With L Street under construction for the foreseeable future, Fifth Street has taken on much more congestion than normal. The downtown remains impacted by parking shortages during peak hours.
Is there a way for the city to reduce congestion? Maria Tebbut thinks she has the answer – and it’s already in the city’s arsenal.
“Many of the horrific, contentious traffic & parking congestion problems and accompanying air pollution that Davis (and most other cities) are experiencing could be significantly reduced in a very short time by enlisting the efforts of business that attracts large numbers of drivers and major employers and employer associations,” Maria Tebbutt, director of the local non-profit The Bike Campaign, told the Vanguard this week.
One answer – encourage businesses to apply to become Bicycle Friendly Businesses.
“This is something important for businesses to take a look at, because it’s something they can do immediately,” Ms. Tebbut explained.
She called the congestion “a crisis.”
“It’s a transportation crisis,” she said. “It’s not limited to Davis, it’s everywhere, anywhere you go, any time of day, any day of the week.”
The criteria: “Your company makes an effort to reach out to their own staff and second to their customers, to make their place of business welcoming to bicycles.”
She noted, “The main reason to do it is to save money.”
Some of the questions include: “Which of the following bicycle-related incentives or benefits does your business offer?”
Answers range from free bicycles to each employee, cash incentives, reimbursement for commuting expenses, and other incentives for employees or customers to arrive by bike.
They also ask about bike share: “Does the business provide any bike share related benefits or services?”
Answers could include providing shared bikes to employees or guests, providing free or subsidized access to public share system, or, of course, none of these.
Ms. Tebbut met with the sustainable manager for Nugget Markets and mentioned that one of the least sustainable things they are doing is maintaining the huge parking lot in front of their store.
“The parking lot is overflowing with customers who need to buy groceries,” she said. She said that if the customers need those spots, “one of the things you can do is encourage your employees to not drive their cars to the business place – because they would essentially be taking a parking space needed by customers.
“So you use incentives,” she said. Part of that means “secure bike parking,” and by that she said, “I don’t mean some rickety thing down by the dumpsters. Maybe even covered.”
The application also wants to know participation in various celebrations like Bike to Work Day or National Bike Month, and whether it promotes and/or supports bicycling in the broader community.
“That would be wonderful,” Ms. Tebbut said. “Be aware of what the big biking plan is for Davis and how that affects your place of business.”
Another feature is a place for people to change their clothes once they get to work. Or possibly a locker to store the sweaty clothes you use to ride in from wherever you are coming from. Some places may even have an arrangement with a gym or something close by to allow people to use showers.
So far only three places of business in Davis have applied for certification – Nugget Market, the Food Co-Op and UC Davis.
“Nugget actually applied for certification at four of their locations,” she said. “Parking and traffic are huge issues to them.”
Maria Tebbut explained, “UC Davis has a GO Program.” That program allows people who ride their bikes to work every day to get 12-24 free parking passes. “UC Davis employees have to buy their parking permits. They’re expensive.”
Someone who rides their bike can get passes from TAPS (Transportation and Parking Services) for when they need to take a car. “They get awarded with free parking,” she said.
She said, “This traffic and parking situation is getting to be really awful.” She said, “I think we at least could investigate this other possible alternative to help do something about it right now.”
She told the Vanguard we could start with people getting to food. As people drive and idle, that’s a lot of carbon emitted by the vehicle.
She pointed out: “Most grocery store parking lots are not a place you enjoy parking.”
Another such place: “Large apartment complexes.” She pointed out that one company owns like 13 or 14 complexes. She went to them and pushed the idea.
One problem that apartments are facing is that, because of the increasing cost and lack of supply of housing, more people are crowding into the same number of units and the same number of parking spaces.
“As a result, apartment complexes are charging for car parking,” she said, “which they should.
“Real estate is expensive,” she said, and paving over it to park cars on it “is really expensive.”
Increasingly, she said, in areas like Sacramento they are building apartments with limited or even no spaces. This encourages people to use bicycles and Jump bikes and to work close to where they live.
“They’re making it attractive for people to work and live in close proximity,” she said, and to use the transportation system that is available. “That sends a very different message than putting in a three-story high parking unit.”
So one avenue for improvement would be to expand the number of businesses applying for Bike Friendly status from three to far more.
Ms. Tebbut explained, “The city of Davis received grant funding to move this program ahead.” But the city got this funding at the same time they lost DK Kemp as the bicycling coordinator. In the meantime, “they lost that money. No one was able to implement the program.”
But that might be changing with a new bicycle coordinator – and demands on parking and congestion driving possible demands for changing the way we get to work or even shop for our food.
—David M. Greenwald reporting