California's bicycle clubs organized into a state federation in 1972 to protect bicyclists' interests statewide and to encourage, maintain, and improve bicycling conditions.

CABO (the "A" is pronounced long) fosters and promotes a favorable climate for bicycling in California by representing the interests of cyclists before the appropriate governmental bodies to protect their rights and promoting laws, policies, and actions that treat cyclists equitably.

In addition to the usual officers, CABO has Area Directors which mirror the boundaries of the twelve Caltrans districts. All are unpaid volunteers.

An attempt to clarify CABO opposing AB 1193

August 29th, 2014 No comments

Some people have said they’re confused by our opposition. Maybe this will help?

The California Association of Bicycling Organizations opposes AB 1193 (Ting) as passed by the Legislature for the following reasons.
· We are frustrated with the lack of movement by Caltrans to better provide safety for bicycling. (The number of annual roadway fatalities of bicyclists has been rising while the total number of all roadway fatalities has fallen!) This frustration fostered the California Bicycle Coalition to promote the bill against our advice.

· Much of the frustration comes from Caltrans’ failure to appropriately follow the Legislatures intent for AB 819 (Wiekowski, 2012) for starting a process for permitting local governments design exceptions for experimenting with new ideas for better Bikeways. The intent of AB 819 is to to allow for creative and innovative design improvements, to collect valuable data for evaluating them and eventually incorporating them into standards, and to relieve local agencies of the threat of liability for their experimentation. This process needs to be strengthened, not abandoned, so that agencies can be encouraged to help Caltrans update bikeway standards by evidence-based review.

· AB 1193 does conflicting things;

1) it requires Caltrans to establish Class IV, Cycletracks standards – a good thing – but at the same time it would allow local governments to ignore State standards.

2) it allows Caltrans to side-step its mandated oversight role for Bikeway standards

3) it allows Caltrans to ignore AB 819 leaving local governments no process or encouragement of experimenting with Highway Design Manual Bikeway designs. We want better designs, but not unsafe ones and not with each city doing their own thing – inconsistency leads to confusion – confusion contributes to collisions and deaths.

· A hidden intent of the bill’s proponents is for wholesale adoption/use of an upstart coalition, referred to as NACTO, to provide acceptable bikeway safety design guidance. NACTO, the brand new National Assoc. of City Transportation Officials is a popular movement of new-urbanism. Their evolving guide, an “Urban Bikeway Design Guide”, provides exciting cutting edge encouragement but little guidance for safety standards, and some designs encourage traffic movements that are illegal per our California Vehicle Code. Although their Guide is endorsed by many groups – including Caltrans – it is endorsed ONLY for its innovative ideas, not as providing necessary and reliable safety design standards!

We support encouraging the use in California of appropriate new bikeway ideas, we assert that bikeway minimum safety design guidance should apply equally statewide – there should not be potentially confusing differences in bikeway types between cities or counties. We also are fearful that agencies would, on their own, mistakenly construct incompletely thought-out facilities that could create hazards for people bicycling and other road users.
Although the name of the newly defined type of facility has been changed from “protected bike lane” to “cycle track,” the misleading term “protected bikeway” remains at 3:8, 3:11, 3:21, 4:24, and 5:8.

CABO would support an effort to implement AB 1193′s original purpose, defining cycle tracks and requiring Caltrans to establish standards for them. Otherwise, we urge you to oppose it.
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AB 1193, bicyclists may differ…

August 23rd, 2014 No comments

This is from the official bill analysis as the bill goes to the Senate next week, likely Aug 25th.

ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION : Opponent believes that rather than
allowing Caltrans to cede its oversight role and responsibility
to local governments, it is time to double down on Caltrans,
hold its feet to the fire, and make it live up to its
legislatively directed charge as principal overseer of bikeway
planning and design. The California Association of Bicycle
Organizations (CABO) points to the California Bikeways Act of
1975 as a clear statement of the state’s fiduciary duty to
address the “functional commuting needs of the employee,
student, businessperson and shopper…, to have the physical
safety of the bicyclist and the bicyclist’s property as a major
planning component, and to have the capacity to accommodate
bicyclists of all ages and skills.” CABO states that “What is
needed is better compliance mechanisms for standards, not
greater latitude to deviate from them arbitrarily.”

