The provision of safe, clean and all user friendly roads in towns and cities requires a careful and strategic urban planning process by various involved stakeholders. A carefully implemented urban plan where the ideas obtained from various stakeholders are reviewed carefully will ensure that the needs of all the urban dwellers are put into consideration. Urban planning foresees the needs concerning safety, security and welfare of all citizens in terms of improving infrastructure, provision of abundant water, lighting and energy sources among other necessities.
The relevance of urban planning process which aims at improving and improvising roads and streets in the major towns and even in rural places that will ensure easy access to urban centers is a critical issue that all urban planners need to put in the frontline in their plans. This paper therefore focuses on some of the coalitions that have been put in place to ensure a safe, secure and user friendly streets in the State of California. The paper also brings about some of the plans that can be put in place to ensure clean, safe and adequate roads in the cities of California that caters for the needs of all the people whether pedestrians, bikers, cyclists, heavy truck drivers or even people on wheel chairs. This is supported by bringing out some of the benefits of successful roads and streets planning processes in California mostly as compared to the rest of the United States’ urban planning. Also the research bring out some of the challenges that face efficient urban roads and streets planning process and provide some of the ways that the future of these plans can be safeguarded to ensure the provision of user friendly and safe streets and roads in California.
As a result of high rising demands in economic means that will boost global and regional economic and social development, urban development strategies have been put in place by several regions in the United States of America. One of the implemented transportation plans that intend to improve urban and suburban roads and streets in the United States is the Smart Growth America, a program that foresees the plans that intend to create an efficient networking measures through improving roads, streets and housing techniques.
Smart Growth America is a campaign kind of a movement that campaigns for the construction of a livable cities, towns and suburbs of the American people. This as the campaign states can be attained by construction of buildings, streets and transport systems that are accessible and affordable to all Americans without any prior bias or favor (Litman, 2010). Through efficient roads and streets construction strategies, other infrastructural plans are made easier such as the construction of schools, shops and other commercial establishments. The organization argues that through creation of a healthy living neighborhood in urban and sub urban centers will as a result create a favorable environment for economic activities and at the same time act as a source of job creation in various States, of which California is one of them.
According to Wachs (2004), urban development aimed at improving the efficiency of roads, streets and affordable and reliable transport services is the key breakthrough that all urban planners and developers should enact as the key point to any urban development strategy. The roads and streets development strategies that aims at improving transportation services both for the people using vehicles (public and private service vehicles), bicycles and bikes, pedestrians and even people using wheel chairs have been put in place. These groups have enacted action groups where each of the mentioned group has tried to come up with coalition that aims at developing the urban roads and streets that are not only user friendly but also environmentally conservative so as to create beauty and sustainability among the towns and cities in the United States. Thus the Smart growth movement has come up with strategies and proposals that aim at creating more attractive roads and streets that promotes connectivity and at the same time cater for all road users regardless of whether they are using vehicles or other means.
Roads and streets development in California
The state of California is among the most populated states in the United States with most of the inhabitants involved with a variety of economic activities and social status that need to be met in different perspectives. Several cities in the State of California have recorded a tremendous growth in population with Los Angeles having the highest population of approximately 3.8 million inhabitants while San Diego has 1.3 million people according to the demographic statistics recorded in the year 2012To cater for the high population with a variety of economic activities, transport system in the state has to be considered to be in the fore place in urban planning and development strategies (Dumbaugh and Rae, 2009). This is due to the fact that the current road plan has been criticized to cause delays in traffic and at the same time violate the safety and security measures for different road users.
The subsequent formation of several coalitions and organizations that monitor, formulate strategies and push for reforms road safety and insist on fair emphasis on equality of roads and streets for all road users has pushed for renowned street development plans in the State. One of the most successful organizations that encourage equality in roads and streets development reforms in the State of California is the National Complete Streets that represents several states in road development coalitions including those based in California such as California Bicycle coalition and California Bike coalition. The NSC coalition headquarters are based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Complete Streets California
The movement in California monitors the plans of road planners and engineers by ensuring that these planners design and construct roads that cater for the needs of all road users including cyclists, vehicles users as the pedestrians of different physical abilities and age differences in the entire state of California. The organization was formed as a result of rising road and streets concerns that favors vehicle users and have fewer beneficial impacts on cyclists and pedestrians of different ages and physical abilities.
