October 30, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury

2002 Report:

Bicycle Safety in San Mateo County

Summary | Background | Findings | Conclusions | Recommendations| Responses

Summary:

Resources devoted to bicycle travel are inconsistent within San Mateo County and cities within the county. While the popularity of bicycling is growing, cities provide varying degrees of support and strategic planning to address safe bicycle travel. Approximately half of the cities have bicycle advisory committees and have adopted master bicycle plans. San Mateo County does not have such a committee.

Because San Mateo County does not have a Bicycle Advisory Committee, there is no established body to assist in addressing county-wide bicycle-related issues, or to provide guidance and support for bicycle projects and programs in the unincorporated areas. Also, there is no approved bicycle plan for the unincorporated areas, so projects that fall outside the geographic boundaries of cities are not eligible for state, regional, or local funding.

Issue: Do San Mateo County and the cities within the county adequately consider and support safe bicycle travel?

Background:

The popularity of bicycling for commuting and recreational purposes is growing, and San Mateo County boasts some of the most desirable roads in the Bay Area for recreational cyclists. With 46% of Americans bicycling for pleasure, it is estimated that over 300,000 county residents bicycle at least occasionally.

For some residents in the county, bicycling is a primary form of transportation. Commuter bicyclists include employees who ride to work and children who ride to school. According to a Lou Harris poll, concern for safety is the single greatest reason people don't commute by bicycle. California State Senate Bill 825 estimates that approximately 125 bicyclists are killed every year on California streets and roads, and 34% of the cyclists killed by cars in California are under 18 years of age. While current information on the number of bicycle accidents in San Mateo County is not available, there were 323 bicycle-related accidents in 1998, which was slightly lower that the statewide average.1

In order to be eligible for many state and regional grants, cities and unincorporated areas must have a comprehensive bicycle plan. In March 2000 the City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) published the San Mateo County Comprehensive Bicycle Route Plan (Plan) which addresses policies, goals, and objectives related to San Mateo County's bikeways including planning, community involvement, safety and education, and funding. The Plan can be incorporated into the general plans of cities, which is where bicycle plans typically reside.

The Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance (Alliance), a Joint Powers Authority comprised of 15 cities within the county, has a $1.2 million budget and a staff of nine. The Alliance, partially funded by C/CAG to address commute alternative programs throughout the county, works closely with C/CAG on transportation-related issues including bicycle travel.

The Grand Jury conducted interviews, researched public documents, and surveyed all cities in the county. The survey focused on current practices and goals pertaining to projects and plans involving bicyclists. All 20 cities responded to the survey with varying degrees of completeness. The Grand Jury found inconsistencies in some responses
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1 - San Mateo County Comprehensive Bicycle Route Plan

Findings:

Some key observations on bicycling conditions throughout the county include:

  • There is a general lack of bike lanes and connectivity between bike lanes in many cities
  • Several of the major bicycling corridors consist of wide shoulders with striping that has deteriorated in many places
  • The cities of Menlo Park, Redwood City, and Foster City have the most extensive network of bike lanes and paths

Survey responses showed that, with the exception of Redwood City and San Carlos, all cities in San Mateo County have at least one staff person designated to oversee bicycle-related issues. The time spent on bicycle issues varies. Staff in over half of the cities devote less than one hour per week to bicycle-related issues.

Funding available for bicycle projects is minimal in comparison to major roadway construction projects. Cities are more inclined to apply for grants that will support projects impacting automobiles because they may receive more funding for their efforts. Transportation funding from the state is contingent upon a county's adoption of a Congestion Management Plan. San Mateo County's Congestion Management Plan is under the jurisdiction of C/CAG.

San Mateo County does not have a bicycle advisory committee to address bicycle-related issues in the unincorporated areas of the county. Less than half of the cities in the county have bicycle advisory committees.

