Disappointing transit and climate change advocates, Newsom vetoes complete streets bill

Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a striking blow to transit and climate change advocates across the state, has vetoed SB 127, dubbed the Complete Streets for Active Living Bill, continuing to let Caltrans repair and repave state-owned streets in local areas to focus on increasing car movement more than the safety of more vulnerable users like bicyclists and pedestrians.

Sen. Scott Wiener has tended to focus on his home of San Francisco while he has spent the last three years developing SB 127, it was there in the middle of the day on December 7, last year, that an 8-year-old boy was struck by a driver on 19th Avenue at Lawton Street and sent to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

That 19th Avenue is one of many roads that, though mostly used locally, is owned by the state and controlled by Caltrans. In Los Angeles County, these types of road include Santa Monica Boulevard, Hawthorne Boulevard and Alameda Street.

The bill would have required Caltrans to build bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements when it repairs or repaves those routes. In other words, it is to ensure that state roads that run through local communities are safe for people to walk, bike, skate, and use wheelchairs.

The 2018 traffic fatalities statistics will soon be released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For now, we rely on the numbers from years before—and the most recent year analyzed, 2017, showed that of the 3,702 traffic fatalities that occurred in California, over a quarter of them (27%) were pedestrians and bicyclists. That also makes California, by far, the deadliest state for pedestrians and bicyclists. The 973 Californian pedestrians and bicyclists killed by drivers in 2017 lost easily tops the other worst culprits, Florida (778) and Texas (670).

According to the California Bicycle Coalition, the bill had strong and widespread support, with 78% of California voters support a policy requiring safety improvements when improving a road.

Newsom’s veto was one of several he handed down Sunday to close out the most recent legislative session, ultimately meaning that a two-thirds vote against the veto could not be applied by the legislature.

“Newsom’s decision blatantly ignores the immense support for this critical policy change,” said Linda Khamoushian, Senior Policy Advocate for the California Bicycle Coalition. “People risk their lives every day just to walk or bike along dangerous state-owned streets. Without more aggressive complete streets policies, our transportation system will continue to operate business as usual.”

Caltrans argued that the bill would add an extravagant $1 billion per year, or $4.5 million every mile of newly paved road.

Those costs were deemed “farcical” by Wiener, with Assembly Appropriations Chair Lorena Gonzalez saying that she “agrees that Caltrans has embarrassed itself with the [cost] projection it has given us” on the bill.

“As SB 127 made its way through the legislative process, it became clear that legislators understood this bill would create safe routes for everyone when Caltrans repaired state highways in populated areas,” said Margo Pedroso, of the Safe Routes Partnership. “This legislation was a common-sense and cost-effective way to get more kids and families walking and biking to school safely when those schools are located next to state highways.”

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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