As a cyclist who rides for both sport and transportation, I love all the bike lanes and paths that make Santa Barbara such a bike-friendly place. There is one thing that I see the city is missing: three-foot law signs. In other big bike-friendly cities like Bend, Oregon, and Santa Rosa, California, I’ve seen signs stating the law that requires cars to give cyclists three feet of space when passing.
Even within the short three-month period that I’ve lived here, I can’t even count the number of times cars have nearly hit me because they did not give the three feet of space that is required by law when passing. I don’t think the people driving are doing so with bad intentions, I just don’t think drivers are properly educated on bike safety and etiquette.
The “ghost bike” memorials I’ve seen close to Cathedral Oaks Boulevard are further proof that there is still more to be done in regard to bike safety. The ghost bike memorials are typically made of a bike, spray painted all white, and flowers placed where the cyclist was hit and killed. It is quite unsettling and sad to be riding on a road and to come across a ghost bike. Especially on a busy road like Cathedral Oaks, where many cars and cyclists are traveling, I believe it would be worth the potential lives that could be saved to place three-foot law signs up.
From 2016-2018, 455 cyclists were fatally injured due to cars in California, which is a 25-year high for the state. The City of Santa Barbara and its residents should do their part to keep that number to a bare minimum. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, the rise in accidents is in part to a rise in popularity in cycling and, more problematically, a rise in distracted drivers. The three feet signs are a perfect start to safer traveling. The signs will create more awareness so the drivers will stay more attentive and be more aware of cyclists out on the road. Plus if the signs can get drivers to have an eye out for cyclists then the chances are they will be more aware of other cars too, making the roads a safer place for everyone. Even if the signs were to only save one life, I think it is worth a shot.
To go back to my example of Cathedral Oaks Boulevard, I know that many cyclists use the road to get to the great climbs that Santa Barbara County has to offer like Gibraltar Road or Old San Marcos and Painted Cave. Since the road has high levels of both cyclist and car traffic, I think it would be a great place to start putting up these signs. The cyclist and drivers of Santa Barbara and Goleta should all get on board and get the city to put up the signs and make our city a safer place. Hopefully, the signs will be the first of many steps to make Santa Barbara as safe for bikes (and drivers) as possible.