Santa Barbara City Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss writes that he and Councilmember Dale Francisco question if the public wants more bike lanes or their elimination in favor of wider roads. The debate should not be about removing bike lanes, but about how Santa Barbara can have more of them.
The primary reason for installing bike lanes is safety. A major city street with parked cars and no bike lanes is statistically a dangerous place to ride a bicycle. However, your chance of injury drops by half when riding on a similar road that has a bike lane. In protected bikeways — like along the waterfront — the risk of injury drops by 90 percent. Cycling is a popular mode of transportation, and the city has a responsibility to provide safe and convenient routes. Incidentally, statistics show that pedestrian safety also increases when bike lanes are added.
Bicycle infrastructure is also an economic boom to Santa Barbara. Tourists love bicycle facilities (think: bed tax), students travel inexpensively, and low-wage earners benefit. In addition, cycling reduces traffic congestion and the need to build costly parking structures.
Removing bike lanes would provide no gain to motorists in Santa Barbara. There are no traffic jams on Cabrillo Boulevard or Shoreline or Cliff Drive or Bath or Castillo or upper De la Vina. The apocalyptic prophesies announced by the predecessors of Francisco-Hotchkiss at the time bike lanes were striped never did materialize.
Bicycle use has been on the increase for years, a national trend that is particularly strong in Santa Barbara. We are also experiencing a substantial increase in electric bicycles, a technology that opens the door to riders struggling with topography. The future demands more bike lanes in Santa Barbara, not less.
Luckily, Santa Barbara has already voted on this. According to the City’s General Plan, “Santa Barbara should be a city where alternative forms of transportation and mobility (i.e., bicycles) are so available and attractive that use of an automobile is a choice, not a necessity.” It’s time for us to move on.