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Are NACTO’s guidelines new standards?

August 5th, 2014 Comments off

Some of the advocates of better facility designs for accommodating bicycling are, in my opinion, overzealous, loose, and somewhat misleading in their promotion of NACTO’s guideline ideas. This recent promotional piece uses the term “endorsed” as though the US Dept of Transportation FHWA accepts NACTO guidelines as standards to be used in place of existing standards. We too want better accommodation, even perhaps prioritization of bicycling over motor vehicles uses in some cases, but I and USDOT and FHWA are actually saying use NACTO for inspiration/vision but not in place of responsible engineering judgement.

This excerpt is quoted from the FHWA document answering questions about “Design Flexibility for Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities.”

Does the [NACTO] Urban Street Design Guide supersede other existing national standards or guidelines?

No. The Urban Street Design Guide can serve as one of many sources to inform the planning and design process, but it does not supersede other existing national standards or guidelines. The Urban Street Design Guide can be used in conjunction with other design resources; however, there are many design details not addressed by this Guide and it is not fully consistent with other guidance. For example, in the area of accessible design, the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards and the Public Rights-Of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG) are the primary source of design and construction details to ensure compliance with the ADA. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) is the national standard for traffic control devices to promote highway safety and efficiency on the Nation’s streets and highways as required by Federal regulation.

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Passing of Santa Barbara bicycling activist, Ralph Fertig

July 19th, 2014 Comments off

​Al Forkosh: Very sad news. For many years, Ralph was a lynch-pin of bicycle activism in the Santa Barbara and statewide. He raised the profile of bicycling in Santa Barbara and was responsible for bringing the 1998 ProBike conference to Santa Barbara. Ralph also served as the Regional Director of CABO for the Central Coast for many years and graciously hosted the CABO Board and members when we met in Santa Barbara.

​David Takemoto-Weerts: Very sad. I probably first met Ralph at the first ProBike I attended –1990 in Wash., DC. Great guy. He was always a go-to guy with a wealth of info and experience. He was probably at every bike conf. I attended and was a great contributor to advocacy for bicyclists.

John Cinatl: It is with a heavy heart that I forward this information to all of you. Ralph was always one of us and if my memory serves me correctly was the organizer or co-organizer of the first or second ProWalk-ProBike Conference held in Santa Barbara several years ago. Ralph had been suffering from leukemia for about a year or so but, as per our last few e-mails, was confident that he had beaten it and was in full remission. Apparently, during the last few week he had a re-occurrence and as such was undergoing another round of chemo.

Jim Baross: Ralph was class-act providing me with someone to emulate. Goodbye Ralph.

Doris Phinney, President Goleta Valley Cycling Club: It breaks my heart to inform the cycling community that Ralph Fertig died today at 130am, while in the hospital. He had experienced a re-occurrence of his cancer and was being treated with chemotherapy when he had a stroke. We cyclists owe so much to Ralph for all of his many years of continuing devotion to improving the cycling environment for all of us. On Saturday, August 2, 930am, I will be leading my monthly Newcomers Ride as a memorial ride for Ralph. We will meet at Java Station for an easy paced ride around Goleta. I hope you will join me.

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Ride to the right ticket appealed successfully!

July 18th, 2014 Comments off

Appeal won! A small but significant step toward re-training Sheriff and traffic enforcement personnel in general where and when bicycling may legally occur – “in the way” when warranted. We should provide a loud Thank you to Ron Lacy for making the significant effort to bring this about.

Now it’s important for us to help anyone bicycling to Ride Right; but not too far to the right. And if cited while doing it right, to consult with SDCBC locally or CABO Statewide, to determine when to fight back. Please spread this information to your club, friends, family, etc.

Here’s what just occurred.

