BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    ”



                                                                  AB 819
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   January 9, 2012

                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION
                               Bonnie Lowenthal, Chair
                  AB 819 (Wieckowski) - As Amended:  January 4, 2012
           
          SUBJECT  :  Bicycle project design criteria

           SUMMARY  :  Authorizes the consideration of bicycle safety 
          guidelines established by either the American Association of 
          State Highway and Transportation Officials or the National 
          Association of City Transportation Officials by local entities 
          when developing bicycle projects.

           EXISTING LAW  :  

          1)Requires the California Department of Transportation 
            (Caltrans), in cooperation with county and city governments, to 
            establish minimum safety design criteria for the planning and 
            construction of bikeways.  Caltrans adopts these rules as the 
            California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (the 
            California MUTCD), which among other things, prescribes 
            guidance for the design and development of bicycle projects.  

          2)Provides that only those official traffic control devices 
            conforming to the standards promulgated by Caltrans shall be 
            placed on a highway.  

          3)Requires all city, county, regional, and other local agencies 
            responsible for the development or operation of bikeways or 
            roadways where bicycle travel is permitted to utilize all 
            minimum safety design criteria and uniform specifications and 
            symbols for signs, markers, and traffic control devices as 
            adopted by Caltrans.  

          4)Enacts the Complete Streets Act of 2008 (Act), pursuant to AB 
            1358 (Leno) Chapter 657, Statutes of 2008, to ensure better 
            accommodation for all users of streets, roads, and highways.  
            Specifically, the Act required the Office of Planning and 
            Research to amend its "General Plan Guidelines" for the 
            circulation element to specify how local officials can 
            accommodate safe and convenient travel for all roadway users.  
            The Act also required cities and counties, upon any substantive 
            revision, to modify their circulation elements to plan to 
            achieve a balanced multi-modal transportation network that 








                                                                  AB 819
                                                                  Page  2

            meets the needs of all users of streets, roads, and highways.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown                                          

           COMMENTS  :  According to the author, the intent of this bill is 
          "to expedite the development of bikeways that have proved to 
          safely accommodate and attract many more people to bicycling for 
          transportation.  This bill will accomplish that by approving many 
          designs that are currently effectively prohibited and by 
          substantially reducing the bureaucratic costs of developing such 
          bikeways.  More bicycling is a very effective way to achieve many 
          of our state's goals: healthier people, fewer traffic injuries, 
          stronger economy, and reduced greenhouse gases."  

          In furtherance of this goal, the bill would authorize the 
          consideration of guidelines as adopted by the American 
          Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 
          (AASHTO) or a guidance document as recently published by the 
          National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).  
          The sponsor of this bill asserts that the NACTO publication, "The 
          Urban Bikeway Design Guide," provides guidance for local 
          governments for many designs currently not covered in California. 
           

          Under current law, Caltrans is charged with adopting uniform 
          standards for all traffic control devices to be used on 
          California streets and highways, after consultation with local 
          authorities.  
          Caltrans adopts these rules as the California MUTCD, in 
          coordination with local entities.  Although existing procedures 
          of the California MUTCD provide for experimental traffic control 
          devices upon consideration by the California Traffic Control 
          Devices Committee, with input from bicycle organizations, there 
          is no similar process expressly for the consideration of 
          experimental or modified bikeway designs.  

          This bill would establish a procedure for local agencies to allow 
          nonstandard planning, design, and construction features for 
          bicycle projects currently not adopted in the California Highway 
          Design Manual (HDM) or the California MUTCD.  The alternative 
          procedure would allow local agencies to implement experimental 
          bikeway projects outside the purview of the California MUTCD or 
          the HDM.  Some have expressed concerns with this alternative 
          procedure especially as the guidance document to be considered by 
          local agencies as developed by NACTO has not been adequately peer 








                                                                  AB 819
                                                                  Page  3

          reviewed by transportation officials and, accordingly, could have 
          an unintended consequence of putting bicyclists and motorists at 
          danger if bicycle projects, as included in the NACTO guidance 
          document, are implemented by local agencies.  

          As an alternative to the bill's provisions, the committee 
          suggests language that will specifically require procedures in 
          the HDM and the California MUTCD allowing local agencies to 
          request Caltrans to consider innovative and modified bikeway 
          project designs.  This approach was first recommended by 
          Caltrans' California Bicycle Advisory Committee that is composed 
          of members who represent various California agencies and 
          organizations, including both the sponsor and opponent of this 
          bill.  That committee provides guidance to Caltrans on bicycle 
          issues and also reviews and comments on any proposed adoption or 
          experimentation approval related to bicycle issues prior to 
          adoption in the California MUTCD.  

