Part 5:

Bicycling in Walnut Creek

Bicycling can provide convenient options for all types of trips, including first- and last-mile access to public transit stations and stops. Walnut Creek’s mild climate and relatively flat. While there is a network of existing and proposed bicycle facilities in the city, as shown on the map below, there are relatively few areas with Class II facilities (e.g., bicycle lanes) or Class I paths, and the rates of bicycling for work and non-work trips in Walnut Creek is very low. Experience has shown that cities with low levels of cycling can significantly increase cycling rates with the right set of policies and actions.1 

 Current Low Stress Network

Low-stress bicycle facilities refer to bicycle infrastructure that is comfortable to most users as a factor of its built qualities and local context such as traffic volumes and speed. As illustrated in the interactive map below, Walnut Creek contains many low-stress facilities throughout the city due to its many smaller, residential streets. Low-stress options for cross-town travel are, however, very limited. Major east-west and north-south arterials such as Ygnacio Valley Road lack dedicated bicycle facilities and feature significant traffic volume and speeds, making travel by bicycle difficult for all but the most fearless users. Low stress, dedicated bicycle facilities on existing roadways such as separated bicycle lanes, are absent from Walnut Creek (though plans exist to introduce these facilities soon). Additionally, access to downtown is largely limited to Class III (bicycle routes) facilities which were identified as high stress in the analysis.
LTS Data from Contra Costa County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan and OpenStreetMap.

 Bicycle Sharing in Walnut Creek

Bicycle sharing programs have been used in other cities to enhance mobility options for commute, shopping, transit connections, and other types of local trips. As of 2018, Lime offers dockless bicycle share throughout Walnut Creek.

Lime data reveals that most trips start and stop close to the Walnut Creek BART station, demonstrating the importance of the system to last and first mile connections to transit. Other significant locations include Shadelands and Downtown Walnut Creek.

Lime Data
Transit, restaurants, and multifamily housing are key origins/destinations for cyclists.

In addition to the origin and destination of Lime trips, route information provides a more detailed picture of how Lime users move through Walnut Creek’s transportation network. Reflecting the patterns observed in the origin and destination data, many trips began and ended at BART stations as well as Downtown.

Lime route data gives insight into the decisions made by bicyclists in terms of route and facility, reflecting the limitations of the city’s current low-stress bicycle network. For example, many trips between the Walnut Creek BART Station and Downtown appear to be made on sidewalks rather than on major arterials such as Ygnacio Valley Road, reflecting the potential high-stress environment these streets present to bicyclists. In large employment campuses such as Shadelands, bicyclists appeared to take circuitous routes between large surface parking lots to reach destinations, revealing the potential absence of a coherent and well connected bicycle and pedestrian network on these campuses.

Lime bike paths of travel along Ygnacio Valley Road and North California Boulevard to/from the Walnut Creek BART Station

Protected bicycle facilities such as the Iron Horse Trail attract a higher concentration of Lime Bike users than other locations, as seen in the bright green lines in the image below.

Lime bike paths of travel along the Iron Horse Trail between Ygnacio Valley Road and Lincoln Avenue in Downtown. 

 Policy Context

Following is a brief overview of adopted policies and ordinances affecting bicycling conditions in Walnut Creek.

Walnut Creek Bicycle Master Plan

In 2011, the City of Walnut Creek adopted a Bicycle Master Plan that contained policies, design guidance, and recommendations for new facilities across the city. Central to this plan is a set of city-wide goals that include supporting the maintenance of existing facilities, enhancing bicyclist safety and security, and supporting the use of bicycling generally as a healthy alternative.

North Downtown Specific Plan

This Specific Plan has more rigorous requirements in relationship to bicycle facilities than general city-wide regulation. Depending on the type and size of project, the Plan requires amenities such as long and short-term bicycle parking and showers for bicyclists.

City-Wide Zoning

Current zoning requires the provision of bicycle parking in new commercial development as a proportion of required off-street automobile parking. There are currently no requirements for the provision of on-site or secure bicycle parking for new multifamily housing. The West Downtown Specific Plan has proposed changes to the Zoning Code to address this in the plan area.

West Downtown Specific Plan

This Specific Plan provides guidance for improving bicycle connections in the area and between the Walnut Creek BART Station and Downtown. It also provides incentives for new development to contribute to bicycle safety improvements. The plan also specifies that new residential and commercial development provide short-term and long-term bicycle parking.

 Needs, Opportunities, and Challenges

Walnut Creek is ideal for bicycling.

Walnut Creek’s existing facilities and context make it an attractive location for bicycling. Available data supports the importance of bicycling to accessing key destinations including the Walnut Creek BART Station and Downtown Walnut Creek.

Current facilities limit access to important job centers, transit spots and stations, and other key destinations.

The lack of low-stress facilities serving Downtown Walnut Creek, the Walnut Creek BART Station, and general crosstown arterials makes bicycling inaccessible for all but the most fearless users.

Support facilities for bicyclists are limited, including in Downtown.

The availability of secure bicycle parking is limited in Walnut Creek, including in its densest neighborhoods. This is in part due to limited citywide regulation and design guidance on bicycle parking.

1John Pucher and Ralph Buehler, City Cycling (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012), 348.]