This morning, July 18th, I sat through several traffic court appeal hearings at SD Superior Court under Superior Court Judge Kelly Wells. I was there to observe and provide moral support to Ron Lacy for his appeal of a CVC 21202 citation he had been given by SD Sheriff Officer Garcia. Ron had been cited on southbound Pacific Coast Highway south of Swamis for not riding as far to the right per CVC 21202. Officer Garcia claimed that Ron riding slightly to the right of the center of the number 2 (outside) lane was illegally positioned and that this was further established as illegal since another bicyclist road next to and by Ron on his right – that bicyclist thereby being as far right as required. At that trial expert (LCI trained) witness testimony was provided by SDCBC’s Board member Serge Issakov – Serge is also active as an Area Director for CABO. Trial Commissioner/Pro Temp Judge Codaz found Ron guilty. Ron paid his fine and decided to appeal that court’s decision – he didn’t think that he’d been treated fairly, that there was evidently bias against him as a bicyclist, and that the commissioner and Sheriff were not applying the law accurately.

Today Superior Court Judge Wells decided in favor of Ron’s appeal, reversing the decision of the Commissioner. The judge stated that the testimony of Ron and the expert witness about the exceptions to the “… ride as far to the right as practicable” law, CVC 21202 (copied in full below) were not rebutted at the original trail, that riding “in the door zone” can be considered a potential hazard that it is appropriate to avoid by riding further out into a lane. Ron and you won another step toward proving our roadway use rights!

It may be that Judge Wells was more likely to be amenable to considering Ron’s lane positioning as reasonable since, as she stated, she and her husband ride bicycles (“my husband is an avid bicyclist”) and are aware of the lane positioning issues. We’d do well to encourage more traffic enforcement personnel to become bicyclists, familiar with traffic laws and best practices; cops, sheriffs, commissioners, judges, attorneys.

Some notes of the appeal hearing:
1. There was no evidence presented at the original trial that the exceptions in 21202 did not apply; there was no rebuttal to Ron and the expert witnesses assertion that the exceptions were applicable.
2. The opposing attorney tried to bring up that Ron was not riding single-file when the other bicyclist was next to him; the judge state that there is no CVC against two-abreast riding… that single-file riding is not required.
3. The opposing attorney mentioned that Ron was impeding other traffic – a fact disputed by Ron’s testimony (and Ron was not cited for CVC 22400)
4. The opposing attorney was asked by Judge Wells if she was a bike rider; the attorney said she rode a bike but not much in traffic.
5. The judge would not accept that there was any evidence at the original trail establishing that there was bias shown by the Commissioner or the Sheriff Officer (maybe the reversal of the verdict will send a message to Garcia and Codaz).
5. Judge Wells suggested that bicycling advocates might pursue legislative changes and more Bike Lanes to help make roadway positioning rules more clear.

I recommend that we all make all our bicycling associates to ride lawfully but is cited inappropriately, to contact SDCBC or CABO to discuss options; fighting bad tickets is one way to turn around the bias against our roadway rights.
……….

CVC 21202. (a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

(b) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway of a highway, which highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of that roadway as practicable.

Amended Sec. 4, Ch. 674, Stats. 1996. Effective January 1, 1997.

Jim Baross
​CABO President
SDCBC Spokesperson
LCI #185​
San Diego, CA

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AB 1193 – summarizing our reasons to oppose

June 25th, 2014 Comments off

The California Association of Bicycling Organizations opposes AB 1193 as recently amended.

First, we address concerns that bicycling would unintentionally be restricted from roadways adjacent to Class IV Bikeways, we recommend changing the word “roadway” to “highway.” [And, a similar and useful change has apparently been made; "adjacent to the roadway" instead of the original - good!]

Highway is the inclusive right of way. Roadway is that portion of the highway for vehicular (includes bicycle) travel. Calling the Class IV to be part of the roadway would likely though unintentionally invoke CVC 21202 and a requirement that bicycling may only occur in the Class IV bikeway; an outcome we oppose. An amended bill could read:
“(d) Class IV bikeways, also known as “cycle tracks” or “separated bikeways,” which provide a right-of-way designated exclusively for bicycle travel within a “highway” and which are protected from other vehicle traffic with devices, including, but not limited to, vehicular traffic. Types of separation include, but are not limited to, grade separation, flexible posts, inflexible physical barriers, or parked cars on-street parking.”

Second, Streets and Highway Code 891 should not be modified to remove local agencies’ responsibility for adhering to safety standards for bikeways per Section 890.6. Uniform specifications for bikeway design (HDM) is just as important as those uniform standards are for symbols, signs, markers and other traffic control devices (MUTCD) that remain in 890.8.

