Legislature Passes Senator Wiener’s Complete Streets Bill to Ensure State Highways that Run through Local Communities Are Safe and Usable by Transit Riders, Pedestrians, and Cyclists

SB 127 will require Caltrans to make roads safer for people walking, bicycling, or using transit when repairing or upgrading state-owned roadways in urbanized areas 
September 13, 2019

San Francisco –  Yesterday, Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) 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 passed out the Legislature with a 28-12 vote. It will now head to the Governor who has 30 days to sign or veto the legislation.

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 Partnership, California Walks, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

"State-owned roads that run through local communities should be safe for 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 safety improvements. SB 127 ensures that as we rehabilitate state highways that run through the centers of our towns and cities, we prioritize active transportation 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)

“We commend the leadership of Senator Weiner and the Legislature in response to the overwhelming support from California voters,” said Senior Policy Advocate for the California Bicycle Coalition Linda Khamoushian. “Caltrans is responsible for more than just the fast movement of cars and trucks. Dangerous state-owned roads that cut through our communities can become streets where people going to school, work, and shopping will be able to safely walk and bike. Streets designed for safe travel for people young and old are long overdue.”

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 default for repairing Caltrans highways in urban areas is that the features that make our streets safe for all users – such as protected bike lanes and safe pedestrian crossings – are an afterthought in design and engineering. SB 127 changes the default for how State Highway funds are spent to ensure that state highways running through urban communities are designed with pedestrian and cyclist safety in mind, ensuring that our infrastructure is accessible to all road users, not just cars.

SB 127 has the support of the Sierra Club, Fossil Free California, the Coalition for Clean Air, and host of other environmental and complete streets advocacy organizations throughout California. It is co-authored by Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), and Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella).

Full bill text can be found here.