Opinion: Steering toward more Tahoe bike paths


By Joanne Marchetta

A dream of the future has a way of inspiring people to achieve seemingly impossible feats. The goal is emblazoned in the imagination and obstacles are swept aside by an unwavering vision. A marquis objective in the effort to make our communities more walkable and bikeable is a dream many people in the Lake Tahoe Basin have been working toward for decades — a single, connected bikeway encircling the entire lake.

By working together we have seen more and more pieces of this dream take shape. Since 2011, nearly 30 miles of bike trails, bike lanes, bike routes and sidewalks have been constructed. Key stretches remain to be completed and while many projects are in the works, finalizing this dream will take the steadfast determination and imagination of each of us.

Joanne Marchetta

Joanne Marchetta

The massive undertaking of the Stateline-to-Stateline Bikeway along Lake Tahoe’s East Shore is a prime example. Eventually, this bikeway will span 30 miles and connect Stateline to Crystal Bay. A north demonstration project is expected to begin construction in 2015 to connect Incline Village to Sand Harbor State Park. This section alone could see more than 2,000 one-way cyclist trips on a peak summer day.

A two-mile south demonstration project from Kahle Drive in Stateline to Round Hill Pines Beach is already complete. But between the two are many miles of terrain, stream and road crossings, and a patchwork of land ownership.

There is no doubt that completing a bikeway around Lake Tahoe can be done. It will take strong public support and a collective willingness to overcome the constant challenges of funding, sometimes slow progress, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Are we up to the challenge? Do you share in the dream? You don’t have to ride daily to understand the economics of cycling for an area like ours. Basinwide, cyclists today contribute an average of $14.1 million annually to the area’s economy. We are not the only ones to realize this. Completing a connected bikeway around the lake and improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians on our roads and highways will give us a competitive edge and provide a world-class, environmentally-friendly recreation amenity that could be as important as our ski areas.

What residents can do

Public officials need to hear from you. Great ideas are not automatically a priority. I encourage you to visit your commission or council regularly, as well as the boards of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Tahoe Transportation District, to voice your support. With more than 70 percent of the land in the basin in federal ownership, letting your representatives  know the importance of this effort is also essential.

We also need to be creative in the arena of funding. The town of Truckee recently passed a quarter-cent sales tax measure to support bike facilities. In Placer County, some transient occupancy tax, or TOT, is used to build and maintain trails. Solutions cannot solely be sought through public funding, however. The donor-supported Tahoe Fund is a creative source of private funding that is becoming essential to Lake Tahoe environmental projects.

You can also take part in the Tahoe Bike Challenge. Right now the annual event is in its second week of activity and the results are impressive. Last year, participants logged 18,800 miles of bicycle commuting which kept more than 35,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the basin’s air. Behind the statistics of the Tahoe Bike Challenge is a message to TRPA and our partner agencies in the basin: we owe it to you to continue delivering more bike trails, bike lanes and safe routes to walk. Keep sending that message.

Maintain the momentum

Fortunately, this dream is not starting from scratch. Strong partnerships have been delivering pieces of this bikeway for years and progress is still going strong. Other than the Stateline-to-Stateline projects in Nevada, this year and next more sections along the West Shore will be complete. The Meeks Bay Bike Path will link Sugar Pine Point State Park and Meeks Bay Resort; and a separated shared-use path is being constructed in Homewood to finally close a long-standing gap.

On the South Shore, Caltrans and South Lake Tahoe are continuing work through the heart of town installing new sidewalks, bike lanes, bus shelters, lighting, and water quality improvements. Also, the existing separated path network in South Lake Tahoe, much of it more than 20 years old, is undergoing complete rehabilitation.

All of this momentum is progress. Let’s keep the dream alive.

Joanne Marchetta is executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.


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Comments (4)
  1. observer says - Posted: June 17, 2014

    Don’t get me wrong, I like biking, but in an area where reliable bike transportation is only half the year should perhaps reorganize part of its priorities. The 14 million dollar statement says that biking brings in over 2 million a month during the bike season, not more tha a million a month over the entire year.

