Mike Keefe, Cagle Cartoons

Biking Across Santa Barbara

An Amgen Race Visitor Comments

Sunday, July 20, 2014
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As an undergraduate at UCSB in the mid-‘60s, I was a passionate cyclist, captain of the intercollegiate team, and a strong advocate of cycling before it was fashionable. I always enjoy an opportunity to go back and ride some of the beautiful roads there, as I did around the Amgen race in May. Much has changed, mostly for the better, but I thought I might share a couple of thoughts.

First, I rode from the Mesa through Hope Ranch, and the “share the road” sign near the beginning was nice, courteous. There is not much of a shoulder on most of that road, which is unfortunate, and I recall a number of places where the vegetation was so overgrown that a cyclist was unable to use what little shoulder there was. Widening a road to put in a shoulder can be a very difficult and costly undertaking, but trimming bushes and undergrowth along the side of a road is an easy and relatively inexpensive procedure. Often we must make do with what we have.

And, is there any way to make Alameda Padre Serra safer for bikes?

Most of all, the bike lanes along the main part of State Street are a joy. They create a clear way of saying to the public that bikes are a welcome and integral part of the transportation system. But then I hit State up by Las Positas, which was very unpleasant and a little scary. There was a bike lane there, but I was surprised and saddened to see how often it was ignored. Autos often made right turns by cutting into or across the bike lane, and cars would pull across it and stop there while waiting to get into the traffic on State Street, which was backed up. Drivers seemed to think that if there was no bike there right now, none will be coming, so it’s okay to ignore the bike lane.

I know these are difficult problems to deal with, but I feel the problem is exacerbated because the bike lane on that part of State Street seems almost like an afterthought. The painted lines seemed very dull and faded, as if they were done a long time ago and then forgotten. This sends an unconscious message to motorists, “If the City does not take bike lanes seriously, then why should I?” The lines designating bike lanes should be bright and clear. In many large cities they are painting the entire bike lane green to make it clear it is not just part of the roadway. Frequent and clearly visible “share the road” or “watch for bikes” signs would help, and they will hopefully be of different varieties so drivers will not become inured to the same sign, as Ed France mentions in your May 15 issue. It seems that the city is headed in the right direction in some important ways.

Efforts like this should always be complemented by a strong education and public awareness program. Are you doing this? This should include constant messages in the media; public service announcements by local law enforcement, chamber of commerce, and tourist agencies; nonprofit service programs; and especially education of new drivers in schools, driver training programs, and DMV licensing. Finally, enforcement is an important part of the triad. No one likes to get tickets — especially since government has made them so ridiculously expensive. But drivers need to know there are teeth to rules to protect cyclists. There is nothing like a hefty ticket given to someone or one’s family or friends for endangering cyclists to help spread the word. Sad to say, for some thoughtless people, there is no other way to get through to them.

It is hard to gauge the efficacy of these programs, I know. How do you count people who have not been killed? But cyclists notice the difference in attitudes that is prompted by such measures. I rode across France for 10 days a couple of years ago and was struck a pervasive attitude among motorists that I had a legitimate right to be there and to be watched for. I was not honked at once.

In my part of the northern Sierra foothills, I get honked at or yelled at almost every time I am out — and I am doing nothing wrong or especially dangerous. A week ago, a woman bicyclist was killed by a motorist here; a lovely woman architect, active in the community with two children just starting in college. Would that we had tried a little harder to get through to the motorist who killed her.

We can never do enough.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

This is a fine Voices piece. and I liked the clever cartoon... Smith makes great points, and his experience biking in France echoes mine in Berlin; yet Nick Welsh in his recent 'Damn Dogs' Angry Poodle column seems to think SB is pretty advanced in cycling safety: it is NOT, it is relevant only on a limited USA scale. Here's my post under Nick's interesting piece:
"As a point of comparison, the City of Berlin has 15% of ALL its traffic by bike (, and Munich has 17% of all its traffic by bike commuters [well over 800 miles of bike paths, one-way, well-marked]...and Nick celebrates SB's almost 7%: we have a very long way to go. I bike as often as I can, perhaps 25% of the time; not enough. Further, compared to these and other "green" European cities SB is still pretty primitive for bikers. It isn't very safe when biking with traffic along, say, Micheltorena St as I do from San Andres over the bridge to State St.
Why haven't we shut down State from Micheltorena to the sea and make it bikes (and walkers) only?? We could keep a center lane open for ambulance, fire, police... Santa Barbara is actually pretty backward if we take the comparison scale out of the USA[.]", and give it a world scale.
These European cities also have ONE-WAY dedicated bike lanes, specific light signals FOR BIKERS, and they heavily ticket and monitor bikers to make it safer for other bikers, pedestrians, and cars, too.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2014 at 12:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Share the road" signs are aimed at you cyclists too. It means you need to share the road and get out of the way of the 4,000 pound hunk of metal with a person texting their friend while driving. I'm all for exercise, but there is no such thing as equal rights when it comes to certain narrow roads like APS. Widening that road would be nearly impossible. And I certainly don't care about you or your thug friends enough for me and my Santa Barbarians to reach into our pockets and fork over tax money so that you can ride it safer. No way. You want to find a safe alternative? Stay off APS. In fact, ride in bike lanes only. You thugs are a menace to the streets and no one wants to see your testicles protruding out of your see-through bike shorts. So gross. I'm sorry about your friend, but she chose a dangerous sport. I feel bad for the person that hit her more. She was just trying to get from point A to B, and now she has to live with that death on her conscious all because your friend chose to ride on a dangerouse roade (which btw is any road you share with cars). I remeber this comedian who once said that this young girl was hit by a car on her street and died. So the community got together and installed a speed bump where she died to slow the cars down. Now every time she went over the speed bump, she cried because it reminded her of her child's tragic death and how she blamed herself for not watching her daughter. Pick another sport or stay out of the way of the hunks of metal. Stay in your bike lane and I encourage police to enforce existing laws about bikes that block traffic. They seem to only remember to write tickets to bicyclists to people on the anual cruiser run.

