Community Voices

Fullerton Needs Better Infrastructure

Many modes of transportation exist, including cars, buses, bicycles, and walking, but the US’ road design favors the convenience of cars over the safety of all other road users. We have roads without sidewalks; unprotected crosswalks; painted bike lanes that are too narrow and offer no protection from high-speed car traffic; a lack of sensors for bicycles crossing intersections; roads without bike lanes; and much more.

Although not everyone wants to or can drive to get from place to place, our roads are extremely unsafe for any other form of transportation, and as such, road designs force people to drive when viable alternatives exist. Because of this, most people do drive – as of 2016, only 1.1% of commuters in California use bikes. Cities like Santa Ana, Santa Monica, Brea, Irvine, Artesia, and San Diego, which have improved their bicycle infrastructure, have seen drastic increases in bicyclists, belying the huge pent-up demand for safer active transportation infrastructure. This represents the “if you build it, they will come” concept of induced demand, which applies to cars, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users alike.

There are additional reasons to make our transportation infrastructure more inclusive to all road users. A big one is safety: Cars kill over 40,000 people in the US annually, and that number is increasing. The US has the highest mortality rate of any developed nation precisely because our roads are built to prioritize car convenience over road safety. Roads can be engineered for safety if we, as a city, actively choose to do so. Better active transportation infrastructure also doesn’t mean cars should be avoided as a preferred method of transportation.

Studies show that improving access to alternative transportation options improves traffic flow because many people choose those alternatives, meaning fewer cars on the road. And separating traffic users, such as with wide and/or protected bike lanes, allow all road users to coexist harmoniously. If built well, good alternative transportation infrastructure will allow people to choose their mode of transportation instead of the infrastructure chosen for them.

Another reason to improve active transportation infrastructure is cost: car-centric infrastructure is expensive, thanks to road construction and maintenance costs, the direct and indirect costs of road injuries and deaths, and the effects of pollution. It makes sense to provide a safe alternative for those who wish to walk, bicycle, and take public transit. A landmark 2015 study showed that driving a car costs the city of Copenhagen 0.5 Euro per mile, over six times the cost of riding a bike at 0.08 Euro per mile. The differential is likely to be even greater in the US. Safer, more inclusive infrastructure will actually save our city money. Fullerton certainly has financial limitations, but it has opportunities to make the streets safer for all road users.

One such improvement was the Wilshire Bike Boulevard, one of Fullerton’s most successful active transportation projects. Families routinely walk and bicycle down the Boulevard, which connects downtown Fullerton to residential areas and routes leading to CSUF and the Santa Ana River Trail. Berkeley is another example: the wide bike lanes allow bicyclists safe access to Fullerton College, Ralph’s Supermarket, the Juanita Cooke Trail, and downtown. Downtown Fullerton’s wide sidewalks and sidewalk-facing storefronts encourage pedestrian traffic, and the Walk on Wilshire is a beloved oasis.

Another project being considered is the Associated Road lane reduction project between Bastanchury and Imperial. The restriping road concept arose after a 30-year traffic survey showing that average daily vehicle counts on this stretch of Associated, which included stratification of peak travel hours, did not require the existing four travel lanes, meaning that the road could safely be reduced to two lanes without impacting traffic. A 6-foot-wide, non-buffered, unprotected painted bike lane currently exists but is too narrow to feel safe with Associated’s high car travel speeds.

Local initial opposition to such traffic measures is understandable and not uncommon. The car is often necessary to traverse roads safely, any possibility of congestion causes concern, and because cars have been a priority for decades, sharing road space with any other traffic is often viewed negatively. However, as city data shows, and as traffic calming projects around the country have demonstrated time and time again, lane reduction is not expected to worsen traffic. Instead, it will likely improve traffic flow and reduce the risk of injury, making the city safer for all road users.

Note: This item will be at a future City Council meeting. You can make a difference if enough people show up and voice their opinion. The city council may be voting on it and need to know what the people want.

