Bike route signs in the pipeline

By Samantha Clark, Santa Cruz Sentinel

CAPITOLA >> Santa Cruz County is gearing up to install bicycle route signs aimed at boosting biking.

The Regional Transportation Commission gave the green light Thursday to pursue implementation of a sign program, which has been in the pipeline since 2009. The signs work on two tracks: telling riders the best routes and reminding drivers to share the road.

“What we want to do is increase bicycle ridership,” said Cory Caletti, senior planner with the Regional Transportation Commission. “The route signs are really geared toward helping bicyclists find their way to a destination using a route that is safer, lower stress and has fewer conflict zones.”

Cycling continues to grow in the county. The city of Santa Cruz has the second highest rate of bike-to-work trips in the state, according to a 2014 American Community Survey report. But that number declines countywide — 3 percent of adults commute by bike — and children aren’t keeping pace with the national average for biking to school — 1 percent locally compared to 13 percent nationally in 2013.

“I think that the No. 1 reason why people are reticent to ride bikes is feeling unease sharing the roadway with cars,” Caletti said.

The program aims not only to serve experienced bicyclists by mapping out longer routes. Most of the signs will bring bicyclists through neighborhoods, around UCSC and to points of interest, such as beaches and downtowns.

“The best routes for people on bikes are often very different than the best routes for driving and can be tough to find for new cyclists,” said Amelia Conlen, director of Bike Santa Cruz County. “We also have a lot of ‘secret’ bike infrastructure in Santa Cruz County, like the path from High Street to Harvey West or the Branciforte Creek Path. I’m still discovering new routes.”

Other bicycle meccas have similar route sign programs, such as Berkeley, Oakland, Portland, Seattle and Chicago. Monterey County’s transportation agency is in the early stage of developing something similar.

Two sign systems exist locally, the Pacific Coast Bike Route and the California Coastal Trail, though they lack directions to local destinations.

“There’s a public education component, and signs help legitimize bicycle transportation,” Caletti said.

Too many signs, however, can become a visual pollution, Capitola Mayor Dennis Norton said at the meeting.

“There’s a point where you keep adding signs and adding signs and there’s confusion.”

Cities and the county will install signs as resources become available. The program will cost an estimated $400,000, and the Regional Transportation Commission is looking at a grant from state’s Active Transportation Program.

Original Article

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