Bicycle advocates seek inroads at state buildings

Bike commuters riding to work at the California Environmental Protection Agency’s building on 10th and I streets are lucky: They’re treated to the Taj Mahal.

The CalEPA building boasts ramp access, indoor parking, showers and secure lockers for state employees. In contrast, cyclists from other departments who are participating in National Ride Your Bike to Work Month this May must rely on strong anti-perspirant and compete for parking with short-term visitors.

Now, a new bill, AB 163, sponsored by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, hopes to change these conditions. If passed, the bill would require new state-owned and leased buildings to be outfitted with secure bike facilities–like those at CalEPA–within three years. The bill, which is called the Green and Healthy Workplace Bicycle Facilities Act of 2007, would also require the Department of General Services, in consultation with the State Architect and other agencies, to include long-term bicycle parking, showers and lockers whenever a state-owned building is renovated.

The Department of General Services has pegged the cost for these renovations at $50,000 per building, according to an analysis prepared by the Assembly Committee on Appropriation. Currently the bill is sitting in that committee’s suspense file. Still, Alma Hernandez, Assemblyman Mendoza’s legislative director, said that moving the bill forward will be a priority for Mendoza.

Sacramento’s cycling community is also cautiously optimistic on the bill’s chances. Walt Seifert is the executive director for Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, an organization that represents 1,400 bike enthusiasts and has helped promote AB 163. Seifert estimates between 30 percent and 50 percent of SABA’s members work for the state. While the number of state employees who bike to work regularly is unknown, Seifert did say that census data show 2.6 percent of all commutes in Sacramento are made by bicycle. CalEPA and some other agencies have voluntarily accommodated these bike commuters. But Seifert said many agencies could use more direction from the state. “Right now the system is too dependent on the personalities of who is in charge,” Seifert said. He said that the investment in bike racks, cages and lockers is minimal compared to the cost of building and operating a parking garage–vehicle parking costs 20 to 70 times as much as bike parking, after land and construction costs are taken into account.

Three of SABA’s 10 board members are state employees, including president Lea Brooks. Brooks, who works at the Department of Health Services, said that while her building’s facilities aren’t as nice as CalEPA’s she does have access to a shower, and can rent her own locker for $4 a month to store shampoo and a change of clothes. “It’s not the Taj Mahal

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