Electric Bikes Cover the Santa Barbara Waterfront

Opposition to Program Was Defeated by City Council

Credit: Jim Carman (file)

Just one week after electric bikes-for-rent hit Santa Barbara’s downtown in large numbers, the bike-share company bringing them to Santa Barbara — a subsidiary of Trek Bicycle — was confronted with an appeal, which if successful could have barred the bikes from the city’s waterfront. The appeal — filed by City Hall citizen watchdog Anna Marie Gott — failed by a 7-to-0 vote of the council.

Gott argued the bikes — which go 17 miles an hour — posed a safety hazard in a part of town that’s notably congested. And that the bike docking stations — 30 inches high — could impede waterfront views. Those arguments got no traction, but she did better arguing against the visual obstruction inflicted by the three nine-foot kiosks Trek plans to install at locations along Cabrillo Boulevard. The council reduced the number to two. (The kiosks are necessary, Trek agents insisted, for people who can’t conduct business through apps on their smart phones.)

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Gott also argued the Planning Commission approval for the bike-docking equipment for the new ebike-share program constituted a “blank check” because the exact location of the bike stations was not specified. Trek has argued such flexibility is necessary so it can best meet the market demands of potential customers.

Trek CEO John Burke, who is the son of the company’s founder and has lived in Santa Barbara part-time for the past 10 years, said 40 percent of city car trips are for two miles or less. For an annual membership of $150, he said, people can get a meaningful alternative to the automobile and make a dent in the hydrocarbons fueling climate change.

Trek was the only bidder offering an all-electric proposal. It hopes to install 500 bikes throughout the city. The story may not be finished, however. Gott could still appeal to the Coastal Commission.

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