modal Level of Service. MMLOS puts all modes on a level playing field so that the needs of one mode may only trump the needs of another in a manner designated by the modal hierarchy given to that location.

With this MMLOS objective in mind, we re-prioritized the modal hierarchy of all of our streets. Some high-traffic arterials are automobile-focused, then transit, then bikes, then peds. Other streets have different hierarchies. Residential neighborhood streets are prioritized for pedestrians first. Major arterials are prioritized for transit first. It is a complex “complete streets” effort that will balance the needs of all modes in the city over time as streets are rebuilt or modified.

Third (and most important!): We created a policy that allocates general fund transportation spending by mode to match the mode share percentage goals desired.

If you remember only one thing from this article, this is it.

This policy mandates that our city must allocate general fund transportation spending at the same ratio as the mode share goal desired. Meaning 20 percent of funding needs to go to bicycling.

This is a huge shift from business as usual in America.

These changes didn’t happen all at once. They happened over the course of about eight years under the guidance of many minds at Bike SLO County and with the help of many hundreds of citizens. If we citizens had tried to make this all happen at once during a Circulation Element update, we would have failed.

It happened because we focused on the smallest relevant plans first. Our first opportunity for meaningful policy change came when the City Planning Commission was approving the Climate Action Plan, with the aim of reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. One of the suggested strategies in this plan was to decrease single occupancy vehicle trips. One way to do that is to encourage an increase in the mode share of alternative modes such as biking and walking. I was on the city planning commission at that time and pitched the idea of pushing the bike mode share goal to 20 percent, thinking that we might get 15 percent as a compromise. But in a surprise vote, the balance of the planning commission agreed to the new 20 percent bike mode share goal.  The City Council later approved the new Climate Action Plan.

But other older city plans, like the Bicycle Master Plan and the city Circulation Element, still had the old 10 percent bike goal. (Note that the current bike mode share is only about 6 percent.) So a year or two later, when the Bicycle Master Plan came up for review, it was modified to match the new 20% from the Climate Action Plan. Since city staff were able to explain that they were merely updating the bike plan to match the more recent climate action plan, it went through without a hitch.

A few years later, the city’s transportation and land use plan, known as LUCE (for “Land Use Element and Circulation Element”) came up for updating. Because I was a current City Planning Commissioner I was appointed as chairman of the citizen task force dedicated to overseeing the update. The task force debated where to go with the modal split percentage goals in this new Circulation Element.  But the simple fact that the Planning Commission and City Council had already approved the 20% figure in the Climate Action and Bicycle Master plans led to the task force agreeing 20% bike mode share should also be the goal in this new Circulation Element.

In addition to this new modal split objective, the new MMLOS policy, and the requirement to allocate transportation funding in the same ratio as the desired modal split were all incorporated into the new Circulation Element Update.

This 20 percent mode bike mode share goal would never have been approved in the LUCE had it not already been part of the two smaller plans.

This is a key point and may be a pathway that others can follow to create similar changes in other jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, Dan Rivoire (Executive Director of Bike SLO County) was elected to City Council shortly after the City Planning Commission approved the LUCE update, so when it came before the council, his was the deciding vote that approved it and he is now in a position to help shepherd the new prioritization of funding.

Together these new policies create one of the strongest funding mechanisms for bicycle infrastructure in the nation. We hope that other cities might be able to learn from our efforts.

None of this would have been possible without the efforts of hundreds of members of the public and the tireless efforts of many Bike SLO County Advocates who showed up at City Planning and City Council meetings to voice their concerns and desires. It is the public that creates the demand and the advocate’s job is simply to help the public and the city find the way forward.

And our efforts have been recognized!  Last month the City of San Luis Obispo was awarded gold status by the League of American Bicyclists.  This ranking puts SLO amongst the top 30 cities nationwide for bicycling. Thank you SLO bike advocates!

