Active Transportation Plan Provides Big Step Towards A More Bike- and Pedestrian-Friendly Scotts Valley

On February 3rd, the Scotts Valley City Council viewed a presentation on the draft Scotts Valley Active Transportation Plan (ATP), which outlines future improvements for walking and biking in Scotts Valley. The draft ATP was the result of a two-year public process of asking the community about barriers to walking and biking in Scotts Valley.

With less than 12,000 residents, Scotts Valley is a small city that covers approximately 4.6 square miles. This is both a blessing and a curse for biking and walking here: the city’s small size means that many residents commute outside of Scotts Valley for work, but it also means that most people are within a mile or two of a grocery store, a park or hiking trail, or their child’s school. Our goal with the Active Transportation Plan was to lay the groundwork for a community where it is easy and comfortable to make those short daily trips on foot or by bike.

Outreach for the project took place in the summer and fall of 2019, and it taught us a few key things from Scotts Valley residents. First, there is a lot of interest from community members in being able to walk and bike safely. Fifty-four residents of all ages attended our public meeting in October 2019 to share their ideas about how to make Scotts Valley better for biking and walking, and nearly 500 residents told us that they would like to be walking and biking more for their daily trips.

Another important takeaway was that the big streets, Scotts Valley Drive and Mount Hermon Road, are challenging to navigate on foot or by bike. Both arterials currently have Class II bike lanes and complete sidewalks, with the exception of a sidewalk gap on Mount Hermon Road. However, residents shared concerns about the volume and speed of traffic on Scotts Valley Drive and Mount Hermon Road and the challenges with navigating intersections on these corridors. We heard many requests for more separation between the biking and walking routes and the routes for motor vehicles, pointing to the need for a more comfortable and pleasant experience for walkers and bikers.

With this feedback in mind, Mount Hermon Road and Scotts Valley Drive were a focus for ATP recommendations. The plan includes a variety of recommendations to improve the experience of walking on the two arterials, including filling the sidewalk gap on Mount Hermon Road, developing programs to plant more street trees, and improving intersections and crossings. There are also recommendations to improve bicycling, like installing a striped buffer and plastic bollards between the bike lanes and the vehicle lanes on Mount Hermon Road. These treatments are called “Class IV separated bikeways” in transportation-speak, and they have been shown to dramatically increase rates of bicycling by helping people feel more comfortable on the road.

There are also several options outlined for Scotts Valley Drive in the plan, including narrowing vehicle lane widths to provide more space for walking and biking or installing a “road diet.” A road diet involves reducing the number of lanes on the roadway and repurposing that space for other uses, including bike lanes, wider sidewalks, landscaping, and sidewalk cafes. Reducing the number of lanes on Scotts Valley Drive from five to three would provide a whopping 26’ of space that could be used to reimagine the corridor. Road diets have been shown to reduce vehicle speeds and the number of collisions after they are installed, and they can also be used to beautify streets and spur economic development.

More study and community outreach would be needed before the City of Scotts Valley could move forward with a road diet on Scotts Valley Drive. Transportation projects take years to fund, design, and construct, and the projects in the plan will be constructed over time as the City receives funding. In addition, it will be particularly interesting to see how transportation patterns change post-COVID-19. Will people keep working from home? Will the trends of increased walking and biking continue once people can venture farther than their immediate neighborhoods? Will there be less traffic on our roadways, creating opportunities to rethink our public spaces? In any case, community input and engagement will be critical to moving Active Transportation Plan projects forward and building more bike- and pedestrian-friendly communities.

You can read the draft Active Transportation Plan by downloading the agenda packet for the February 3rd City Council meeting here:

And stay tuned for the final Active Transportation Plan presentation, which will be given to the Scotts Valley City Council in March or April.