Promoting a Healthier Lifestyle by Supporting Active Transportation Programs
By Tim Hayes, PE
Across the country, public agencies are supporting programs that encourage bicycling and walking as an alternative to using our cars.
The impetus for these Active Transportation Programs, as they are known, is the goal of reducing greenhouse gases. Another goal is to promote healthier lifestyles across our nation. California’s Active Transportation Program, passed in 2013, developed project policies, standards, criteria, and procedures. Caltrans is the program administrator.
These projects can range in cost from as low as $250,000 to up $5 or $6 million. Federal and state governments have dedicated a fair amount of money to help fund these programs, and a call for projects will be open very soon for Cycle 4 of the statewide ATP program. Typically cities and other local agencies can be expected to get funding for anywhere from 75% to 90% (and in some cases 100%) of the overall project cost.
A couple of examples illustrate how these programs are implemented:
At Psomas, we are involved in many active transportation projects, including the Rod Beaudry Bikeway Project for the City of Rancho Cordova and the North 12th Complete Street for the City of Sacramento. These projects promote using a combination of bicycling, walking, and transit for trips to shopping centers, parks, and cultural destinations. This approach also brings an added commercial benefit. With people out of their cars, they are more likely to slow down and visit local businesses along the way.
Safe Routes to Schools
Another component of active transportation programs that is near and dear to our hearts is Safe Routes to Schools. We were responsible for the Safe Routes to Schools project for the City of Galt, which created and enhanced the connections to a high school and two elementary schools. The street network in South Galt consists of a variety of sections with and without sidewalks, areas where the street narrows down and then widens out, portions with shoulders and some without shoulders. It’s a daunting environment if you are a student walking or riding to school.
Our mission was to turn the street network into a welcoming environment that allows safe use by cars, bicyclists and pedestrians alike. Tasks include closing up sidewalk gaps, providing bike facilities and installing safely features like enhanced cross walks and mid-block pedestrian signals.
The education portion of a program like this becomes a big part of its success. We have to work to help both kids and their parents understand that walking and riding to school is definitely something they can do safely. We also have to educate them on the rules of the road and good pedestrian and bicycle practices.
Encouraging active transportation components is vital. And, at the end of the day, this is a great opportunity for all of us to get out and exercise.