 

 

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 I was recently interviewed about my career….by Tammy Cody at http://www.thehonesthome.com. Check out her great podcasts on design, housing, and sustainability every Friday morning

Click the link

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This is a map of the average daily time spent commuting to and from work here in San Luis Obispo County published by Trulia. SLO is in the center… San Miguel at the top… and Santa Maria is at the bottom.  Click on it to focus and enlarge it. (bright green is 5 minutes… darker red is 1 hour)   I’m not certain how accurate it is… I just like maps.

commute1

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bobjoneslogo

The County of SLO has just released the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the 4.4 mile long additional Bob Jones City to Sea Bicycle Trail section between the Octagon Barn in San Luis Obispo… and the existing trailhead parking area along Ontario Road.   Key amongst the several revised components is that the new route prioritizes going UNDER highway 101 rather than building a bridge over the freeway.

The new DEIR is can be found at:  http://www.slocounty.ca.gov/planning/environmental/EnvironmentalNotices/Bob_Jones_Pathway_DIER.htm

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This is an interesting map I just found on Zillow, via Tableau Software.  It shows the status of home selling in the USA.  Darker blue means houses are sitting longer and selling for less than asking… darker red means houses are selling faster and closer to asking price or over asking price.   Sure looks like there is a migration going on.  Is it just boomers retiring?  I don’t know.  All I can say is here they come… whoever they are.

real estate heat map

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Check out the attached video that shows the issues of a San Luis Obispo Parent riding with his son to School.

We as a city need to consider and create solutions for this.  City staff are aware of this stretch and the issues I believe… and are already working to create small changes for greater safety as quickly as possible… but the real change will come only when enough parents and other cyclists show up at City Council meetings to convince Council of the need and the priority.

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montereybikebridge

I have a crazy bike bridge idea…. one that I pitched to some Cal Poly architecture students (and also some planning students) a few years ago.    I have recently suggested it to the City of SLO.

THE BACKSTORY:  SLO has been planning and building a long class one (off street) bike path that is known as the Railroad Safety Trail for many years now.   It extends from Orcutt road in the south up to the Railroad station… and from Cal Poly in the north down to the 101 freeway along California Blvd.    The section that is missing is between the 101 freeway and the Railroad station.  The City has been attempting to negotiate with the Railroad for an easement… but the Railroad has basically just said NO.

So the City of SLO public works dept has been working on various solutions that would make a safe connecting route for bikes across this middle section of town to each of the already completed sections of the RR safety trail.  So far it looks pretty good… except that a portion of the route will be on Pepper st… which includes a relatively steep section between Monterey street and Mill St.  Too steep for kids and anyone on a single speed or cruiser type bike.

The idea… is to span the small valley of Monterey st with a 1000 foot long bike bridge… which spans from Higuera st.  all the way up to Mill St…. most of which is actually just the roof of two skinny buildings built on half of what is now the east side of Pepper street.  Only a short section of this 1000 foot length would be an actual bike bridge…directly over Monterey st… the rest would be built on the roof of commercial space combined with maybe a small apartment or two… whatever.  It is a tad difficult to grasp at first… you have to imagine two buildings… one on either side of Monterey st… built on half the width of Pepper street… the roofs of which are at the level of the green line in the photo above… and then the bike path on top of those roofs.  The remainder of Pepper becomes an alley of sorts.  It is really low traffic usage now.  The new bridge would turn the steep hill… into a manageable 4% grade.  The new buildings would not block any views that the current railroad track already blocks.

The City would have to either partner up, sell or lease the land to a developer that would then build the buildings and the bike path. There would be an easement for the bike path across the buildings… and some sort of long term maintenance agreement.  It would be a tricky negotiation… but in the end it would eliminate the steep section of this portion of the RR safety trail across town.

From the south end of this bridge…  the path would continue as per the existing bicycle master plan which I don’t have space enough to go into here as it is fairly complicated… but it is already a plan and it will work.  Same goes for the northerly connection… but that section is quicker to describe.  Basically to the north.. Pepper continues as a bicycle blvd for two blocks… where there would be a new bike bridge over the RR tracks and the path then continues over to the south corner of the Highway Patrol building property on California… and then northerly between that Highway Patrol building and the RR tracks but on Highway Patrol Property.  From the Highway patrol property… the path becomes a “protected two way bike lane actually built on the west side of California blvd.   This section is protected by a barrier from the automobile traffic… and it continues across the existing wide automobile bridge over the 101 and connects with the existing RR safety trail just beyond the 101.

Interesting, yes… is it feasible… I dunno… but it would sure be fun to explore.

 

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