Third, Streets and Highway Code 891 (a) should remain in effect. The fact that Caltrans has so far been slow at providing an appropriate process for local agencies experiments with new bikeway designs is not sufficient justification for removing responsibility from local agencies for applying minimum safety design criteria for bikeways!

We therefore urge the Legislature not to pass AB 1193, instead to influence Caltrans to update its design standards and to implement an effective experimental process. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

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AB 1193

June 25th, 2014 Comments off

So, some more detail concerns (the devil is in the details?) about AB 1193 from CABO director discussions…

Existing Streets and Highway Code §890.6 requires Caltrans, “in cooperation with county and city governments,” to “establish minimum safety design criteria for the planning and construction of bikeways.” §890.8 requires Caltrans alone to “establish uniform specifications and symbols for signs, markers, and traffic control devices to designate bikeways, regulate traffic, improve safety and convenience for bicyclists, and alert pedestrians and motorists of the presence of bicyclists on bikeways.”

If a new definition for a Class IV bikeway is added to §890.4, these provisions would automatically apply to it. The new subdivision §891(c), requiring that Caltrans “in cooperation with local agencies, shall establish minimum safety design criteria for Class IV bikeways, as designated in Section 890.4,” may therefore be redundant. Furthermore, it isn’t entirely consistent with existing law:
It specifies “local agencies,” which could be construed as either a broader or narrower scope than “county and city governments” in §890.6.
It refers only to minimum safety and design criteria, without mentioning planning and construction, as in §890.6.
It omits the traffic control device provisions of §890.8.
It doesn’t logically fit as a subdivision of §891, which deals with compliance with standards, not their establishment.
The compliance subdivision §891(a) refers to standards established by §§890.6 and 890.8, not by §891(c).
The bill should be rewritten to reconcile these inconsistencies.

Defining Class IV bikeways in §890.4 before any standards have been established for them creates an ambiguity. Are they not to be constructed until standards have been established? Or may they be constructed freely, because there are as yet no standards that need to be complied with?

Currently, “cycletracks” would be subject to the design standards of Class I bike paths or Class II bike lanes. But if they can be categorized in a new class of their own, it could be claimed that Class I and Class II standards no longer apply.

It might be better to defer adding this definition to the code until the standards for it have been developed.

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AB 1193 being confused by amendments

June 17th, 2014 Comments off

To Assembly Member Phil Ting

The California Association of Bicycling Organizations, the association of California’s bicycle clubs, would like to register its support of your AB 1193 provided it is amended, as proposed, to change the term “protected bike lanes” to “separated bikeways.” We are greatly concerned, however, about another amendment to make the minimum safety design criteria established in Streets and Highways Code §890.6 optional, and to eliminate the experimental process associated with them. This amendment resembles the bill as introduced, and our objections to it are the same as they were then. Eliminating this requirement would be an enormous mistake. If this amendment is included, our position changes to strong opposition.

The bill’s sponsor, the California Bicycle Coalition (CBC), asks why local agencies shouldn’t have the same latitude with respect to local bikeways as they have with respect to local roads. But this comparison, while it may seem attractive, overlooks a number of important points:

• Much as local agencies might prefer to have complete control over their own streets and roads, this is not the case. For instance, cities and counties may enact traffic regulations only as expressly authorized (Vehicle Code §21), and they must adhere to uniform standards and specifications for all traffic control devices (signs, signals, and markings) (Vehicle Code §21401). These provisions are important to insure uniformity, predictability, and best practices, but innovation is not neglected. The California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices includes a well-defined procedure for agencies to experiment with new or improved devices. The committee that oversees these experiments, and advises Caltrans generally on traffic control devices, gives local agencies a say by including representatives from the League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties.

• When it comes to physical design of streets and highways, nearly all California agencies voluntarily adopt the Caltrans Highway Design Manual as their design guide. The HDM’s standards are well-established, and traffic engineers are thoroughly trained in their use. The outcome is therefore generally uniform and consistent, and there is no need to mandate compliance (other than through funding mechanisms).

