Anyone who has ever ridden a bike in Stockton knows this sad fact: this is not a cycling town.
There’s no infrastructure in place. Almost no bike lanes or bike routes, and the ones that do exist are laughably placed on streets where no one in their right mind should be cycling (who would ever ride a bike on Hammer Lane with cars bearing down at 50mph or greater!?). And the only truly safe places to ride are there pretty much by coincidence—on levees or on March Lane along the East Bay MUD trail—not because the city actually planned safe routes specifically for bikes.
And while the present state of cycling in Stockton seems bleak, many who ride in Stockton also know this: There is tremendous potential to make our city so much more bike friendly. And that’s precisely the goal of the city’s latest undertaking: a long overdue update to the Stockton Bike Master Plan.
Just recently, the city and grant-funded consultant Fehr and Peers began working on this update in earnest, taking tabs on what biking looks like in Stockton today and how it can improve. Most crucially, they’ve begun a sincere public outreach effort to learn from those in the city who cycle the most. Last Thursday, I was able to attend a public workshop at the Civic Auditorium that highlighted the work on the plan done to date and why this plan update is important. But it was also interactive, giving attendees the opportunity to identify Stockton’s problem areas and also where the biggest opportunities lay. The workshop was well attended and the crowd diverse, a good indicator that Stocktonians understand the significance of this update.
The crowd noted that Stockton has no true bike network, making it hard to traverse the city on two wheels. While some neighborhoods may be OK for cycling, there’s no infrastructure network linking these neighborhoods to the rest of the city. There were also calls for adding more bike lanes on important streets and funneling bike riders down less congested roads as well. Everyone agreed that getting to and from downtown was of high importance, as well as making routes to schools more inviting as well. These are crystal clear, straightforward issues that should be addressed head-on in the bike plan update.
And I’d like to point out a fact about biking that is usually lost in the conversation: improving cycling conditions is an important economic development tool. Smart cities understand that there is a tremendous mode shift occurring across the country as more people move from cars to walking and biking. Young professionals now look at cycling infrastructure as a barometer of a city’s health and vitality. If you’re city doesn’t have cycling facilities, then it’s not attractive to young, dynamic workers, nor to the companies who employ them.
The list of cycling benefits is long and well documented: an increase in cycling infrastructure leads to a subsequent boost for local businesses, and more cycling leads to less traffic and healthier citizens. All of these are detailed in an earlier post written here.
But to get to these benefits, we first need a plan. A comprehensive plan allows us to prioritize the most catalytic projects to truly jumpstart the cycling culture in our city, instead of haphazardly laying down bike lanes wherever funding becomes available.
In order to create the best plan possible, the city needs to hear from you. You can go to http://gis.fehrandpeers.com/StocktonBicycleMasterPlan/ and create your very own bike plan for Stockton using Fehr and Peers’ interactive planning tool (it’s a bit tricky to learn at first, but once you get the hang of it, it can be quite addictive). You can also participate via text by texting “yes” to 209-852-4868 to answer questions about cycling in Stockton, or take an online survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/StocktonBikeSurvey.
And if you’d like to participate in person, the city is hosting another public workshop this Wednesday, December 9th at the Arnold Rue Community Center from 5:30 to 8:00. This is just the start of public feedback gathering, but it’s important to let the city know early and often what you would like to see out of this plan.
In order for Stockton to move out of its post-bankruptcy malaise and into the realm of competitive California cities, bikes need to be a priority moving forward. Sacramento, the Bay Area and even Modesto are making cycling a priority in its transportation planning. Stockton must do the same if we want to keep up.