Cliff Drive Ready for Its Close-Up

City Council Embraces Plans to Make Mesa Thoroughfare More Inviting to Cyclists and Pedestrians

Newly approved $15 million plans to drastically change the face of Cliff Drive call for the installation of a three-mile, two-way bike path. | Credit: Paul Wellman File Photo

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On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council embraced long-simmering $15 million plans to drastically change the face of Cliff Drive, from Castillo Street at one end to Las Positas Road on the other. The hope is to make the Mesa thoroughfare significantly safer and more inviting to cyclists and pedestrians.

The new designs call for the installation of a two-way bike path on the south side of the street for a three-mile stretch. Installed in the middle of the road will be a raised median strip. Seven new pedestrian walkways are called for, as are three new stoplights.

If implemented, the new plans would significantly change the face and feel of Cliff Drive; drive times for motorists would be significantly extended, and three parking spaces would be lost.

The new plans were unanimously approved by the council with enthusiastic support from bicycle advocates with BiCi Centro, COAST (Coalition for Sustainable Transportation), and the squad of Mesa architects who’ve been pushing for changes to Cliff Drive — a state highway until 2013 — for 12 years. All this, however, is contingent upon the proposal securing funding via a state granting agency dedicated to promoting active transportation.

The competition will be intense, according to city traffic planning czar Rob Dayton. And success, he warned, is by no means assured. Should the city’s grant application succeed, construction would not be completed for at least five years.

Bicycle advocates like David Landecker, interim director for the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, said the proposed new bike lane would bridge the gap between several existing bike lanes. Closing the gap, he said, would make cycling a safer, more inviting option for more people. 

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