Given its undeniable success, and the open-ended question of when things will return to a post-COVID “normal,” the State Street car closure could very well last another two to three years, Santa Barbara city leaders believe. As such, council members voted unanimously Tuesday to spend $250,000 to improve lighting along the new pedestrian promenade, install infrastructure that will hopefully ease tensions between pedestrians and bicyclists, and generally spruce the place up.
The construction barriers and palm tree planters hastily erected at intersections in May will be replaced with large terracotta pots and squat, iron-looking traffic posts, transportation director Rob Dayton told the council. String lights will be installed parallel to and across the street to make evening strolls easier and safer, he said. And, most significantly, a bright green bike lane will be painted intermittently along the middle of State to channel pedestrians and bicyclists away from one another.
Dayton addressed what’s become perhaps the biggest problem with the otherwise highly praised promenade. “Right now, the cyclists are like, ‘Why are there pedestrians in my street?’” he said. “The pedestrians are like, ‘Why are bikes around here?’ There’s a lot of misunderstanding about where everyone should be.” The bike lane, Dayton explained, should take care of that by funneling bikers to the middle of the street and walkers to the edges and sidewalks.
The lane itself will extend only 50 feet on either side of intersections, Dayton went on, instead of all the way through the blocks. That’s so bikers won’t think they have a completely unobstructed thoroughfare they can speed down without minding pedestrians, who tend to wander into bike lanes. “We want the cyclists to take the responsibility for not hitting anybody,” Dayton said. The project will be paid for with Measure C funds that, pre-pandemic, would have been used on street maintenance that is now not taking place, he explained.
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