Agency, partners see cycling as way to simulate local economies, lower health costs
Two recent studies show strong support for good, safe, mixed-use trails that could stimulate local economies, promote regional recreation and bicycle tourism, and drive active transportation for a healthier lifestyle.
“Promoting Safe Bicycle Travel Opportunities for Bicycle Tourism and Economic Development” and “Lodi Greenline Feasibility Study” both stem from the growing popularity of cycling to work, running errands, and recreation. Media reports to scholarly research have shown solid growth in the bike industry — including bicycle sales and tourism — as more people emerge from being cooped up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) is a partner in both reports.
“Improving bicycle infrastructure is important to the region and a vital component of getting more people out of their cars and onto bikes to commute to work, run errands and simply get out to enjoy the outdoors,” said SJCOG Executive Director Diane Nguyen. “It reduces traffic congestion, improves air quality, and improves physical fitness and health. And these studies show bicycle tourism can improve the region’s economic health. That’s why we’re involved with bike projects throughout the region.”
The Lodi Greenline project would be part of a broader effort to improve the regional bicycle infrastructure.
“In many ways this is a beautification project taking an unused rail spur and making it into something beautiful and inviting,” Lodi Councilmember and SJCOG Boardmember Doug Kuehne said of the Lodi Greenline Feasibility Study. “I think this is a great opportunity to showcase the best features of Lodi and Woodbridge by making our communities healthy, livable and loveable for future generations. And it dovetails beautifully into a regional bicycle tourism network.”
If eventually realized, the Lodi Greenline would convert a currently unused Union Pacific Railroad spur into a nearly 2-mile segment of bike and pedestrian trail tying downtown Lodi and Woodbridge with several access points along the way. The segment and other bike lanes and paths eventually could be tied to the regional network. The feasibility study is a partnership including SJCOG, city of Lodi and Bike Lodi.
“Promoting Safe Bicycle Travel Opportunities for Bicycle Tourism and Economic Development” was funded by a Caltrans Senate Bill 1 grant and each of the agencies involved — SJCOG, Tuolumne County Transportation Council, Alpine County Local Transportation Commission, Calaveras Council of Governments, Stanislaus Council of Governments, and the California Bicycle Coalition. This study takes a broader look at how bicycle tourism could benefit the region. Cycling tourists will be more easily enticed to these counties to ride through these communities, stop for lunch, visit shops, or get lodging for longer stays if bicycle infrastructure and safety are improved.
Being able to cycle from northeast Stockton to Camanche Reservoir for exercise and recreation is part of the vision of the expansive study to promote bicycle tourism in rural communities in the Central Valley and Sierra Foothills. The Stockton-to-Camanche Reservoir route, imagined along an East Bay Municipal Utility District right of way safely separated from vehicle traffic, is one of the signature projects outlined in the study.
The main idea behind the study is to make cycling safer, especially on recreational routes in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Tuolumne and Alpine counties. But planners also believe there are ripe opportunities to also improve transportation equity and drive economic development, while also significantly cutting health care costs by encouraging cycling for commuting and recreational use.
Bicycle tourism can be part of the economic mix for rural agricultural and foothill communities by improving and expanding bike paths and taking advantage of already established features and destinations already drawing people to the region. Those features and destinations include Lodi and foothill wine country, annual events and attractions, or simply recreation. According to the study, assuming just a 40% increase in bicycle tourism cyclists are expected to spend $2.8 million more in San Joaquin County.
And encouraging a more active lifestyle of using bicycles for commuting and recreating could save $16 million per year in health care costs, according to the study.
“The value to each of these counties that comes with increasing bicycle tourism is pretty significant, no doubt,” Nguyen said. “But the savings in health care costs is truly a game changer for the quality of life of the people who live in these counties and commit to changing their lives for the better by hopping on a bike instead of in a vehicle.”
Other improvements might include shoulder widening, traffic calming to slow vehicles on low-traffic streets, intersection improvements where bike routes cross busy highways, and key amenities like bike parking and signage. The study also included some policy adjustments such as changes to the rumble strip standards that will better protect the utility of a road for safe bicycling and clarifying “sharing the road” signage.
“The Draft Lodi Greenline Feasibility Study is now out for public review,” SJCOG.ORG, Feb. 8, 2022
“Bikeway maps can help plan next cycling adventure, commute,” SJCOG.ORG, Jan. 12, 2022