    Face it, nobody is going to commute from Meyers or from Skyland/Round hill to jobs in stateline of SLT in January. The annual competetion is an interest raiser, not an indication of peoples willingness to do this all year long.

    The bike/walkability concept is really just a spin on the concentration on tourism as our one and only source of income for the governments involved, The city of SLT and the TRPA primarily.

    Further, all the people who live in the miles and miles long strip aside Hwy 50 ARE NOT going to tear down their homes and move into pack and stack developments in “town Centers”. That is not why people buy homes up here. That is not why people come here. Peace, space and solitude are much more important that a bike path to the average tahoe resident.

    The pack and stacks are going to be packed with single, low paid service employees here for the season or section 8 people seeking a change from hot city apartments.

    They will quickly become run down maintenance nightmares like “the projects” in any urban area you want to name. Fewer of the more affluent people will then be interested in them.Who wants to live in apartments over a supermarket?

    Theoretically, our “professional planners” believe they can urbanize a small city in a forest by creating these things. It worked in farm communities in the prairies and agricultural areas 80 years ago, and is not working now except in some planners heads trying to save their jobs.

    The hardest thing in the world to kill is a government agency whose original calling has been accomplished, or has proven impossible to complete. These agencies will morph into anything they can to save their jobs.

  2. Garry Bowen says - Posted: June 17, 2014

    “Great ideas are not automatically a priority”. . .boy, I’ll say ! . . . nor are any other ideas, either. . .if they don’t fit into set ‘plans’, they’re not looked at twice. . . and has been the case since at least the ’80’s

    Fortunately, ‘Observer’ posted before me so I can direct some of these thoughts to him as well. . .

    As someone who has specifically advocated bicycle trails (that entire families can use, not just BMX or not just ‘mountain bikers’) – as families are the ones nor being planned for, & are a missing link in any thought of multi-modal transit, as an integral part of ‘walkable/bikable’ communities, before that term was in vogue. . . and grant money became available. . .

    In 1998, the issue of community cycling was brought up, along with specifically looking at its’ possible effects on the local visitor economy, and among the discoveries was that cycling had a much higher demographic than skiing, with a much longer ‘season’ (most months, some less than others), and not dependent on snow (neither natural or man-made). . .had the wherewithal been done then, we as a visitor-based economy would not have been struggling so much. . . while other have flourished. . .

    TRPA’s chosen charge would have been much easier to meet, given that the near-shore efforts now point out air-borne particulates as a major cause, and most of the money now sought is to offset GHG emissions (which carry most of those particulates), and the local politics may not have seen the need to control an item like parking, as more cars might need places to park if more cycling were done. . .with all the cycling being done. . .instead, we now have to be concerned with having ‘enough’ again. . .

    As there are provisions on Conservancy and/or Forest Service lots against this use, I would start the conversation there, so Ms. Marchetta’s word can ring a little truer.

    For Observer’s comment, I would note that a prominent person from the early days of Tahoe, leveraged Tahoe property into another ski town, with street-side stores, professional offices on the second, housing on the third, and created a vibrant, ‘foot-traffic’ downtown core in a ‘town center’, versus the linear 5-mile ‘sprawl’ from the Y to the Stateline, which causes unnecessary traffic along that route, if businesses are to not just serve. . .but have a better chance. . .

  3. observer says - Posted: June 17, 2014


    you mentioned a prominent person leveraging tahoe property into a ski town with 3 story bldgs etc. Where and what time frame??? Nothing like that now unless you look at the Casinos.

    I think you made my point that such developments are not going to be popular, and therefore not used today. I did not diss biking/bike trails, just questioned their priority in todays world.

  4. Toxic Warrior says - Posted: June 24, 2014

    Another diversion from what your agency is all about again Joanne ? ( Big Corporate Development )