Citing a lack of use and years of complaints from residents, the City of Santa Barbara has decided to eliminate the part-time bike lanes that have been a part of the Westside neighborhood for more than 30 years.
Bike lanes on Gillespie, Mission, Robbins and Valerio streets were put in place to provide a bike route for neighborhood students going to and from La Cumbre Junior High School back in the 1970s.
But residents say the lanes are hardly used and cause parking inconveniences. City staff investigated the complaints and agreed.
Staff took the issue before the Transportation and Circulation Committee in 2012 to get its feedback, said Derrick Bailey, the city’s supervising traffic engineer.
“They said, ‘Let’s leave it for a year and re-study it then,’” he told Noozhawk.
After further study, the results were turned in Jan. 23 and confirmed that the lanes were seldom used.
“(The committee) was disappointed, but glad that we tried and glad that we waited on the decision,” Bailey said.
He said the complaints from Westside residents were more about the parking restrictions than the amount of available street parking.
Parking on one side of the street is prohibited from 7 to 9 a.m. — while kids are theoretically riding bicycles to school — and prohibited on the other side from 2:30 to 4 p.m. for the ride home, Bailey said.
Residents had to move their cars twice a day, even before accounting for street sweeping, and “there was all this car shuffling going on,” Bailey said. On street-sweeping days, residents had to move their cars to other streets completely.
When asked what route junior high students do take, Bailey noted that “there’s no real pattern for where the kids are coming from.”
“The bike lanes went in sometime in the 1970s and we know back then that the kids used to bike more,” he said.
Bailey said the routes may have been used more back then, but “now they seem to be coming from all over the neighborhood.”
City crews put up new signage over the weekend, replacing the old bike lane signs with street-sweeping signs.
The street paint demarcating the bike lanes is already less visible so the city has no plans to cover it.
“We’re hoping it will fade soon,” he said.