The main objectives of the Complete Streets Coalition in the State of California is to lobby for pedestrians and cyclists’ friendly roads and pathways whereby their needs are catered for equally as those of the motorists (Sallaberry,2001). The coalition also addresses the road safety issues caused by over speeding and congested traffic. This is addressed through the introduction of additional bike lanes and pedestrians’ pathways which are separate from the main roads. According to the organization, these friendly and livable roads not only create road safety and equality but they also promote a lively neighborhood with reduced ugly features of congestions and unexpected collisions on the roads.
The Complete Streets organization was first signed in California by the Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger into a law in the year 2008 where he signed the Assembly Bill 1358. The Act (Complete Streets Act) which is part of the Bill was partially sponsored by the AARP California and California Bicycle Coalition with the aim of pressuring the policies that require county towns and cities come up with road plans that cater for the various needs of all road users. The plan has so far pushed for reviewing of road plans in California whereby the Department of Transportation was able to come up with new revised road development strategies commonly known as Deputy Directive 64 (Litman, 2010). This revised road policies program fully recognized the application of Complete Streets policies and procedures in planning for the development of all highways in California including repairs and new road construction plans.
This subsequent application of the Complete Streets policies contained in the Assembly Bill 1358 has boosted the road planning and development of California whereby the State is recognized to be the second leading States to embrace and implement the National Complete Streets Coalition (NCSC) policies in the United States. The organization’s plans are regulated by the California Bicycle Coalition (CBC) that ensures the needs of bicycle users, motorists, pedestrians and people with different physical needs are catered for in the process of designing and constructing various walkways, streets and roads in California State (Litman, 2010). Such implementation plans that CBC has fostered is the construction of Woonerf, the type of life streets which gives more legal priority to the cyclists and pedestrian as compared to the motorists.
Achievements of Street coalition and organizations
The effort the streets coalition in the State of California that lobby for creation of lively and all user accommodating streets has led to the creation of Sunday Streets events that are practiced in several cities in California such as Los Angeles, Oakland, San Mateo and Redding among other big cities. The event mainly involves motorist free streets on Sunday, a situation which gives cyclists and pedestrians a chance to walk or cycle to as far as they can without the stress of traffic jams caused by motorists (Sallaberry, 2001). The Complete Street policies have also resulted in a more cyclists accommodating traffic whereby the Los Angeles downtown drivers are more aware of the cycling activities in the town as compared to the previous reckless driving techniques which gave the cyclists and motorists no chance to use the roads.
The fifty mile bike lanes and cycle tracks that were completed in 2010 is also another effort of the Complete Street policies. These have given the cyclists and the bikers a chance to use the roads freely without the fear of collision with the vehicles. This is because cycling in the city is not just a leisure activity but a means of transport just like any other vehicle transport.
Some of the streets and pathways developments that have taken place since the formation of the Complete Streets organization in California involve addition of bike lane from one to three lanes in Los Angeles, and from two to four lanes in San Fransisco, Valencia Street among other minor pathway and bike parking lots that were created at Long Beach. This has eased the accessibility to various destinations without having to use vehicles which as a result reduce congestion as well as accommodate the needs of all people using the road.
The Complete Street policy has also succeeded in reducing congestions caused by several vehicles especially in rush and peak hours. Separating pathways, bikes lanes and main roads ease the coalition caused by these different parties as each has their separate way they are supposed to use. It is estimated that a 3.6 percent reduction in vehicle usage during rush hours substituted by commuting and cycling is estimated to reduce congestion by 46 percent (NCSC, 2010). Some of the Statistics resulting from the Coalition policies are recorded in table I below.
