Paul Wellman

More Street Space for Bikes?

Bicycling Expert Spreads the Gospel of Green Lanes

Thursday, June 27, 2013
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The biggest barrier to cycling is safety, said Martha Roskowski, a national leader in bicycling advocacy. That’s why she is singing the praises of green lanes, protected bicycle lanes that are separated from car traffic by a physical barrier.

A former lobbyist who helped craft the Federal Transportation Bill, Roskowski now heads up the Bikes Belong green lane project run by the national People for Bikes organization. Bikes Belong is a nonprofit entity aimed at installing protected bike lanes in cities across the country. The six participants now are Austin, Chicago, Memphis, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

At the behest of People for Bikes boardmember and president of Trek Bicycles John Burke ​— ​who owns a home in Santa Barbara ​— ​Roskowski visited the South Coast on a two-day blitz that included five presentations. Her last was attended by an audience of environmentalists, Councilmember Bendy White, City Council hopefuls Gregg Hart and Megan Diaz, and representatives of the business sector such as Downtown Organization President Bill Collyer. On a day when President Barack Obama announced his plan to attack climate change, Roskowski was not preaching the environmental benefits of bicycling. She was here to sell green lanes as a boon to urban resiliency, health, and economic vitality.

“You cannot be for a startup, high-tech economy and not be pro-bike,” she quoted Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who has pledged 100 miles of green lanes in downtown Chicago and has already built 30. As young adults gravitate to walkable, bikeable, urban environments, companies are relocating from the suburbs. From 2001 to 2009, the amount of driving by 16- to 34-year-olds dipped 23 percent ​— ​from 10,300 miles to 7,900.

Merchants, as well, have benefited from shoppers who travel via foot- or pedal-power. A 2012 Penn State study found they visit stores more often and spend more per month. Members of the business community at Tuesday’s presentation pressed Roskowski on the issue of parking spaces, however, worrying that real estate given to bipedalists will steal space from drivers. She responded that any area that people want to visit has a parking problem that will never be completely solved. Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco have been pushing the envelope by converting parking spots to bike parking or “parklets” that restaurants can use for sidewalk seating in order to increase pedestrian traffic.

Roskowski did not extol a utopian vision of a car-less society. In fact, she believes the biggest increase in cycling will be for short hops to the frozen yogurt shop rather than commutes to work. And she conceded that green lanes necessarily take the space of either car lanes or parking spaces. Politically, she said, it is easier to convert travel lanes because people get emotionally attached to parking spots. At the least invasive, building green lanes requires a paint job and the installation of a barrier like posts or planters.

Hart, who works for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, which focuses largely on traffic and planning, asked how a city can get involved in the Bikes Belong initiative. Roskowski said that when mayors are invited to apply in August, she will look at community support, foundation support, projects already in the pipeline, and ​— ​most importantly ​— ​political will. One of the less obvious participants, Memphis was rated as the worst city for cycling by Bicyling magazine in 2008. But the current mayor ​— ​concerned about obesity and diabetes among African Americans ​— ​fired his head of transportation and made bicycling infrastructure a priority.

From what she had seen in her admittedly brief two-day visit in Santa Barbara, Roskowski said the street system “does not call to me as a bicyclist.” We have a good base infrastructure that is 20 to 30 years old, she said, but we “are not currently being proactive,” adding, “If you guys decided you wanted to get to the next level, you could do it.”

The City of Santa Barbara will have that opportunity as it is embarking ​— ​with Measure A funds ​— ​on updating its bike master plan, last revamped in 1998. “The reality is we don’t have any significant projects even in the planning stage right now,” said Ed France, executive director of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, and until the master plan is complete, it won’t. Furthermore, the area has seen little recent innovation while cities like Berkeley have installed bike boulevards. “It’s like we’re in a footrace, and we started out really good,” said France, “and now we’re in a stage where everybody is passing us and at a rather fast pace.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

I would LOVE to have protected bike lanes traversing all the major routes in Santa Barbara & Goleta. I was literally almost killed two weeks ago on State Street, cycling safely in my bike lane, when a car heading the opposite direction accelerated and crossed two lanes of traffic for a left turn, straight into me. It was only my extremely bright headlamp (shout out to Light & Motion bike lights!) that caused them to skid to a stop literally feet from me.

Please, city planners, many of us would love to go carbon neutral and enjoy the health benefits of cycling, but our bike lanes need many safety improvements. A dedicated set of bike lanes with physical barriers from moving cars would be ideal.

kstar137 (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 10:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ewwwwww ....... frozen yogurt is full of carbs. Where is this woman coming from, if she claims she extolls the healthy life style at the expense of a healthy economy.

Nice political puff piece too for the Dem Central Comm ordained favorites: Bendy White, Gregg Hart and that unknown yoga gal pal Megan Alley.

Let's make sure we get this right: you build up the city core with high rise stack and pack housing with no car parking, and then everyone living downtown can now use their bikes to go buy frozen yogurt. Got it.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 10:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We need to decriminalize skateboarding as well.

Some commentators are just so constantly bitter and petty I just skip over their posts.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 10:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm all for safer streets for biking. I like biking around town. My first suggestion is to take out all the bulb outs! They make riding a bicycle scary.

Ryansbca (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 11:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

SB is too small for either a reduction in roads or dedicated roads for bicyclist. It is also too small for poor people, gang members, homless people, and rich people who think they have the solution to everything by spending other people's money.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 11:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wouldn't that be justified irony. City buys into these green lanes which requires taking out all the newly installed $250,000 per intersection bulbous.