The roles of the advisory committees that are in place include:

  • addressing issues and complaints
  • recommending improvements
  • assisting with developing city bicycle objectives and plans
  • project recommendations
  • providing advice to city councils

Survey data regarding city master bicycle plans is inconsistent with information received in interviews. Approximately half of the cities have bicycle plans, with varying degrees of detail and depth. Most cities report that they coordinate projects with neighboring cities on issues involving:

  • the development of continuous bicycle lanes and paths between cities
  • regular communications for continuity and project planning
  • partnering for funding opportunities and co-authoring grant applications

In 1996, a bike map was produced to illustrate for commuters and recreational bike riders recommended bicycle routes in the county. In 1999, Barclay Maps produced a new version, the "Bicycle Transportation Map of the San Francisco Peninsula, San Mateo County," which was available through companies for their employees and through retail outlets. To date, the maps have not readily available, but C/CAG recently purchased 3,000 and plans to distribute them during Bike to Work Day in May 2003.

The C/CAG Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee provides general support for bicycle-related issues in the cities within the county. C/CAG currently has a $600,000 budget for grants to cities in support of bicycle transportation projects. Grants are awarded based on criteria established by the C/CAG Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Regional, state, and federal funding sources are also available to cities, and over the past three years, $2,158,200 has been awarded to half of the cities in the county.

The Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance offers to employers a bicycle safety education program and provides funds for bicycle racks and lockers at the worksite. In 2002, the Alliance conducted safety and education programs at two companies. With funding from a federal grant, the alliance teaches bicycle safety courses and distributes bicycle helmets to low-income bicyclists in the community. These programs amount to less than 10% of the total staff time of the alliance. Except for special projects, the Alliance does not undertake community outreach programs related to bicycle safety

Conclusions:

Bicycle safety is not a high priority for San Mateo County or the majority of its cities.

A bicycle advisory committee comprised of community volunteers could be a valuable forum to which the public and city councils could refer bicycle safety and transportation issues. A committee could provide additional knowledge and experience to the development and implementation of city bicycle plans, and act as a lobbying body for bicyclists.

Because the cities of Redwood City and San Carlos do not have staff assigned to address bicycle issues, they are unable to respond to bicycle issues raised by citizens and to be advocates for bicycle programs and projects.
County, state, and federal grants for bicycle-friendly construction projects are available, yet the cities do not pursue them.

There is no county-wide program to promote bicycle safety and travel routes. San Mateo County does not have a body to provide guidance and support of bicycle projects and programs in the unincorporated areas, and without an approved bicycle plan, projects that fall outside city boundaries do not usually qualify for state, regional, or local funding.

San Mateo County's Congestion Management Plan does not encourage the consideration of safe bicycle routes as part of new construction projects. C/CAG does not require cities seeking bicycle project funding to coordinate their projects with neighboring cities.


Recommendations:

1. Within one year, San Mateo County and every city without a long-term strategic bicycle safety and transportation plan should develop one that includes:

a. the priorities set forth in the San Mateo County Comprehensive Bicycle Route Plan

b. a bicycle advisory committee

c. at least one city employee whose job responsibilities involve bicycle transportation and safety issues

d. coordination of roadway construction projects with neighboring cities

2. The county and cities should seek grant funding to support bicycle projects and programs in their communities

3. C/CAG should increase its efforts to address bicycle issues within the cities by:

a. developing a community outreach program for bicyclists that includes the distribution of designated bicycle route maps and safety tips, and provision of free maps to local bicycle shops and the non-profit bicycle organizations

b. incorporating in its Congestion Management Plan the requirement that consideration must be given to bicycle safety during new construction and roadway improvement projects

4. C/CAG should prioritize and fund projects that demonstrate inter city coordination of bicycle projects, e.g., bicycle lanes and paths.
Response

C/CAG

Daly City

South San Francisco

Brisbane

Burlingame

Belmont

Millbrae

Town of Hillsborough

Town of Atherton

Half Moon Bay

Pacifica

Woodside

Portola Valley

Colma

East Palo Alto

Foster City

Menlo Park

Redwood City

San Bruno

San Carlos

San Mateo

Board of Supervisors

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