The Santa Barbara bicycling community suffered a devastating loss on Friday, July 18 with the sudden passing of Ralph Fertig, an exemplary leader in sustainable transportation. Ralph became known in 1991 as an effective, local activist when he joined a group of Santa Barbara County cyclists who were working to improve local bicycling conditions. Within a few months, the group became the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition. In November 1991 Ralph published a monthly Bicycle Coalition newsletter that, for the next twenty years, became the voice of the bicycle community and a powerful force on behalf of pedestrian and bicycle access.
The quality of Ralph’s clear, factual and well-reasoned testimony in front of City, County, UCSB and SBCAG boards was legendary. He participated in committees advising SBCAG on multi-modal projects along the 101 corridor, and continued his advocacy with the City of Santa Barbara’s new Circulation Element, a document that overcame the culture of automobile dependency then prevalent within Public Works and Planning departments. After Santa Barbara adopted the new Circulation Element, miles of bikeways and bike lanes became reality.
In 1998 Ralph lead the effort to bring the national Pro Bike/Pro Walk conference to Santa Barbara, attracting 540 participants from around the country. He was involved with crafting the city of Santa Barbara’s Bicycle Master Plan, Pedestrian Master Plan, and a regional Bikeway Signage Program. Ralph was always aware of the role of transportation projects in environmental quality and social equity.
Ralph will long be remembered for his cheery disposition, calm demeanor and constant commitment to bicyclists and bicycling. His lasting legacy will be many of the improvements to bicycling conditions local cyclists enjoy today.