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California City Solutions: Palm Springs Becomes Bike-Friendly with New Infrastructure

May 29, 2015
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
 
The 2014 entries are available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. Palm Spring’s Bicycle-Friendly Community was submitted in 2014 for the Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation award category.Palm-Springs-bike-check.jpg
 
The desert city of Palm Springs is known for its blue skies, year-round sunshine, stunning landscapes and palm tree-lined streets, making it a tourist attraction. It is also a close-knit community of nearly 46,000 residents. Looking to promote energy efficient transportation, the city developed a plan to improve infrastructure and safety on its way to becoming a Bicycle-Friendly Community.  
 
Palm Springs covers 94 square miles, making it the largest city in Riverside County by land mass. The city relies heavily on motorized transportation modes, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. With the passage of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, every California municipality is required to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. In response, the city developed a plan to reduce exhaust from automobiles without compromising access to a comprehensive transportation network.
 
The Palm Springs Office of Sustainability partnered with the Coachella Valley Association of Governments to develop the Non-Motorized Transportation Plan. The Palm Springs City Council adopted the plan on Oct. 5, 2011. The plan relies heavily on bicycles as a safe and energy-efficient means of travel and implementation will create a full network of bikeways and trails serving nearly every neighborhood.Palm-Springs-bike-rack.jpg
 
Identifying the need for a strong bicycle infrastructure meant ensuring that routes were plentiful and safe for travel as well as creating space for bicycle parking throughout the city. The city also planned to provide education and awareness of cycling to make it easy for residents to choose for commuting, running errands and enjoying the downtown culture and entertainment.
 
Dedicated bike lanes and a broader availability of bike racks are now very noticeable throughout many city streets. Palm Springs bicycle infrastructure is frequently updated with roadway improvements, increased signage, ample parking and new bike lanes and paths for travel. The city’s website features a link to biking trail maps and an interactive bike rack locator. Website visitors are also encouraged to sign the Bike Safety Pledge. Online and printed updates of new bike routes are available to residents and visitors and for distribution at local businesses. Bike maps are also distributed at the weekly community events. The Sustainability Office conducts surveys determining any new issues regarding bicycle travel.
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Since 2009, Palm Springs has celebrated National Bike Month in May by holding safety classes and special events and distributing child safety helmets and bike lights. Adults may also pledge to participate in Bike to Work Week. Working with local businesses, the city has established several programs to help residents to purchase bicycles and the necessary safety equipment. City Hall enlists the assistance of local bike shops to offer discounts on tune-ups and repairs. During May 2013, the city distributed 48 safety helmets and 153 bike lights to enthusiastic young riders.
 
The Bike Advisory Committee, an informal meeting of involved residents, meets monthly to discuss ways to improve biking in the city. A Non-Motorized Transportation Subcommittee was created to perform monthly outreach and hold three annual events.
 
The establishment of a Bicycle-Friendly Business District is one of the main elements of the Bicycle-Friendly Community program and a direct result of the Non-Motorized Transportation Plan. The Business District features more than 60 installed bike racks to encourage visitors to ride to work or enjoy the downtown cultural and outdoor activities.Palm-Springs-emoticon.jpg
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The Business District is divided into three sections — North, South and Downtown. Each section has color-coded racks and hitches in blue, yellow or orange. A Bike Rack Sponsorship Program helps generate funding for additional bike rack installations. Local business owners or residents can sponsor a rack in their preferred section of downtown.
 
Because commuting to work by bike can keep approximately 1 pound of carbon dioxide from being emitted, the city wanted to launch a bike sharing program for its employees. Based on these figures, it is estimated that 2,618 pounds of harmful toxins have been eliminated from reaching the atmosphere.
 
Widely known as a vacation destination, tourism is a major factor in the economy of the region. Visitors come to Palm Springs to enjoy the stunning vistas of the desert and mountain regions. Many hotels in the city are now also offering bike rentals as a method of touring the city. The promotion of cycling as a safe and healthy alternative to travel by car or bus allows for picturesque bike paths and more enjoyable public spaces. The creation of a Bicycle-Friendly Business District, coupled with diverse education and outreach initiatives, gives the community the power to improve air quality and preserve the environment.


 
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