• With bikeways, on the other hand, the situation is much less predictable. Most traffic engineers receive little or no training in designing bicycle facilities. Many may be qualified to do so, but it cannot be assumed that all are or that they are familiar with proper standards to follow. That is why the Legislature enacted the California Bikeways Act in 1975 (now called the California Bicycle Transportation Act, Streets and Highways Code §§890 et seq). This act begins: It is the intent of the Legislature, in enacting this article, to establish a bicycle transportation system. It is the further intent of the Legislature that this transportation system shall be designed and developed to achieve the functional commuting needs of the employee, student, business person, and shopper as the foremost consideration in route selection, to have the physical safety of the bicyclist and bicyclist’s property as a major planning component, and to have the capacity to accommodate bicyclists of all ages and skills. The Legislature implemented this intent, among other ways, by directing Caltrans, in cooperation with county and city governments, to develop minimum safety design criteria for bikeways, and to develop uniform signs and specifications for traffic control devices for bikeways. It further directed agencies responsible for bikeways to use these minimum safety design criteria and uniform specifications.

• These standards and specifications have been enormously beneficial in insuring that bikeway designs adhere to accepted safety standards. But there is no enforcement mechanism other than funding procedures or liability. A few traffic engineers who may be either unaware of or indifferent to these standards have consequently been responsible for thousands of examples of California bikeways that violate basic minimum safety principles, either in geometric design (widths, routing, especially at intersections) or in traffic controls (signs, signals and markings). Often, for no valid engineering reason, or worse still, for reasons contrary to sound traffic movements, these bikeways deviate from mandatory standards in ways that expose cyclists to greater crash risk. What’s needed is better compliance mechanisms for standards, not greater latitude to deviate from them arbitrarily. We don’t need more such bad designs.

• The California Bikeways Act, however, had one important shortcoming. Until recently, cities and counties were not permitted to deviate from mandatory bikeway standards in order to experiment with modified, improved, or new designs. This issue was successfully addressed in the last session by AB 819 (Wieckowski), co-sponsored by CABO and CBC, which directed Caltrans to create an experimental process similar to the existing one for traffic control devices. This process would simultaneously have allowed for creative and innovative design improvements, collected valuable data for evaluating them and eventually incorporating them into standards, and relieved local agencies of the threat of liability for experimentation. Unfortunately, Caltrans has refused to implement the experimental process in any meaningful way. -2-

• Furthermore, Streets and Highways Code §890.6 requires bikeway design criteria to be updated biennially, or more often, as needed. But this has not been done, despite repeated requests to Caltrans from CABO, CBC, and the California Bicycle Advisory Committee (CBAC) (appointed by Caltrans to advise it on bicycle matters). State bikeway standards have fallen behind those in other documents such as the nationally accepted AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities. It seems that Caltrans may finally be embarking on such an update process, but it is critical that it be founded on evidence-based technical review whose outcome is not predetermined. Among CBAC’s responsibilities, as chartered by Caltrans, is to “provide input to Caltrans on designs, concepts, standards, and manuals related to bicycle facilities and for consideration to incorporate into existing Caltrans standards or manuals.” CBAC is also the body that provides the “cooperation with county and city governments” specified in Streets and Highways Code §890.6. It is therefore vital that CBAC play a role as bikeway standards are revised.

Proponents of this amendment might anticipate that deregulation will unleash a torrent of creativity and innovation. CABO and CBC have significant disagreements over bicycle facility design, but that is not even the issue here. The danger is the license granted to substandard, poorly conceived designs that neither CABO nor CBC would approve of.
We therefore urge you and the Legislature not to include such an amendment in AB 1193, and instead to influence Caltrans to update its design standards and to implement an effective experimental process. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

We don’t know what position Caltrans might take on this bill. But we feel obligated to point out that in several recent decisions involving bicycling policy, Caltrans and its consultants did not seek the opinion of CABO or CBAC, and may therefore not be fully aware of all sides of these issues. Furthermore, it is also CBAC’s chartered responsibility to “Review proposed legislation related to bicycling.” Caltrans has not yet sought CBAC’s opinion on the radical changes that might be included in AB 1193. Decisions of this magnitude should not be made hastily, in a final policy committee hearing, over amendments that are not yet even in print.

