For all those who have a tough time negotiating Santa Barbara’s streets on feet — or on two wheels instead of four — pending legislation may offer some relief. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which was altered by the State Senate’s 2007 greenhouse-gas related bill (SB 97), hopes to amplify its efforts in making California’s roads as friendly for pedestrians and bicyclists as they are for drivers.
At the most basic level, CEQA is responsible for assessing whether or not proposed transportation development projects — such as new road construction — are environmentally conscious, a process that involves drafting an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). On December 31, however, suggested changes to CEQA’s parameters were sent from the California Natural Resources Agency to the Office of Administrative Law for further review. Should the changes to CEQA be approved, they would go on to be included in the California Code of Regulations.
As with all pending legislation, some of the suggested CEQA changes are controversial, namely the “level of service” issues. “Level of service” measures a roadway’s ability to service the drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians who rely on it using a scale from A to F, with A signifying easy travel and F meaning heavy traffic congestion. Because California’s roadways are notoriously laden with cars, CEQA is pushing for more bicyclist- and pedestrian-friendly roadways. The detailed list of proposed changes can be found at ceres.ca.gov/ceqa/guidelines.
Although the legislation would affect the state as a whole, it has garnered heavy support among Santa Barbara residents, as well as those in San Jose and from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. According to Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition president Ralph Fertig, it is about time non-drivers be granted equal roadway rights. “This is a beneficial change where automotive traffic will no longer be considered the sole concern of future projects,” Fertig said.
Because the changes are still under review, it remains unclear when they would go into effect should they be approved. However, added Fertig, supporters are optimistic.