Great Bicycle Minds of the “Mega-Region”

September 24, 2012

After a week break before Labor Day (spent in the fine late summer Seattle weather) I returned to host a peer workshop of all—well, most of—the  great bicycle minds in Northern California (admittedly, some could not make the workshop). “Great bicycle minds” is my term for the people that administer the funding for, plan, implement and advocate for the bicycling infrastructure in Northern California.  A good many of them came on September 6, 2012, to give the team here at CCJPA feedback on the draft Bicycle Access Plan

In this draft plan, which CCJPA will release for public comment after our November Board of Directors meeting, we described our prior and ongoing efforts to improve bicycle access and capacity on the train. What was most notable was the feedback we received on the “at-station” improvements described in the plan. For the on-train improvements, which include operational measures, we basically have done or are doing just about all we can do and the group understood that;  however, there were other educational measures suggested that were new to our ears. One that we want to investigate further is developing a bicycle ambassador program. In concept, a bicycle ambassador would be an educational voice on the train who can help those with bicycles safely stow and secure their bicycles. There were also suggestions to put signage on the train cars about where bicycles can and shouldn’t be stored. These both seem like worthwhile ideas to pursue but they would all need to fit within a larger effort…an effort further described next.

The Quest to Improve Bicycle Storage at Stations

For the “at-station” improvements the CCJPA explained our interest in supporting communities that are trying to pursue bicycle sharing and we discussed the rollout of secure bicycle storage and the folding bicycle “rental” membership program (a la the Brompton Dock). As I was preparing the materials for the meeting, I recalled an effort that was given attention in 2008-09 by the two regional metropolitan planning agencies in our territory [Sacramento Area Council of Government (SACOG) and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)] which involved looking at Northern California as an emerging mega-region. I dropped a mention of that concept with related to the “at-station” projects and that saw broad receptivity. So what does that mean? The electronic access control behind the storage systems (Bikelink cards) in place at many BART stations is quickly becoming the Bay Area standard. The bicycle share program sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in San Francisco and along select communities on the San Francisco Peninsula, is about to enter a pilot phase. I’m excited as this program has the potential to spread throughout the Bay Area into the communities Capitol Corridor serves…and so, both of those developments sort of set a standard for the Bay Area.  Since the Capitol Corridor connects with the Sacramento region, which is just entertaining these notions, wouldn’t it be nice to have things be consistent, ubiquitous, and cohesive all along the Capitol Corridor route? I can hear the Beach Boy’s “Wouldn’t it be nice…” song modified with lyrics about using one card for bicycle locker access or a common membership program for bicycle sharing…

Seriously though, with public sector procurement, funding making things nice like that can be a challenge; however, the CCJPA can be a resource to support that concept with the funding we do have for secure bicycle storage. We will do our best to ensure compatibility across our service territory.

As you can guess, the egalitarian concepts of bicycle sharing are some ways off but the more immediate solution that relates directly to the Capitol Corridor needs is the folding bicycle “rental” program. Via Skype, Michael Foster of Brompton Dock discussed their program to the group. This was a very new concept to many of the attendees and out of the interest in that emerging option, there were concrete suggestions to gather a better understanding of how a membership-based folding bicycle “rental” program might work for CCJPA. As such, and along with other general suggestions that came out of the meeting, the CCJPA will plan to conduct an online survey looking at overall mode of access to and from the Capitol Corridor service.

CCJPA’s “Further Effort Bucket”

Now finally, back to the further effort concept…the survey described above, the ambassador program, signage, incentivizing the use of folding bicycles, cab-car retrofits for more bicycle storage, and enforcement, are all being poured into the “further effort bucket.” We will be taking a revised draft of the Bicycle Access Plan to the CCJPA Board for their review and comments in November 2012 and schedule final adoption in February 2013. In between that time, there will be much more work on these further efforts to wrap them into the final Bicycle Access Plan.

 Training for Two Bike FAVs

On a more personal note I will be taking place in two century rides, the Tahoe Sierra Century (first time doing that) and one of my annual favorite rides, Levi’s Gran Fondo on successive weekends. Training for and doing these rides remind me why bicycling is a crucial quality of life and health issue and it also gives me plenty of time to think about the challenge of improving bicycle access with the Capitol Corridor. Whether you are a Lance Armstrong fan or not, it can’t be denied, the awareness brought to bicycling and the health issues his organization crusades for are, in some way, responsible for why the “I think I will ride a bicycle today” light has turned on for so many people. Quite clearly, the long time and new bicyclists are being drawn to the Capitol Corridor in ways we were not prepared to accommodate. I would like to thank the “great bicycle minds” who are cheering CCJPA on our own century ride as we try to meet and eventually expand the bicycle services associated with Capitol Corridor.