CABO trains CHP in LAB Bicycling Street Skills

May 23rd, 2014 699 comments

Previously the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition sponsored one course, and now CABO is providing LAB Traffic Skills 101 training for the CHP; so far three courses and approximately 30 CHP folks have been through the classroom, bike skills, and road riding experiences with more to come.

One of the officers provided these comments for evaulation of the course, “I currently review traffic collision reports for my area, and have since applied my new found knowledge in three separate incidents. I now understand proper lane positioning, bike lane configurations, and other bicycle movements when it come to cyclists trying to achieve their destination goals at/through an intersection.” and
“This course provides the philosophy, logic, and sound reasoning behind bicycle placement/movement, as well as addresses right-of-way issues.”

Marie Schelling of the CHP wrote and was successful at getting funding from OTS to pay the training costs, and she was instrumental to getting several CHP area supervisors to allocate the officers and staff time for the day and a half of training. Cudos to Marie!

I provided the standard League of American Bicyclists Road 1 “Street Skills” material, half classroom and half on the roads and paths nearest the class sites. The participants previous bicycling experiences varied widely, a few had club and event riding experiences, all had ridden as children, but many had not been on a bike – especially not in general traffic – for YEARS or EVER. What an awakening it can be for some/most people to hear, see, and then experience that “roads are for people, not just for people in cars!”

Although at one four-way Stop intersection I learned something. It happened just as a motorist who had the next turn to go – right of way – waited and waved for our group of bicyclists to go ahead even though we’d come to the intersection after her – it was the motorist’s turn to go. You may have experienced this? I call it the “let the poor person on a bike go first” response. Anyway, the inappropriate hesitation causes unnecessary delay, confuses others expectations, and can lead to collisions. Long story short, when the CHP student bicyclist with the gun on her hip waived the motorist on, the motorist was quick to comply! Teachable moment – an authoritative presence can straighten out some situations quickly. (No, I will not start riding armed… yes, even if “open carry” is allowed.)

I see nothing but good coming from helping law enforcement personnel to become competent bicyclists. Next maybe we could get some judges and magistrates to learn too that bikes belong, even “in the way.”

Jim (couldn’t be prouder) Baross
CABO President

Caltrans in concert with NACTO?

May 23rd, 2014 14 comments

Bob Shanteau has provided on CABO Forum a review of the recent Caltrans memo in response to questions from Michael Graff. I am copying it here for wider viewing.

On 4/11/2014 2:25 PM, Michael Graff wrote:
What does “in concert with” mean? Does Caltrans accept the entire NACTO guide as if it were a book of standards?

Or does Caltrans treat the NACTO guide as a book of suggestions? Is it a starting point for Caltrans to “develop and adopt”?

Was Caltrans already developing and adopting standards that directly conflict with the NACTO suggestions?

Bob replied –
The way I read it, the Caltrans Director’s memo addresses two issues: (1) Incorporating the NACTO stuff into Caltrans design standards and guidance; and (2) Who approves design exceptions for design features that do not comply with the bicycle-related standards in the HDM for local agency projects?

On the first issue, he wrote:
“Other references relative to urban street and bicycle facility design can also be valuable resources. Publications such as the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) “Urban Street Design Guide” and “Urban Bikeway Design Guide,” and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) “Designing Urban Walkable Thoroughfares,” are resources that Caltrans and local entities can reference when making planning and design decisions on the State highway system and local streets and roads. Caltrans believes that such guidance, coupled with thorough documentation of engineering judgments made in the process, can be of assistance to communities, particularly in urban areas, to support the planning and design of safe and convenient facilities that they own and operate. Caltrans is currently analyzing these guides to identify areas of improvement in our own standards and guidance. This will be a focus of the Department over the next year.”

As I understand it, Kevin Herritt and crew have been designated that job with the cooperation of a committee that includes one member from CBAC (rather than CBAC itself, which is a mystery to me, since its makeup would seem to meet the requirement in the statute for Caltrans to cooperate with counties and cities).

This revision is being done in compliance with Section 890.6 of the Streets and Highways Code:
“SHC 890.6 The department, in cooperation with county and city governments, shall establish minimum safety design criteria for the planning and construction of bikeways and roadways where bicycle travel is permitted. The criteria shall include, but not be limited to, the design speed of the facility, minimum widths and clearances, grade, radius of curvature, pavement surface, actuation of automatic traffic control devices, drainage, and general safety. The criteria shall be updated biennially, or more often, as needed.”

