Trekking though the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Davis active transportation coordinator Dave “DK” Kemp was busy talking up members of Congress promoting Davis, bicycling and the idea that more federal dollars need to be spent on active transportation.
“We’re essentially lobbying the federal government to support bicycling,” Kemp said.
It’s a trip that may yield potential millions for Davis’ Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan, a strategy that Kemp told the City Council last week most likely would need no money from the city. That’s a seemingly tall order, given that carrying out the plan will cost a projected $120,000 per year. Then again, the city recently won $5.4 million in grants for bicycle-related projects. In 2011, it received $2 million in grants.
The money and projects — like a bike boulevard from B Street downtown to the UC Davis campus and re-striping of lanes on Mace Boulevard to make bicycling a more reasonable activity for more people, plus the new Beyond Platinum Plan adding more projects and education to the city’s bike-boosting agenda — have local bicycle advocates publicly effusive.
“We’re looking at a committed staff that are doing amazing things in the community,” said Chris Granger, volunteer executive director of Cool Davis, an environmental organization that promotes reduction of the city’s carbon footprint.
Given that the grant money the city has won so far ultimately comes from Washington, D.C., getting face time with lawmakers may net more money sent to regional grant allocation agencies Davis falls under, like the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, which released the $5.4 million grant late last year.
Kemp said there is also a transportation bill being debated in Congress that could offer more priority for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Plus, there is movement at the state level for active transportation, the moniker given to bicycling and pedestrian traffic. While the Sacramento Area Council of Governments has a $9 million pot of money for active transportation, Kemp said the state’s program has a potential $180 million pie to divide up.
Davis city staff will go down both avenues looking for money. One way Davis has set itself on more competitive footing is to link bicycle improvements to a program called Safe Routes to School — a partnership with the Davis Joint Unified School District.
That program installs flashing crosswalks, upgrades intersections and stripes buffered bike lanes at and around schools. As a booster for active transportation, the program acknowledges that many of the city’s bicycle riders are students who are too young to drive. What’s more, by making routes to school safer for kids on bikes, it means less parental chaperoning and thus fewer cars on the road.
Safer paths to school for bicyclists also could mean more of the share of city traffic could be bicyclists. Right now, Davis estimates between 20 and 25 percent of all commute trips are done by bicycle in the city, with school trips at 30 percent.
The Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan would improve bicycle traffic counting, create a downtown that is even more friendly to bicyclists and have measurable goals attractive to grant funders.
The plan sailed past a unanimous City Council on Feb. 26, prompting Councilman Lucas Frerichs to join in a chorus of compliments from the dais.
“What are we doing to promote this?” he asked.
The plan itself is helping to answer the question. As soon as it was adopted, the Washington, D.C.-based bike lobbying group League of American Bicyclists invited Kemp to help it lobby Congress because the group has esteem for Davis’ bike plan and believes it will sway lawmakers.
The plan was named for the league’s certification rankings. Davis was the first city to get platinum status. As an aside to getting more grant money, the city is hoping to earn the league’s tough new ranking: diamond.
For now, the city is trying to earn that essential ranking: green.
— Reach Dave Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews