Many planners and city staff in Contra Costa County support complete streets and genuinely believe they are implementing them. But numbers tells a much different story. Data from the US Census Bureau show Contra Costa County having 0.5% of commute trips by bike, about one-fourth the level of Alameda County, and far below San Francisco’s 3.8% bike commute rate.
Contra Costa Bike Commute Rate vs Alameda and San Francisco Counties
Data like this shows that Contra Costa officials and planners continue to fall short when implementing complete streets, but why? It’s complicated, and boils down to the basic problem that projects are developed first and foremost with moving cars in mind. Contra Costa Countywide Transportation Plan has over 50 major arterials projects and 30 of them have the word “widen” or “widening” in their description. Projects that widen roads tend to eat up most of the money for the project, leaving scraps for bike facilities. Where there is room, bike lanes or sharrows are added and pedestrian crosswalks too, but the bike-ped accommodations are an afterthought.
The results are incomplete and discontinous bike lanes, cobbled together through various projects, leaving intimidating gaps in your bike commute. This may not discourage you from bicycling to work, but it certainly discourages thousands of other commuters otherwise interested in bicycling. When 60% or more of local residents say they are ‘interested’ in bicycling but ‘concerned’ for their safety, cities need to build a complete bikeway network that is comfortable and attractive.
Talks continue at the Contra Costa Transportation Authority on how to build consensus around increasing funding for needed transportation improvements, including new bicycle facilities. As we mentioned back in November, Bike East Bay continues to push for 15% funding for projects they improve your bike commute, particularly projects on busy streets such as heavily-trafficked Monument Boulevard in Concord, California/Main Street in Walnut Creek, San Pablo Avenue in West County, and Railroad Avenue and Hillcrest Avenue in East County.
Help us reach a goal of 15% of funding for bike-ped improvements by sharing with decisionmakers the reality of bicycling in Contra Costa County. And while you’re at it, send them a reminder that real complete streets improve the health and safety of voters. Real complete streets promote the most efficient, fairest use of tax dollars by moving more users through the same amount of space, instead of breeding congestion and road-rage. Real complete streets reduce wear and tear (complicit in auto-use) on the roads we all share and gives those with previously no mobility options (e.g. youth, elderly, handicapped, low-income)…options.
What you can do
Contact your County Supervisor and let them know you support “15% for Complete Streets in a new Measure J”
Come to the March 9 Contra Costa Transportation Authority Board Meeting to show your support for increased bike-ped funding and ‘complete streets.’
6:00-9:00pm, Wednesday March 9, CCTA Offices, 2999 Oak Road, Ste 100 Contra Costa Centre, just opposite the Pleasant Hill BART Station
More Background Data on How Contra Costa Has Fallen Behind
Figure 1: US Census estimates over the course of 12 months show the percentage of people biking in Contra Costa County has stagnated.
Figure 2: Using more reliable 5-year averages for six consecutive periods shows an even clearer and more daunting picture, begging several questions to Contra Costa planners. Why are people biking less, regionally, despite County and nation-wide adoption of complete streets policies? Are Complete Streets not being implemented frequently enough or are certain, vital elements within the policy being neglected (e.g. adequate bike lanes)?
Consistent and continuous improvements in infrastructure in Alameda County via Complete Streets has led to an upward trend in percentage of residents biking to work.
Innovative and rapid improvements in infrastructure in San Francisco County via Complete Streets has led to an upward and quite optimistic trend in percentage of residents who bike.