vonG (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2014 at 8:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

First I would like to say I'm very sorry about the recent death and also I ride bikes but I live in an area where a lot of bike clubs ride down Hwy 1and I see their selfish behavior all the time. Do you really have to ride the white line and double file? They go down our street in groups because it has a nice challenging hill but it too is narrow but they ride double file and don't show any consideration for the commuting motorist.They have taken our roads and turned them into their playground all at the locals expense. They ride down our streets early in the morning yelling at each other like no one in the neighborhood is sleeping or trying to enjoy a quiet morning. They run right through stop signs and stop lights and if they have a car following they also hog the hole road! I saw two guys riding side by side one day and ask them why don't you share the road with a car why do ride side by side and their reply was "because we can". Why can't I and my friends play a game of volley ball on the shoulder if the bicyclist are going to make a mokery out of our roads that are meant for commuting and transport/

yoman (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2014 at 10:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

vonG and yoman could reduce their hypertension by 20 points if they went for a nice bike ride.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2014 at 12:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

At least EastBeach provides nice bike lanes next to its shore.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2014 at 7:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@EastBeach, I do ride a bike. A nice cruiser bike. I'm quiet, I enjoy the scene, I ride in the designated bike path, and don't run red lights…unlike the thugs with their gang mentality acting like they own the road. No thanks. And btw, your only retort is to declare that yoman and myself have hypertension? LOL.

vonG (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2014 at 10:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 20, 2014 at 10:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

vonG, I feel so bad for those car drivers who have killed cyclists. The car drivers I'm sure feel regret for the rest of their lives.

But I feel a whole worse for the cyclists they killed.

Jake Boysel, 12 years old, was riding legally in the bike lane when the speeding Ernesto Botello hit him so hard that Jake was blown out of his shoes. Yet Botello didn't serve a minute in jail. Ditto the drivers who killed Eric Okerblom and Kendra Payne.

It is rare in America for feeling bad to constitute a sufficient deterrent to prevent a crime which results in a death.

There is kind of a tyranny of car drivers: they feel they can be careless and kill with impunity. The billions spent of freeways just for their cars isn't enough for them, they can't be bothered to be just a little more careful and quit texting, quit talking on the phone, slow down, arrive 10 seconds later, etc, to save the life a a cyclist. Weird.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 2:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I understand the want and drive to ride a bike on aps, foothill or the 192 even. When you consider the 1 inch bike lane, the drivers, the exhaust fumes... you are taking huge risks; life and limb. The law can't fix that.

spacey (anonymous profile)
July 21, 2014 at 12:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How to make Alameda Padre Serra safer for cyclists? Keep the cyclists off it!

What other group gets to use the public roadway system - which is for transportation - as their recreation facility? Can I play soccer in the street? Should motorists have to 'share' the road with me because I feel like exercising and decide to do it in the roadway?

Commuting by bike is great. Running errands by bike is great. We should build more and better bike lanes and bike paths. But catering to people who want to use the highways and roads as their playing fields is just ridiculous.

Really there needs to be a distinction made between people who ride their bikes for transportation and the self-centered gangs of spandex louts who commandeer the roads for their own recreation.

Every other sport uses a designated facility. If people want to ride bikes for fun, they should pay to build a velodrome.

When a leading bike advocate such as Nick Welsh boasts about running red lights (see his recent column), you know all you need to know about how rampant this entitled attitude is.

Oh, and keep off the front country trails, too! Those are for hiking, duh.

Independent_from_what (anonymous profile)
July 22, 2014 at 10:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I thought I'd read Botello served a year in County Jail??

DrDan (anonymous profile)
July 22, 2014 at 11:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice Article! I can attest that riding a bike SB, is attuned to riding paradise and if any of you were to come to our (Failed) Capital you'd find that your truly live in paradise.
I rode when I first came to this area but that soon to NEVER again. Even though the DC Metro promotes, "Safe riding conditions for people who ride bikes", the real truth is that anything but. After my first encounter on a bike with a local DC'er, I found being armed was the best way to ride a bike (Pepper Spray, Tazer, ASP), in DC Metro which includes Northern Virginia and South East Maryland. Drivers actually try to hit you with their cars, trucks, SUV's, even the City buses will try to plow you under them and I have watched a bicyclist go under a City bus while the driver was smiling, and later laugh to the DC Metro Police how the bus felt like it drove over a speed bump when it rode over the bicyclist's entire body and bike, "Kind of like a beautiful crunching sound"! The Officer agreed that he has struck a bicyclist or two just watch them go "flying in to the air and land on my trunk".
There is only one Bike trail and that is the Washington Parkway bike path but often the Federal Park Police will randomly ticket you for stuff you would have to be doing on the rode, not on a designated Bike (ONLY) Path. Hey that's Obama-Nomics...

dou4now (anonymous profile)
July 22, 2014 at 12:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

vonG u should be ashamed of yourself for your utter lack of care for humanity. You should be proud of your fellow citizens enjoying your city legally, let alone while reducing their carbon footprint and maintaining their own health. Biking should be encouraged to all in our beautiful city. I am literally in shock by your senseless words.

naturecurepath (anonymous profile)
July 22, 2014 at 10:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Botello's case ended in a mistrial, and then the prosecution was dropped:

Car drivers can kill bicyclists with impunity (except, of course, they feel bad for a while) in this country.

snugspout (anonymous profile)
July 22, 2014 at 10:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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