I don’t know if Sola or Mitcheltorena is better for getting thousands from the Westside to work under their own healthy power.

But vigorous support for making our city safe for grandmas and schoolkids on bikes is a great idea. Savings on infrastructure and health care are huge. Less traffic and parking competition benefit all residents. Property values are greater with less traffic, yet rent more affordable the less people need a car.

This vote puts Santa Barbara on track to take our place among the world’s great cities — Barcelona, Copenhagen, Florence — beautiful places where a healthy population can get where they want under their own power.

The freeway is like a Berlin wall through the community if you are not in a car. There are 22 car crossings of the freeway, a handful of small, aging pedestrian bridges with sharp 90-degree turns and pipe barriers that are challenging to get a bike with kid seat through. There’s just one dedicated bike crossing.

Thousands of children on streets like Punta Gorda by Milpas or La Vuelta Road in Montecito are just a few hundred yards from the beach as the crow flies, but they will probably grow up without ever having gone there except in a car.

Without a car, crossing the freeway is inconvenient, life threatening, or impossible.

If the freeway were built today, at least 22 bike/pedestrian crossings would be required, not as a gift to bicyclists and pedestrians, but as minimal required mitigation for severing the hundreds of streets that used to connect from one side to the other.

In Europe, the demographics of those who cycle closely mirror the society as a whole: old and young, male and female. In Santa Barbara, bicycle commuters are disproportionately combat-ready young males. This is no coincidence. An errand on the other side of the freeway is not unlike a mission behind enemy lines.

While tens of millions of dollars are spent to save motorists a few minutes on the road, very little money is spent to safeguard the lives of bicyclists or spare them long detours. No more money should be spent on streamlining the auto infrastructure as long as it is dangerous or impossible to get around by other means. This inequity must be redressed first. At the very least, no road project should be funded that makes it more unpleasant to walk or bike.

As I write, it’s February and nearly 90°F outside. Water agencies are fighting over the last drops in Cachuma. The latest science shows we could see two feet of sea level rise in 35 years. We face a perfect storm of crises. When it’s time to decide which piece of dry land on which to relocate the sewage treatment plant, we’ll pine for the day when 100 parking spaces versus a bikeway seemed like a knotty conundrum.

We urgently need governance with gumption and vision to make adaptive changes for the long-term well-being of society, over the legitimate concerns, focused opposition, and scary legal challenges of the few.

Regardless of the final location of the bikeway, I am super proud of our City Council and optimistic that with this kind of leadership we can rise to the challenges ahead.


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