Kim Hurley has been driving her children to Ellwood Elementary School for more than five years. But this year, the family made a big change —thanks to big improvements to their route. The Hurley kids —Liam, 11, and Kasey, 9—now start their mornings by meeting up with a group of neighborhood friends and then pedaling half a mile along a newly completed bike and pedestrian path in western Goleta. It’s been a great change in routine, Hurley said. “They absolutely love it.”
The path —a 14-foot-wide shared space for bikes, scooters, strollers, and pedestrians —is encouraging more children to get to school and back in a healthy, active way. Prior to its construction, there were two options for the Hurley kids and the hundreds of children living nearby: Cross the street and navigate a narrow sidewalk, or ride in the bike lane alongside cars going 45 miles per hour.
For years, Hurley felt that driving her kids was the only safe option. But it came with significant drawbacks. “My kids are very active,” she said. “When I was driving them, they weren’t getting a chance to get some of that energy out before school. Now that they ride, they arrive ready to focus and learn.”
Funded by Measure A and a Safe Routes to School grant, the path runs along Hollister Avenue from Pacific Oaks Road to Ellwood School Road. After the path’s opening, the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST) taught a series of classes at the school. “Our instructors took every class on walking field trips to talk about how to use the path and how to stay safe,” coordinator Kim Stanley-Zimmerman said. The school’s principal, Ned Schoenwetter, added that in addition to helping promote health and safety, the path “is also strengthening our community, as neighbors walk and ride together.”
As the first path of its kind created by the City of Goleta, there have been some design and implementation lessons learned. Due to permitting problems, the wide path abruptly narrows before reaching the school crosswalk, and many parents would like to see the motor-vehicle speed limit lowered along the one-mile route next to the path.
While there remain opportunities for improvement, overall progress is notable. “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be remarkable,” said COAST’s Nancy Eckert. “This project is absolutely remarkable.”
The Hurley kids agree.