Sources: National Complete Streets Coalition.
Criticisms of current road development
The development of the road network and addition of extra pathways in California has been faced with various challenges and criticism from various parties in the expansive State as well as beyond its borders. Some of the challenges are discussed below.
Street hierarchy in California State
The traditional streets and roads hierarchy that was in use in many States in the United States have been replaced by a more convenient transport systems that accommodate the needs of all travellers and road users. The implementation has also been influenced by the rapidly growing population. California has most of the highly populated cities, towns and neighborhood as a result of several economic and social activities that take place in this state. Some of these includes the city of Los Angeles, Sacramento, For instance, the Northern region of California has come up with more efficient road plans to substitute the hierarchical method used initially as a way of reducing the vast roads that occupy much land space while at the same time catering for the needs of all travellers. This is because the land prices in this place especially around the Inland Empire are very expensive and hence, reducing the size of roads will cut the cost of construction and also promote other economic developments in the state of California (Dumbaugh and Rae, 2009).
Also the roads hierarchy plan has been criticized in many States to be prone to unexpected safety incidences by transportation and road safety engineers. According to a recent research conducted on the efficiency of road and streets hierarchy efficiency in the United States, it was reported that most fatal accidents and mortality rate has increased especially in cross cutting roads and blocked streets especially in the sub urban areas. This was observed to occur mostly in the grid neighborhoods where crescents roads and cul-de-sacs forms of road structures were mostly used. This is because as the report indicated, this form of hierarchy does not only bring about congestions but also may result in head-on coalition especially if a driver is speeding. In addition, the roads and streets hierarchy has been criticized to omit the needs and safety measures for the pedestrians and people using the wheelchairs. This is one of the challenges that has affected the implementation of the Complete Streets policies as a result of the existing hierarchy roads which are impossible to redesign hence leading to a completely new plan for developing pathways and bike lanes. The plan implementation has also been criticized by political and high economically stable people who do not see the importance of cycling as they regard it as a leisure activity or as a form of athletics
The data concerning California urban planning and development that promotes sustainable roads and streets development suitable for all road users is quantitatively collected based on the secondary data from various urban planning materials. The data involves roads development strategies that have been implemented across several cities and towns in the state of California especially after the signing of Assembly Bill 1358 in the year 2008 which became fully operational in the year 2010. The statistical data used in compiling this report were obtained from the Coalition report on the developments made in several cities and towns in California with those of Los Angeles, San Fransisco and San Mateo being the most relevant and renowned development plans.
The future road development strategies that aim at creating a user friendly road development plan in California is yet to be put in place as the current plan despite its effectiveness, has no succeeded in installing new pathways, by passes and lanes that accommodate pedestrians and cyclists in many regions such as the Southern town in Carolina. Hence, the Complete Streets coalition program in California need to be fully supported not only by the coalition members but also other social, economic and political movement in the region as it is beneficial to all the Californians. The Coalition’s plan to lobby for more pathways that caters for the needs of pedestrians and people with disabilities is still underway and so far, this plan has helped in creating an environment where all the residents in the state of California can travel, walk or ride at their own convenience without any prior incident or delays.
Dumbaugh, E. and Rae, R. (2009) Safe Urban Form: Revisiting the Relationship Between Community Design and Traffic Safety. Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 75, No. 3.
Kathy, O. Et al. (2010). Optimal decision making on urban renewal projects. Management journal Vol. 48. Retrieved from www.emeraldinsight.com
Litman, T. (2010). Smart Congestion Reductions: Reevaluating the Role Of Highway Expansion For Improving Urban Transportation. Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
National Complete Streets Coalition. Retrieved from: www.smartgrowthamerica.com.
Sallaberry, M. (2001). Valencia Street Road Diet: Creating Space for Cyclists. San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic.
Wachs, M. (2004). Reflections on the planning process. In S. Hansen, & G. Guliano (Eds.), The Geography of Urban Transportation. The Guilford Press.