Update: Better in California, Bittersweet in Montana

February 11, 2013

Over the last few months, Adventure Cycling has been very busy working to create new opportunities for bike travel in North America, for example by developing new routes like an Idaho hot springs off-pavement route and Bicycle Route 66, and advancing an official U.S. Bicycle Route System. Also, we've worked with local and state partners to create better bike travel conditions, most recently in Montana and California. Here's the latest on those efforts:

In Montana, we worked with the new statewide group Bike Walk Montana and host of other advocates and public officials to update the state's law pertaining to biking, including a provision requiring motorists to give cyclists five feet of clearance as they pass by. The timing of this legislation was important since the Montana legislature only meets for three months every other year. We were thrilled when the Montana House Transportation Committee approved the bill (HB 257, sponsored by Representative Nancy Wilson) by a bipartisan 9-3 vote. Unfortunately, the full House did not follow suit. There was considerable confusion about what the bill would or would not require, and the legislation was defeated 57-43. This was a huge disappointment but not surprising, given that many "safe passage" bills required several runs through legislatures (and governors) before winning final approval. The good news is that 22 states (and the District of Columbia) have enacted safe passage laws, and advocates in Montana now know what we need to do to persuade legislators of the need for this important law. You can find out more about Montana's situation and future activities at Bike Walk Montana or on their Facebook page.

In California, things are looking a little brighter. A few months ago, the California State Department of Transportation (Caltrans) abruptly paved 25+ miles of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), an iconic cycling route (and part of Adventure Cycling's most popular route, the Pacific Coast), between Cambria and Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County, with jagged, over-sized aggregate that made the road very dangerous for cycling. Adventure Cycling joined a chorus of local clubs and advocates urging Caltrans to re-pave the road with a cycling-friendly surface, especially before the volume of cyclists (and cycling events) picks up this summer. The media and public officials have taken up the issue and Caltrans responded by announcing that it will do a study with the University of California at Davis on preferred road surfaces for cycling. While we appreciate this response (and what it could mean in the long run for better cycling conditions on California roads), it doesn't solve the immediate problem of those dangerous 25+ miles. So local groups and Adventure Cycling are keeping up the pressure, urging Caltrans and Governor Jerry Brown to re-pave this section of road before June 1. You can add your voice by signing a petition today, even if you're from outside California. We all benefit when we work together to make North America a safer, more enjoyable place to cycle.

Thanks for your help!

Photo: Members of the Slabtown Rollers Cycling Club put up a sign to fix the Pacific Coast Highway. From left, Erv Rodgers, Bill Hughes and Mike Barnes in Cambria, CA. 

Photo courtesy of L.M "Mike" Evans.


JIM SAYER is executive director of  Adventure Cycling Association.


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