March 5, 2015
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Bicycle Safety in San Mateo County
Bicycle Safety in San Mateo County
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?
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
key observations on bicycling conditions throughout the county include:
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
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.
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.
of the advisory committees that are in place include:
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.