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Catherine Brozowski: Santa Barbara Needs Better Infrastructure for Bicyclists

An open letter to Councilman Frank Hotchkiss:

Thanks for putting the question out to the Santa Barbara community about the value of biking as a form of transportation.

I am a former bike commuter, but have had to give up my commuting in order to transport a toddler to daycare. I would consider doing daycare drop-off and pick-up and work commuting via bike if there was a safe bike route between my home and his daycare. Unfortunately, the route is busy with narrow roads, and I wouldn’t take the chance on a daily basis.

I am a huge advocate for the city continuing to support bike infrastructure so that we as a family, and myself as a professional, can ride a little more safely. I bike every weekend day; in fact, it is rare that I drive on weekends. I am able to get to the farmers market, run errands, and head to the playground, beach or zoo all via bike. But there is no question that I would welcome safer lanes within our city to get around.

Additionally, we need more safe places to park our bikes, where we don’t have to worry about whether our bikes will get stolen because there isn’t a bike rack free for blocks. The city has done an OK job at both of these issues, but there is clearly room for improvement. We are, in fact, such bike proponents that we intentionally selected our upcoming vacation to Holland and Denmark, in communities where we can be on bicycles and car-free the entire time. I feel certain that Santa Barbara would attract more tourists if we could grow our biking infrastructure.

The Orfalea Foundation has invested in the biking infrastructure in the city of Santa Barbara since 2009, and also reinforces the priority of bike safety, parking and convenience for further investment. We have partnered with both COAST and the Bicycle Coalition to grow their programs within the schools. Safe Routes to Schools has done a good job improving neighborhood streets around our schools, but there is absolutely more that needs to be done.

As an example, through COAST we have supported student education and parent engagement to ensure 519 children at Franklin Elementary School and 375 at Cleveland know the right streets to ride or walk, that have well lit, safe routes. For the National Bike to School Day on May 28, schools participated with over 4,258 students using alternative, sustainable transportation to get to school. There is clear potential for Safe Routes to Schools program to grow at schools like Adams, McKinley or Harding, as well as others.

Both COAST and the Bicycle Coalition have done a great job to ensure that cyclists of all ages know the rules of the road, have the proper gear (including helmets) and how to ride safely. The Orfalea Foundation supports the need to grow this work as widely as possible. Measure A dollars provide a good start in supporting both of these programs, but it does not address all of our community’s needs.

Please remember that riding bikes is yet another way to keep our community healthy and fit with regular exercise. As employers, we offer biking benefits (a financial incentive) for co-workers to ride on a regular basis. We are also proud to sponsor Open Streets, encouraging biking and outdoor exercise as a community-wide effort.

As for a phone survey, I am dubious about whether these provide any real value and feedback.

I would be happy to talk with you further about this issue, and the opportunities for Santa Barbara to grow its bike infrastructure for our residents, our kids, our schools and our businesses. Thank you for your openness to reconsidering your position about the value of biking and need for more infrastructure.

— Catherine Brozowski is a Santa Barbara resident and vice president of the Orfalea Foundation.

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