Bicycle Game Changer?

Santa Barbara Bike Coalition Launches Bike-Lane Campaign with Help from Trek

Trek president John Burke (right) speaks as People for Bikes staffer Martha Roskowski and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider look on
Brandon Fastman

There was surprisingly little spandex when all fashion of bicycle enthusiast — from backyard frame builders to shop owners — converged on the Montecito home of Trek Bicycles President John Burke and his wife, Tania, for a Sunday-afternoon cocktail-party fundraiser. The Burkes lent their home and pledged $25,000 to the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition’s Connecting Our Communities campaign, whose ultimate goal is to attain an integrated network of bike lanes and paths from Goleta to Carpinteria.

Since the Burkes bought property in the area a few years ago, they have offered both their resources and connections to Santa Barbara’s bicycle advocacy efforts. John Burke, aside from captaining one of the world’s most well-known cycling companies, sits on the board of People for Bikes, an advocacy organization that was founded in 1999 by cycling businesses. A People for Bikes staffer that attended the event, Martha Roskowski, referred to protected bike lanes as a “game changer.” They take black diamonds, she said, and turn them into green circles and blue squares, referring to the system for ranking the difficulty of skiing trails. She also suggested that, with the miles driven by 16- to 34-year-olds decreasing 23 percent from 2001 to 2009, and cities like Brownsville, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri, adding bike lanes, Santa Barbara is not as eco-hip as some of its residents might fancy.

Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Ed France explained that the timing for its campaign is ripe because within the next couple of years, five jurisdictions operating on the South Coast will be updating their bike planning documents. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our lives through bicycling,” he said. So far, the coalition has raised over $60,000 toward its goal of $100,000.

With Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and City Councilmember Gregg Hart at the event, there was an indication of receptiveness on the City’s part. However, Hart, who also works for the transportation planning body the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, said, “All the easy bike lanes are done, and now only the hard ones are left.” He was referring to the fact that any future bike lanes will likely threaten parking.

For his part, John Burke, whose favorite rides include Romero Canyon (via mountain bike) and the climb up Gibraltar to Camino Cielo (via road bike), said that 40 percent of car trips are less than two miles long. Getting more people onto bikes also makes the roads less congested for drivers who really need them, he said, adding that cycling also addresses major health and environmental issues. “Bicycles,” he told a crowd of around 100 people, “are a simple solution in a complicated world.”


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