Kick Starting Change with Bike and Pedestrian Solutions

San Mateo is a city tackling change head on, as demonstrated with its innovative Taste and Talk Series, part of the Sustainable Streets Program. A recent talk in the series focused on “Kick Starting Change with Innovative Bike and Pedestrian Solutions,” presented by Paul Zykofsky, with the Local Government Commission.

A non-profit membership organization formed to help municipalities address land-use and transportation planning, the Local Government Commission encourages more livable, sustainable and walkable communities. We chatted with Paul about his recent Taste and Talk presentation.

Q. Fast-forward 10 years. In your opinion, what changes do you hope to see made that improve pedestrian and bike friendly cities?
The goal is to make our streets complete. What that means is that with every project that is done on our streets — repaving, restriping, sewer, utilities, etc. — we find ways to accommodate all the people who use the street. Streets need to feel safe and comfortable for all users… an 8-year old child or an 80-year old senior, people of all abilities.  In most cases what that means is that we have to recognize that streets aren’t just for moving cars.

With bicycling what that means is that we need to consider research that shows that the number one reason people don’t ride their bikes is concern about safety. What’s interesting is that as more people are bicycling, safety improves.

  • Minneapolis found that while the number of cyclists doubled from 2000 to 2009 the number of crashes dropped and the crash rate went from 8 to 3 %.
  • New York City found that addition of cycle tracks (physically separated bike lanes) on 9th Avenue led to a 56% reduction in injuries to all street users, including:
    – 57% reduction in injuries to people on bikes and a
    – 29 % reduction in injuries to people walking, as well as an
    – 84 % reduction in sidewalk riding.

Complete streets also are good for business.

  • In Washington, DC a three-quarter mile corridor in Barracks Row, including new patterned sidewalks and traffic signals, helped attract 44 new businesses and 200 new jobs, along with increases in sales and foot traffic.
  • Lancaster, California added pedestrian safety features as part of a downtown revitalization effort, including a pedestrian-only plaza, wider sidewalks, landscaping and traffic calming. The project spurred $125 million in private investment, a 26% increase in sales tax revenue, and 800 new jobs.

Downtown San Mateo is rich in the kind of retail that can benefit from street improvements:

  • SM2

Q. Can you give us an overview regarding the type of work you do with the Local Government Commission?
The Local Government Commission fosters innovation in local environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and social equity. We have programs in community design, healthy communities, water, climate change and energy.  LCG has members in local government — elected officials and staff — and we help them transform their communities through inspiration, practical assistance and networking. We also partner with local jurisdictions to facilitate participatory planning and design projects.  I work primarily on community design projects — like the one we’re working on in San Mateo — or on healthy communities projects.

Q. We’d like to hear about the innovative solutions being produced to improve pedestrian and bike facilities.
One of the most important solutions to improve conditions for walking and bicycling is to reduce vehicle speeds on urban streets to 20-25 mph. That means keeping our streets more compact and having short blocks that provide all users good connections within the city.

Cities are also using paint creatively to improve conditions for cyclists. On streets that are very wide some cities are using striped lines to create buffered bike lanes.

On slower speed streets the shared lane marking or “sharrow” painted on the street helps cyclists position themselves to stay away from the “door zone” of parked cars and reminds motorists that they need to share the street.

Obviously, having good places to park a bike and end-of-trip facilities — showers, lockers, etc. — are also key. Some cities are providing more bicycle parking by installing bike corrals in parking spaces.  Parklets, like the ones San Francisco has been installing in the parking lane, can include bike corrals and create more space on streets for people. These strategies encourage walking and bicycling by making streets people places with more eyes on the street, more social interaction and more security.

Q. What do you see being done in San Mateo that is working towards these goals?
I think San Mateo, like other cities in the Bay Area, is one of the leaders in this movement to create more walkable, bicycle-friendly, people-friendly, complete streets. The City is also taking the lead on making sure that streets are more environmentally friendly through what are referred to as “green streets” techniques.  These streets look at ways to capture rainwater more efficiently, allow it to percolate into the ground and reduce the amount of pollutants that run off into our waterways. The City is one of the first to develop a plan not only for complete streets but for green complete streets. Once the plan is in place, San Mateo should be able to build and retrofit its streets over time to create a great place for people to walk and bike with less impact on the environment.

Bike safety improvements in other cities: 

Fame x Frame Photo Contest
As we develop community, we want to see how you live or play at Bay Meadows. Share your fun lifestyle photos with our community by using #baymeadowslife. You could WIN $50 or our Grand Prize of $500 at the end of 2014 and be featured in a live pop-up gallery exhibit event. View official rules here:

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