In a preemptive attack on further bulb-outs, round-abouts, and other so-called “traffic calming” strategies, the Santa Barbara City Council voted 4-2 in favor of a new policy that would ban such devices on any of the city’s designated emergency response routes. In addition, the policy contemplates removing such devices on emergency routes where they now exist. Leading the charge were councilmembers Michael Self and Randy Rowse, now up for reelection.
Self said she was concerned about plans to further reduce the number of lanes along Cabrillo Boulevard from four lanes to two. In the event of a tsunami, Self said, this is a key evacuation route and should be preserved as such. Current city policy requires that any such changes be reviewed and approved first by the fire chief, the police chief, and the head of the Metropolitan Transit District. Self and a majority of councilmembers contended this safeguard is insufficient because the heads of these agencies do not necessarily reflect the sentiments of the people who drive for them.
But one month ago, Self, Rowse, and all but councilmember Frank Hotchkiss voted in favor of a plan to reduce the number of lanes on Carrillo — from City College to the Mesa — from four lanes to two. Self, who regards traffic calming as a ploy to force drivers from their cars, did so with much reluctance and only because Mesa residents packed the council chambers to testify in favor of the “road diet.” That stretch of road is designated as an emergency evacuation route. When asked how the council could have made such changes if her policy had been effect, Self responded, “I’m not sure,” and added, “but they’re pretty clever.”