Bill tries anew to get bike, walk lanes on streets

Wiener’s leg­is­la­tion seeks to re­quire Cal­trans to ex­pand on large projects

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BAY AREA & CALIFORNIA - By Rachel Swan Rachel Swan is a San Francisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: [email protected]­i­ Twit­ter: @rachel­swan

The streets are not just for cars any­more.

That’s the credo be­hind a bill that state Sen. Scott Wiener will an­nounce Mon­day, re­quir­ing the state Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion — Cal­trans — to con­sider bike lanes, buses and pedes­trian walk­ways when­ever it starts a ma­jor road project.

It would mainly ap­ply to state high­ways that func­tion as city streets — “the 19th Av­enues and Van Nesses of the world,” said Wiener, D-San Francisco, re­fer­ring to a bustling artery in the Sun­set District, and a thor­ough­fare that stretches north from Civic Cen­ter.

He first pitched the bill in 2017, but it died in com­mit­tee. Wiener pulled it back the next year to avoid get­ting caught up in the state gas tax de­bate.

Now the po­lit­i­cal will ex­ists to broaden and “elec­trify” the state’s trans­porta­tion sys­tem, Wiener said. He has­tened to add that the bill isn’t try­ing to wipe out cars — it’s just “rec­og­niz­ing that a lot of peo­ple would love to get around with­out hav­ing to drive ev­ery­where.”

“This is more state in­ter­fer­ence and an at­tempt to con­trol lo­cal trans­porta­tion.”

Quentin Kopp, for­mer chairman of state Se­nate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee

“Com­plete streets,” which ac­com­mo­date all forms of trans­porta­tion, would help Cal­trans meet a goal it set in 2015 to triple the num­ber of bi­cy­cle trips and dou­ble the num­ber of peo­ple walk­ing through­out the state. Those tar­gets are crit­i­cal to com­bat traf­fic con­ges­tion and cli­mate change “that’s stran­gling the planet,” Wiener said. A re­cent Cal­i­for­nia Air Re­sources Board re­port showed that car­bon emis­sions have in­creased as more peo­ple drive longer dis­tances be­tween home and work.

Streets de­signed solely for ve­hi­cles also cre­ate dan­ger for cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans. In Wiener’s home turf of San Francisco, of­fi­cials, cy­clists and safety ad­vo­cates are try­ing to elim­i­nate traf­fic deaths by 2024.

Wiener’s vi­sion of the fu­ture in many ways is grounded in the past. A cen­tury ago, Cal­i­for­nia’s streets were rife with trol­leys, peo­ple strolling and even the oc­ca­sional horse and buggy — car cul­ture didn’t boom un­til the 1950s, with the rise of a vast, in­ter­state high­way net­work that al­lowed mid­dle-class fam­i­lies to flee to the suburbs.

“And then we built ev­ery­thing around the needs of sprawl: enor­mous park­ing struc­tures, wider streets, street­car lines ripped up ev­ery­where,” Wiener said.

In re­cent years, some Bay Area cities be­gan re­vers­ing that ur­ban de­sign. San Francisco and San Jose are shav­ing off lanes on ma­jor road­ways to make room for wider side­walks, bike­ways and bulging curbs. Tran­sit of­fi­cials are pur­su­ing a long-awaited $300 mil­lion bike path on the west­ern span of the Bay Bridge, and in Oak­land, some starry-eyed ur­ban­ists have dreamed of raz­ing the In­ter­state 980 free­way.

Even so, the bill has crit­ics, some of whom call it a heavy­handed at­tempt from Sacra­mento to re­shape cities.

“This is more state in­ter­fer­ence and an at­tempt to con­trol lo­cal trans­porta­tion,” said Quentin Kopp, a for­mer chairman of the state Se­nate Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee. “Legally, it’s jus­ti­fi­able,” Kopp added. “But I be­lieve strongly in lo­cal con­trol.”

Yet many oth­ers see the bill as a way of cor­rect­ing land use pat­terns that no longer work for Cal­i­for­nia.

While the Bay Area Metropoli­tan Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion has not taken a stand, its mem­bers like the “back to the fu­ture” idea of wel­com­ing ev­ery­one on the street, said leg­isla­tive direc­tor Randy Rentschler.

“That’s why we put so much money into bi­cy­cles and pedes­tri­ans,” he said of the MTC, which plans and funds trans­porta­tion projects through­out the nine-county re­gion.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, first pitched the bill in 2017, but it died in com­mit­tee.

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