9 replies »

  1. I moved to Fullerton because it was the only LA/OC town that reminded me of Santa Barbara where I spent most of my childhood. Harbor always seemed it could be like SB’s State Street, which blossomed into a retail walkable/bikeable oasis when they went from 4 lanes to 2 and made sidewalks wider with benches and fountains. Walking Harbor now gives me headaches with the fast traffic and accompanying noise a few feet away ftom pedestrians. I live in hope that someday our planners will make the changes that will allow Harbor to blossom the way Fullerton deserves.

  2. Very few people bike because they don’t want to put in any effort and don’t want to sweat. Thinking that the majority of people would choose to bike rather than drive a 20 mile trip ignores this fact. A few people will do that for recreation on the weekend a few times a year, but not as a daily commute. You can add leading edge bicycle lanes all over town and they will go mostly unused. In other words, if you build it, they still won’t come.

    The proposed lane reduction on Associated Road would remove automobile travel lanes in order to provide parking. City council claims that parking has been removed from the proposal are misleading – it is still in the proposal phase and subject to change before it is finalized. The no-parking version is just one of the options and would still remove 2 automobile travel lanes for reasons the council has not been able to clarify. No version of this proposal would do anything about the apartment complex driveways bicyclists encounter, which is a significant safety concern with the large number of cars entering and exiting these complexes each day.

    • People will use bicycle infrastructure if it’s safe and well-built. I regularly commute, buy groceries, and run errands around town by bike and know others in the city who do as well. Over 50% of trips in the US are 5 miles or less, which is within ready biking distance. If you build it, they will indeed come – the article cites real-world examples in SoCal that have already proved this concept.

      The driveways on Associated are important to consider, but there are not an overwhelming number, and they don’t present more of a safety issue than other driveways along bike lanes all over town. City and traffic engineers have said multiple times that the lane reduction is for safety, and that parking is indeed off the table. Bike protection would then be offered by wide bike lanes and wide buffers, which in my experience from other cities are very comfortable to bike on and offer plenty of visibility for both car drivers and bicyclists. It sounds like a safe proposal to me.

    • Also – the current 6-foot-wide, unprotected, unbuffered bike lanes on Associated are very unsafe. Since you expressed concern about cyclist safety, I’m sure you’d agree that they need to be improved.

  3. Infrastructure in America is unfortunately at the cost of the average person, and to the benefit of car companies and insurance companies. Orangethorpe has huge potential to have a protected bike lane. Doesn’t matter if people get mad at smaller streets. I’d love to go biking everywhere. The key to lessening congestion is to reduce cars, which means making other means of transportation (especially biking) to be more attractive for everyone.

    • Louis, you are so right. But unfortunately, many of our City Council members actually believe that no one wants to bike, and so they think building bike infrastructure would be a waste. Please consider coming to City Council meetings and making your voice heard; I plan to do so as well.

  4. We want our roads repaired now. Our city’s roads are third world. Bike lanes are nice but not at the expense of safe and viable roads for autos.

    • Fritz, auto and bicycle lanes are on the same roads. When one gets paved, so does the other. No bicycle lanes are being paved at the expense of automobile lanes.

      • It needs not be all or nothing, and it’s actually worse to rebuild/repair roads without considering bike/ped infrastructure at the same time. Creating safety for everyone means less long-term congestion and road wear-and-tear, as more and more people naturally switch to biking and walking. And it’s trivially cheap to add bike/ped features to any road rehab project, so you might as well do so whenever rehabbing a road, instead of regretting your decision not to in 5-10 years.

        This car-centric mindset – cars first above, and at the expense of, all others – has led to poor, dangerous, inefficient, wildly expensive road and city design for decades, and it’s time for that to change so that all modes get the equal consideration and safety that they deserve.

        Fullerton is way, way behind on safe infrastructure. We will lag further behind if we don’t start doing something NOW. Eventually, as cities across the region become more walkable and bikeable, we’ll lose population as folks move to safer cities. Walkable/bikeable areas already command higher real estate prices due to higher demand. With our city’s layout, and our high-demad transportation center, it’d be a huge financial mistake to ignore these rapidly-expanding trends.