Santa Barbara City Council Considers Future of Bikes on State Street Promenade

Historic Landmarks Commission Tries to Put Kibosh on Downtown E-Bikes Program

Bike riders cruise down State Street. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

A handful of bike advocates showed up — virtually — in front of the Santa Barbara City Council to make the case that cyclists are essential for State Street. Not only can cyclists coexist with the new promenade paradigm, they argued, but their presence will add to the vitality of street life. Some expressed concern that a public use — like cycling — could be forced out by “the privatization” of the street by outdoor bars and restaurants.

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Since State Street was closed to traffic from Haley to Sola Streets, City Hall has heard complaints about the in-your-face acrobatic exuberance of wheelie poppers. In response, the 500 block of State Street was closed off to all riders. Privately, Mayor Cathy Murillo has been involved in efforts to connect the youthful riders with older, more experienced mentors who might moderate their more defiant energy. Others noted that wheelie crews have always been on State Street but have only become an issue since the promenade opened in the wake of the pandemic.

In the meantime, the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) is trying to put the kibosh on plans to open downtown Santa Barbara — and State Street — to a new electric-bike share program that the Trek bicycle company hopes to launch this fall. The City Council approved a contract with Trek several months prior to the COVID onslaught that called for as many as 350 e-bike docks on State Street and another 200 along the waterfront. A majority of the HLC members made it clear at a meeting last week they didn’t think the e-bike plan still made sense in the wake of the pandemic and the promenade. Trek representatives and city traffic planners argued the HLC’s sole decision-making authority was over the color of the electric bicycle docks. The HLC members were not persuaded, and the dispute could well be appealed to the City Council.

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