Thanks to the authors of “Measuring the Equity of Bicycling in Santa Barbara,” which actually studies the question of who is benefiting from the large amount of resources being dedicated to creation of bicycle pathways throughout our community. As they note, few users of these resources are engaged in “business” decisions such as commuting to work. In fact, that use is declining over recent years.
This supports the obvious claim that the real purpose and value of these bicycle ways is for recreational use. This is admirable and makes our community a better place.
However, when this “toys and games” department of life begins to threaten the survival and competitive ability of working folks, we need to take heed.
The City of Santa Barbara is now proceeding to impose bicycle access pathways on both Mission and Micheltorena Streets on the Westside. Examination of the design posted just before the trees came down shows the elimination of the sidewalk and the creation of a slightly wider pathway that is apparently to be shared between pedestrians and bicyclists. There is a statement that the purpose of this expensive project is to facilitate bicycling. One must assume that this means bicycle riders will actually ride their vehicles on this space in competition with the neighborhood pedestrians who commute to school and back, carry groceries, push baby carriages, walk to restaurants other businesses on these congested spaces.
The need for these pathways is minimal, in fact. Neither San Andres/Mission nor San Andres/Micheltorena see more than occasional bicyclists. Few bicycle riders (almost no commuters) traverse this intersection or the neighborhood it leads to. The purpose seems to be solely so that the bikers who do transit here do not have to dismount and walk about 100 yards to the safer streets. For their comfort but at the expense of hugely more locals on foot.
Somehow the people advocating for this infrastructure have gained outsized power in the city government.
We need to stop this lobby and their next extension, which is pushing the bike lanes into the residential neighborhoods, particularly the Westside, where they hope to eliminate street parking and create one-way streets for their benefit. These actions will harm the livelihood and livability of these communities. People need parking on the streets for business trucks that are critical to their businesses. People need parking to allow them to drive to resources not immediately available in their community. Fire and police services should not be burdened with access due to one-way street systems in this part of town.
As a former frequent bicyclist in this town I ask that those who are pushing this expansion reconsider their need and look at the cost. I ask that local politicians create pragmatic compromises that protect the real-world needs of middle-class and working-class residents of these neighborhoods. Readers can make their support for such balance known to their city councilmembers now. It is not too late to improve this outcome.