Saturday, July 17, 2010

Make Riverside Bike-Friendly by Next Tuesday

Mayor Loveridge and the City Council want to make Riverside into a bike-friendly city, and they have made some progress on this front. We have two well-maintained bike trails and an extensive network of bike lanes throughout the city. However, we are still plagued by the "mysterious disappearing bike lane"- where lanes are striped until such a point as extra car lanes are "needed" and then disappear without warning, forcing cyclists onto narrow, high-speed car sewers. There is also a profound inequity in the provision of bicycle lanes- the University, Eastside and Downtown are covered in them, while the southern reaches of the city are hard-pressed to find any at all. Combine this with the fact that bicycle parking is often scarce at major destinations, and we see that the City has a long way to go before it can call itself "bicycle-friendly." That said, I submit the following suggestions in order to speed progress towards that goal.

1. Mandate bicycle parking at all new businesses throughout the City.

We already have extensive minimum parking requirements for just about any use imaginable, and businesses are expected to pay for parking lots if they want to operate in Riverside (or, indeed, in nearly every community in the country). However, as of now, only a few youth-oriented businesses (such as arcades and internet gaming establishments) are required to provide bicycle parking. If we want cycling to become mainstream, we should provide bicycle parking everywhere we currently provide car parking. As an incentive, it might be useful to reduce minimum parking requirements by 1, allowing the resulting space to be used for bicycle racks. I suggest, as a preliminary measure, 1 bicycle parking space per 10 car parking spaces, with a minimum of 3.

2. Provide bike parking downtown, perhaps with a standardized City-designed rack.

Downtown Riverside is an area with a lot of potential for high-quality urban life, but that potential has yet to be realized. There are a lot of cyclists downtown, and very few places to park bicycles, including precisely 0 on the Pedestrian Mall between City Hall and 6th. Ample bicycle parking should be provided all over the downtown district, using a standardized and attractive rack design that ought to invoke something about the city. I propose a ring-and-post design, with the City's "raincross" logo in the ring. Simple, classy, and easy to manufacture and install.

3. Make it stated City policy to provide bike facilities on all arterial roads, as they come up for re-striping.

This one's simple- stripe bike lanes as you re-stripe roads, where possible. If it's not possible, stripe sharrows in the right-hand lane. Corona makes extensive use of sharrows, and drivers don't try and kill cyclists there. It's a paint-driven solution, so it's cheap, and even cheaper if we do it during the normal course of road repair.

4. Develop bikeway signage.

Many of my on-campus cycling friends would love to ride the Santa Ana River Trail, except that they can't find the entrances. We have some nice bicycle backbone facilities, but almost no wayfinding signs along either. We should provide signs along bike lanes and trails that direct cyclists to major landmarks, transit stations, and intersecting trails, along with distance markers.

5. Work with RTA on getting 3-bike racks for local transit buses.

RTA is gearing up to replace their fleet. Many transit operators, including Omnitrans, are purchasing bus bike racks that hold 3 bikes rather than the usual 2. The City should work with RTA to get grant money to offset the cost of these new racks, and to convey the importance of increased bicycle capacity on local transit routes, especially long-distance express buses and those that traverse difficult hills. (Think 16, 20, 22, 27.)

Over time, we can talk about developing better bike corridors, educating drivers and cyclists, and installing dedicated cycletracks and bike paths, but for now, these 5 policy changes, most of which cost the City very little money, would go a long way.

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