Well the "city" is what the voter decide it will be in the next election. Know before you vote which way you want it to go. The "city" exists at the voters pleasure.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 11:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Looking forward to Hotchkiss' electoral humiliation.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 11:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I think these would be a great idea, BUT, as AZ pointed out, SB is too small! If we cut into existing traffic lanes on even some of the larger streets (Upper State, Hollister, etc) then we would just have even more car traffic headaches.

Great idea, but not practical for this town.

sacjon (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 11:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I say invest in a Monorail system. It'll cut the drunks on the road down by half.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 12:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You are missing the point: these bike lanes demand we built tall and small downtown, which has been the city agenda all along.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 12:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I could justify giving up a traffic lane on multi-lane one way streets downtown for a designated bike lane. De la Vina, Chapala, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara St.s don't work all that well for cars. They don't work at all for bikes. And if they worked for pedestrians we wouldn't be putting in the ridiculous bulb outs.

Ryansbca (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 12:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree.

kstar137 (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 5:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

AZ has it right.
Are bikes going to pay license fees for maintenance of their bike lanes?

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 9:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How about surveying what the needs are first instead of cramming down some one else's "solution". This is so typical of this city.

They ignore the people who live here and the patterns of their lives and instead social engineer how we are supposed to live our lives; not how we have chosen to live our lives.

Please fire all these staff people and departments who keep doing this to us. And you can see who was already lined up to support this nonsense: the Democratic Party endorsed Trio: Bendy White, Greg Hart and Megan Alley.

You know what you will get, if you elect any of them to be on city council. More of the same failures than left this city in a mess when the last pack of social utopians did their best to destroy the heart and life blood of our city, because they knew better than what we did. Look at the mess that group left behind. No more, thank you.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2013 at 11:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OMG, I actually agree with foofighter for a change - green bike lanes are definitely part of the Stack and Pack/21 Agenda. Only don't think giving up an existing traffic lane, think private property encroachment - as in your front and back yard will become community property if these people get their way.

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 1:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

More street space for skateboards, we should be past the petty bigotry of skater haters past.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 4:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Build tall and big!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 4:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We certainly could use protected bike lanes in Santa Barbara! They are much cheaper to build than the isolated "Class I" bike ways and they would connect to many destinations now considered too dangerous by the non-lycra crowd.

Reading some of the comments above one would get the impression that bike lanes are unpopular here, or that improved intersections that allow children to walk to school in a safer manner are somehow undesirable! In what world, in what century do these folks live?

neighbor (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 6:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We live in the age of bankruptcy and hard times which time are you living in?

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
June 28, 2013 at 6:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

spiritwalker, they took the trees on our private property, so why not our private property for bike lanes too ...while we sleep.

But guess what, I am a big fan of dedicated bike lanes and wish we had them built into the system. Putting cars, bikes and pedestrians together in this town with its current infrastructure is a recipe for disaster. However, it is too late to add this preferred bike infrastructure now.

Maybe with additional oil extraction tax revenues we can refigure the whole darn thing and underground utilities at the same time which would go a long way to opening up the sidewalk space to add additional space for both bikes and pedestrians, like one takes for granted around European cities.

However, prior "green" city councils promised all city budget revenues now and well into the future to be spent instead on city staff compensation and pensions and deleterious social programs that have counter-productively degraded city revenues now to a breaking point.

They should have invested in city infrastructure instead so without a massive new source of revenues (oil) you can only dream about revamping the city's entire pedestrian-road-bike traffic safety patterns.

Bit of an irony isn't it - to get to green you have to drill for more oil and hope everyone doesn't ride a bike and use the new oil you want to sell them to keep driving.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 9:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Put all city utilities underground and open that sidewalk and road space to accommodate bike lanes.

Overhead utility poles on every street are more than a visual blight; they waste a huge amount of transportation infrastructure space. That choice alone would create a Santa Barbara we could all believe in.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2013 at 9:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow, foofighter, I like you a lot better when you come up with constructive solutions as here with undergrounding utilities, rather than just spewing frustration. You are right, if we buried the poles is would accomplish several worthy goals. I am all for it. I'd even be willing to add $100/year to my property tax bill to make it happen.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 9:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This was very feasible 25 years ago before the condo, and high-density explosion nearly doubled the number of cars on our streets. A major planning blunder. Good luck squeezing in new bike lanes now into our over-developed City. I don't ride my bike downtown anymore because the traffic got so dangerous.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
June 30, 2013 at 10:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Installing safe bikeways and under-grounding utilities in the recaptured sidewalk space is highly feasible - if money is allocated in this direction.

Most city sidewalks are under-utilized, power poles rob the parkway space of any other utilization and the entire system can be reconfigured for best maximum use. And yes, many street trees would need to be re-planted, like happened a few years ago on State Street which looks fine now today.

Streets and sidewalks were installed by the city at one time in an integrated plan. They can be re-installed again today, in an updated integrated plan. Money and political will is all that it takes.

But this necessary change does expose the flaws of too many years of wrong-headed city decisions that committed city resources elsewhere, and degraded city revenues at the same time.

(Past failed policies: Overkill affordable housing taking too much land off city tax generation rolls, excessive and unsustainable employee compensation, degradation of downtown retail allowing it be overrun by vagrants and thugs, failed social engineering spending targeting the few at the expense of the city at large with no discernible results, expensive green-washing dubious projects and departments with no measurable cost/benefit accounting, refusal to deal with gangs and those with addictions which drain public safety dollars creating only a revolving door of re-abuse, handing political favors out the back door to ensure one's own re-election)

So while some favored groups today get the lion's share of available public resources, you the residents got nothing in return. You as voters did make these choices, that now cannot be easily undone.

But it still does not mean things can't change in the future with new city councils approaching our local interests through a very different prism than inflicted upon us in the past. Your call. You are the political will of this city.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
July 1, 2013 at 8:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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