           Support  :  Writing in support of this bill if amended, the 
          sponsor, the California Bicycle Coalition, indicates that 
          "Currently, California law requires all city, county, regional, 
          or other local agencies, in the development and operation of 
          bikeways, to adhere to only the design criteria, standards, and 
          traffic control devices developed by Caltrans.  These are 
          published in the California HDM and the California MUTCD.  These 
          documents lack guidance for a large number of designs that ›have 
          been] proven to effectively accommodate and encourage safer 
          bicycle travel in other states and countries.  Without guidance, 
          local agencies are required to go through a time-consuming and 
          therefore expensive experimentation process in the case of 
          traffic control devices, or are expressly prohibited from using 
          these designs in the case of matters of roadway design.  Many of 
          these designs are well-tested in other jurisdictions, and 
          criteria and standards for most are available in manuals besides 
          the HDM and California MUTCD, the only ones authorized for 
          bikeway development in California.  It is worth noting that local 
          agencies are not required to adhere strictly to the HDM and the 
          California MUTCD in developing local roadways not owned by 
          Caltrans; the rule applies just to bikeways."  

           Opposition  :  Writing in opposition to this bill, the California 
          Association of Bicycling Organizations contends that "We are 
          always open to innovative ideas, but a number of facility 
          innovations that initially seem attractive also appear to present 
          significant safety issues.  The available research on these 








                                                                  AB 819
                                                                  Page  4

          facilities is not always reliable, despite being cited in a guide 
          produced by a private organization.  Legitimizing these designs, 
          in effect, by statute, rather than by technical review, could 
          expose bicyclists to potentially dangerous facilities.   

          We agree, however, that Caltrans has been too conservative in its 
          approach to bikeway design, and we would enthusiastically support 
          an alternative approach that would provide an efficient process 
          for experimenting with new designs.  A Caltrans sanctioned 
          experimental procedure would relieve local agencies of liability 
          for nonstandard designs; it would enable experimentation with 
          innovative and improved designs in a controlled and rigorous 
          manner that would be consistent across jurisdictions; and it 
          would provide reliable information for revision of the Highway 
          Design Manual."  

           Suggested Amendment  :  The committee suggests that the bill's 
          current provisions be deleted and replaced with amendments to 
          Sections 890.6 and 890.8 of the California Streets and Highways 
          Code as indicated in italics as follows.  The author and sponsor 
          have agreed to these changes.  

             890.6. The department, in cooperation with county and city 
             governments, shall establish minimum safety design criteria 
             for the planning and construction of bikeways and roadways 
             where bicycle travel is permitted.  The criteria shall 
             include, but not be limited to, the design speed of the 
             facility, minimum widths and clearances, grade, radius of 
             curvature, pavement surface, actuation of automatic traffic 
             control devices, drainage, and general safety.  The criteria 
             shall be updated biennially, or more often, as needed.  The 
             department shall establish procedures for local agencies to 
             request approval to use nonstandard planning, design, and 
             construction features in construction of bikeways and roadways 
             where bicycle travel is permitted, for purposes of research, 
             experimentation, and verification.  

             890.8. The department shall establish uniform specifications 
             and symbols for signs, markers, and traffic control devices to 
             designate bikeways, regulate traffic, improve safety and 
             convenience for bicyclists, and alert pedestrians and 
             motorists of the presence of bicyclists on bikeways and on 
             roadways where bicycle travel is permitted.  The department 
             shall establish procedures for local agencies to request 
             approval to use nonstandard signs, markers, and traffic 








                                                                  AB 819
                                                                  Page  5

             control devices on bikeways and roadways where bicycle travel 
             is permitted for purposes of research, experimentation, and 
             verification.  

           Related Legislation  :  AB 345 (Atkins) of 2011, would have 
          established in statute the California Traffic Control Devices 
          Committee.  The bill was held in the Senate as Caltrans 
          implemented the bill's requirements through administrative 
          action.  

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          California Bicycle Coalition (sponsor) (Support with amendments)

           Opposition 
           
          California Association of Bicycling Organizations (Oppose unless 
          amended)  

           
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Ed Imai / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093