Senator Wiener Introduces Complete Streets Bill to Ensure State Highways that Run Through Local Communities Are Safe and Usable by Transit Riders, Pedestrians, and Cyclists

January 14, 2019

San Francisco –  Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) joined a coalition of transportation and health advocates to announce the introduction of Senate Bill 127, which will prioritize the creation of ‘complete streets,’ including safer and better designed sidewalks, bikeways, and crosswalks, on state highways that run through cities, towns, and neighborhoods. SB 127 sets new policies to help Caltrans implement the agency’s already adopted Strategic Management Plan goals to ensure that state highways that are actually surface streets - e.g., 19th Avenue and Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco - are safer and more accessible for everyone, including children, seniors, families, and people with disabilities, and to accommodate all transportation modes, including walking, biking, and public transit. 

SB 127 is sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, California Walks, and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

"State-owned highways that run through local communities should be designed for safe use by everyone, not just cars," said Senator Wiener. “For too long, Caltrans has talked about complete streets as a policy, but hasn’t actually delivered these improvements in its projects. SB 127 ensures that as we rehabilitate state highways that run through the centers of our towns and cities, we prioritize active transportation uses like walking, bicycling, and riding public transportation. Streets designed for all residents create safer, healthier, and more inclusive communities. Ensuring everyone has access to safe streets also encourages alternate modes of transportation, which can help reduce vehicle miles traveled, and help us fight climate change.”

Caltrans owns and maintains 50,000 lane-miles of state roads through the State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP), which invests at least $4.2 billion annually in repairs and updates. State-owned roadways include city and neighborhood surface streets and small-town main streets that carry local traffic as well as people on foot, bike, and transit. Examples of state-owned roads in urbanized areas include:

·         San Francisco: Van Ness Avenue and Lombard Avenue (Highway 101), 19th Avenue (Highway 1), and Sloat Boulevard (Highway 35)

·         Berkeley: San Pablo Ave (Hwy 123) and Ashby Ave (Hwy 13)

·         Los Angeles County: Santa Monica Blvd (Hwy 2), Hawthorne Blvd (Hwy 107), and Alameda St (Hwy 47)

·         San Bernardino: Foothill Blvd (Hwy 66)

·         Bakersfield: 23rd and 24th Streets (Hwy 178)

·         West Sacramento: Jefferson Blvd (Hwy 84)

Caltrans adopted a complete streets policy in 2008, which provides that the agency will ‘consider’ safer road design for people walking and bicycling in all projects. More recently, in 2015, the agency adopted goals to triple bicycling and double walking statewide by the year 2020. However, because these goals are not binding and because Caltrans continues to prioritize the movement of car and truck traffic through cities and towns over other modes of transportation, the department is far from reaching its adopted goals. This has contributed to increasing congestion and air pollution in neighborhoods rather than creating streets that are safe, convenient, and inviting places to walk, bike, and use public transit. For example, El Camino Real (SR-82) in the Bay Area cuts through Peninsula communities and inexplicably lacks sidewalks in numerous locations, let alone much-needed bicycle lanes and improved crossings for pedestrians and transit users.

The current primary priority for Caltrans is the operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of state highways.  SB 127 changes the guidelines dictating how State Highway funds are spent to ensure that improving accessibility by all road users (not just cars), reducing vehicle miles traveled, and promoting public health are top considerations.


"For decades, Caltrans has prioritized its investments to serve the efficient movement of cars and in turn has created spaces too dangerous for biking and walking,” said Linda Khamoushian, Senior Policy Advocate for the California Bicycle Coalition. “Yet across California, state-owned roads are also local roads where we live, work, and play. While the department has shown effort in setting the right goals, it has lacked in the investment in projects that work for all users of the road. SB 127 will allow Caltrans to lead on designing health and safety back into our neighborhoods.”

“With pedestrians and cyclists comprising over a quarter of all traffic fatalities in the state, we need Caltrans to do its part and to take action to make our streets safer for all road users,” said Tony Dang, Executive Director of California Walks.

“Since the 1970s, we have seen a nationwide decline in the percentage of students who walk and bike from school from more than 66% to 13% today,” said Jonathan Matz, California Senior Policy Manager for Safe Routes to School National Partnership. “One of the principal causes is the lack of safe and hospitable infrastructure. Cities and towns across California have been working to make their street networks more accommodating and inviting for all users, and particularly those on foot, on wheels or with disabilities. However, in too many instances communities have no authority to fix the corridors that pose the most danger, because the state actually has right of way over those arterials. SB 127 will help fix this.”

“I raised my children in San Francisco. The ability to safely walk to and be active on public parks and playgrounds are cherished memories for my family,” said Beatrice Cardenas-Duncan a Bay Area volunteer for the American Heart Association.  “As a great grandmother, I commend Senator Wiener for introducing this important legislation, which the American Heart Association is pleased to co-sponsor.” 

"Seven years ago, my mother Judy Yu, at age 62, was walking across Park Presidio Boulevard (a state highway) when she was hit by a car and severely injured,” said Jenny Yu, Founding member of San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets. “She suffered a ruptured spleen, broken bones, and traumatic injury to a large part of her brain. She now experiences severe PTSD and cognitive impairment, and she requires 24-hour care. If this legislation was in place when my mom crossed Park Presidio that day, and the street was designed with pedestrians in mind, my mom may never have been hit. Even if she was, her injuries would have been less severe."

“In San Francisco, we have six-lane, fast-moving highways that are disguised as neighborhood streets,” said Jodie Mederios, Executive Director of Walk San Francisco.  “These roads are death traps and need to be designed for the safety of everyone, not just for moving traffic quickly. Senator Wiener’s Complete Streets legislation will help finally remedy this by requiring Caltrans to make the roads in their purview accessible to all users, including people walking, who are most at risk from traffic deaths.”

Full bill text can be found here.