Tired of Exhaust

As a conscientiously car-less, bicycle-rider and pedestrian, I wish to add my observations on our local transportation and air quality situation to Ralph Fertig’s piece titled More Bikes on City Streets. While bicycle ridership may be up, Santa Barbarans still have to breathe toxic exhaust fumes from the great number of older, highly polluting klunker vehicles that are on our streets. I must take evasive action every time one of those killer-klunkers gets near me; or I alter my route entirely to save my lungs. To bike or walk anywhere near their exhaust makes my lungs hurt and makes my airway want to close down.

Has anyone done any quick math on the proximity of the average exhaust pipe to the airways of the average bicyclist while both are operating on our city streets? Have this data and the attendant health risks been adequately described and published?

Can there be any doubt that traffic on Highway 101 increases daily, and creates a suffocating blanket of vehicle exhaust, toxic soot, and particulate? The noise from this unfriendly freeway is a constant mind-numbing roar.

The motorcycles and mopeds mentioned in Mr. Fertig’s piece are likely two-stroke engines of the most deadly kind, or they are of the over-accelerated and overpowered variety, with smog and noise controls intentionally set to malfunction.

Our streets are clogged with overweight and overpowered cars, trucks, and vans driven by impatient and aggressive people showing little regard for their community. They speed on residential streets, they endanger the people living on them, and they vandalize the peace and quiet. And as a matter of course, they recklessly poison the air.

All of what I have described is easily observable on any day, in any neighborhood. Anybody can count [the offending vehicles], or smell them, or hear them.

Remember, Santa Barbara sits on a narrow coastal shelf split down the middle by major traffic corridor. A mountain range towers on one side. Major maritime shipping lanes are close off shore on the other side. Just over some of these mountains is the Central Valley, which casts its dust and particulate spume into our airshed. Add in fireplaces, barbeques, power garden tools, the dense myriad of landscaped pollens and scents, and the noxious and plentiful laundry dryer additives; then you are describing an intensely saturated air supply that is a great burden on our respiratory systems. In other words, our air is severely degraded and compacted at the best of times.

At the same time, our local climate is generally warm. The topography is mostly level. Why the hell do so many wrap themselves in huge metallic and plastic shells just to move their boney butts from point “A” to point “B”?

My respect and admiration goes to all those who reject and resist the car-motorcycle culture and the indulgent and manifestly destructive gasoline or diesel powered engines.-David Lange


Mr. Fertig’s article is encouraging. Isn’t it too bad that the bikers don’t feel obliged to follow the traffic rules? They ride several abreast, deep in conversation, out of the bike lanes so that cars have to swerve into the oncoming lane to pass them. The often don’t stop at stop signs and sometimes don’t even stop at red lights. It’s a miracle there aren’t more accidents.-Glenn Jordan

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