In 1975, we were having trouble with local agencies building all sorts of bikeway crap, but were able to get them to agree to the need for uniform statewide standards for bikeway related features. That effort resulted in Section 891(a) of the Streets and Highways Code:

“SHC 891 (a) All city, county, regional, and other local agencies responsible for the development or operation of bikeways or roadways where bicycle travel is permitted shall utilize all minimum safety design criteria and uniform specifications and symbols for signs, markers, and traffic control devices established pursuant to Sections 890.6 and 890.8, except as provided in subdivision (b).”

Notice that Caltrans was supposed to update the bicycle-related portions of the HDM every two years in cooperation with the counties and cities. That effort fell apart in about 1978 when Caltrans disbanded the Bicycle Facilities Committee and people forgot about the updating requirement. Some of us thought that when Caltrans formed the California Bicycle Advisory Committee in 1992, it would be tasked with meeting the requirement for Caltrans to update the HDM in cooperation with the counties and cities. That didn’t start happening, however, until a few years ago when some local agencies wanted to build bikeways that did not conform with the Caltans standards and found that they couldn’t without losing design immunity. Normally, a public agency can grant itself a design exception for a feature that does not comply with standards, and Caltrans can do that for itself for non-standard bicycle related features on a state project but the Streets and Highways Code says nothing about local agencies doing the same. After all, SHC 890.6 was adopted because local agencies were building crap bikeways, so why would we give them a loophole to get around having to comply with the uniform statewide standards for bicycle related features we had just adopted?

In my work on bicycle detection I had observed the California Traffic Control Devices Committee routinely approve requests to experiment with non-compliant traffic control devices, so I suggested that Caltrans do the same with bicycle-related design features. Some folks then successfully lobbied the legislature for a way for Caltrans to approve requests to experiment with non-standard design features, resulting in Section 891(b) of the Streets and Highways Code:

“(b) The department, by June 30, 2013, shall establish procedures to permit exceptions to the requirements of subdivision (a) for purposes of research, experimentation, testing, evaluation, or verification.”

During the last CBAC meeting, though, Kevin Herritt said that Caltrans lawyers had had told him Caltrans could not approve requests to experiment for local agencies. Caltrans lawyers simply couldn’t wrap their head around the fact that 40 years ago the legislature had told Caltrans to develop bicycle-related design standards that are uniform statewide when the same is not true for the rest of the Highway Design Manual. (Even though Caltrans does the same for traffic control devices.) When the local agencies realized that Caltrans was not willing to grant requests to experiment on local projects, they worked to get the authority to grant design exceptions on their projects instead.

That takes us to the second issue in the Director’s memo: Who has the authority to approve a design exception for a feature on a local project that does not comply with the bicycle-related portions of the HDM?

On this issue, the Director wrote:

“For improvements on local systems, the responsible local entities have long been delegated authority to exercise their engineering judgment when utilizing applicable standards, including those for bicycle facilities established by Caltrans pursuant to Streets and Highways Code sections 890.6 and 890.8. This delegation and delegation process is outlined in the Caltrans Local Assistance Procedures Manual, Chapter 11, page 11-26. See http://www.dot.ca.gov/…/lam/prog_p/ch11-2012-10-05.pdf.”

“Given the flexibility provided to owners by existing standards and guidance, it remains of the utmost importance, as noted above, for the responsible entity (Caltrans or local authority) to document appropriately their engineering decisions for design-immunity purposes. Adequate documentation will ensure the full protection of design immunity provided under law to the responsible entity.”

The problem is that the Caltrans Director cannot unilaterally change state law, so the statement in that first paragraph may or may not be true. It would be best for the legislature to explicitly grant local agencies the authority to grant design exceptions to bicycle-related design standards in the HDM. As the Director points out, it makes sense for local agencies to have the authority to grant design exceptions on their own projects. But can we trust them not to build crap bikeways again? Or would it be better to hold off and and update the bicycle-related design standards instead? That is the struggle we are going through right now.

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