For this installment of Stories from the Field, Berkeley SafeTREC’s Kristen Leckie chatted with Nicolay Kreidler, Communications Director at the California Bicycle Coalition. In this edition, Kreidler talks to us about the Coalition’s innovative Quick-Build Guide and its impact since its publication in 2020. Read his Safety Story below!
What is your current role?
What inspired CalBike to create the Quick-Builds guide?
In 2017, a CalBike-commissioned poll showed that Californians across the state and across all major political and demographic groups support building Complete Streets—roads with safe sidewalks, visible crosswalks, and protected bike lanes—that are safe places for everyone and not strictly thoroughfares for driving. That was the impetus for the project.
How does CalBike encourage safety for people that walk, bike, or roll for transportation?
CalBike is focused on improving the built environment for biking, walking and transit by increasing funding for biking and walking networks. Winning new funding programs and strengthening and expanding Complete Streets policies.
By changing design practices to encourage biking and walking. Our goal is to make protected bike lanes the new normal. We are trying to get Caltrans to publish a world-leading bike and pedestrian design guide.
We focus on expanding access to bikes by making high-quality bikes, including e-bikes, affordable for more people. Another effort is to support the expansion of bike share to all regions and make it accessible to all communities.
What are the key elements of a quick-build project/key elements to create a safer street?
The guide promotes the “quick-build” method for safety improvements. Quick-build projects use materials that can be installed quickly and cheaply. Quick-build design allows active transportation projects to be completed in months rather than years.
What lessons or valuable takeaways did you gain from creating the guide?
The biggest takeaway for me, in conjunction with the direct experience during the pandemic, is that we make planning and execution unnecessarily tedious. Sometimes as in this scenario creating a "minimal viable product" in the field and testing it in real time leads to better results faster. It was clearly demonstrated that what communities usually want is not what they usually get. The car industry has long defined the realities of transportation planning, and it is easy to buy into their well-crafted narratives until you see the alternative in action. The guide should become the first thing a planner takes to hand to test any assumptions. The results will give clear guidance on what will make the community a better place to live.
How has COVID influenced the work CalBike does?
Bicycling and micromobility grew exponentially during the pandemic, as did our member base. Many people realized the value of local exercise and recreation. Bike shops were recognized as essential services. The popularity has given CalBike a larger constituency and mandate. What became clear is that given an acute need, whole streets could be reclaimed from motor vehicle traffic and repurposed. We also realized as a society we could make a difference in impacting climate change by reducing traffic and how reduced traffic leads to a better quality of life. Both empowering experiences and indicative of future possibilities. I think we've exited the pandemic feeling empowered and validated in our role in influencing legislation and public opinion.
If you had a superpower and could change anything, what would the future of active transportation safety look like?
Safety is the number one reason more people do not bike. Walking and biking by themselves are both extremely safe; most serious injuries and fatalities result from conflicts with motor vehicles. If I had a superpower, I would create and prioritize dedicated paths for bikes and pedestrians that are fully networked and protected from motorized vehicles.
These Stories From the Field interviews were conducted in collaboration with UC Berkeley SafeTREC. The opinions and perspectives expressed are those of the interviewees and not necessarily those of SafeTREC.