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Santa Barbara Bike Plan Hits Rough Patch With Council Members, Residents

Bicyclists praise the ideas while Westside residents object to proposal to convert some roads into one-way streets with bicycle lanes

Some Westside residents oppose the proposal to turn some neighborhood streets into one-way streets with bike lanes, including Chino Street which is shown here.
Some Westside residents oppose the proposal to turn some neighborhood streets into one-way streets with bike lanes, including Chino Street which is shown here. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

A Los Angeles-based consultant's idea to transform bicycle transportation in Santa Barbara has hit more bumps in the road.

Several residents of the Westside neighborhood and some City Council members objected to several of consultant Melendrez's suggestions for improving bicycle safety in the city.

Santa Barbara is spending about $200,000 to update a bicycle master plan, which could be adopted later this year. 

While many people supported an idea to paint bike lanes on State and Haley streets green, most of the discussion at Tuesday's council meeting centered on the consultant's proposal to turn Chino and San Andres streets on the Westside into one-way streets with bike lanes, and remove parking from a few blocks on Micheltorena Street.

Melendrez also proposed the idea for Laguna and Olive streets on the Eastside.

Kristen Santiago, who lives on Chino Street, criticized the consultant's outreach efforts. She said she just found out about the master plan Monday.

"I do support bicycling whenever possible," Santiago said. "My primary concern is the one-way street situation. That is going to impact the whole community of the Westside in a very negative way. One way streets can be very dangerous."

The meeting was packed with mostly bicycle enthusiasts who want Santa Barbara to make bike riding safer. They vocally supported green lanes for bike riders, removing some parking and making bike lane connections to help bike riders cross town. 

Barry Remis, who said he was representing the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation, said he hopes Santa Barbara experiences a "robust" bicycle master plan update.

He wants the plan to "propel Santa Barbara amongst the ranks of some of the bigger bicycle friendly cities in the country."

But Councilman Dale Francisco encouraged bicyclists to look at the world as it is, not how they want it to be.

"All of the enthusiastic people in this room, and I applaud your enthusiasm, are a minority, a tiny minority of the people in this city," Francisco said.

"That doesn't mean that your transportation needs aren't important as well, but we have to put that in context of the entire city's needs."

The consultant received 1,440 responses to its voluntary online survey about bicycle habits, concerns and goals for the community. 

Half of the respondents, according to Melendrez, said a car was their primary mode of transportation and another 30 percent said biking was their main way of moving around town.

Francisco said his worst fear about the survey a year ago was that it would only reach bicycle users. 

"Thirty percent of (the respondents) say their primary mode is bicycle — that is not Santa Barbara," Francisco said. "I am sorry I don't believe those numbers."

Francisco and Councilman Frank Hotchkiss said bicyclists need to educate themselves about the safe and unsafe areas are to ride a bicycle.

"I am little worried that if we put more riders on the street we are going to have more accidents," Hotchkiss said. 

He encouraged the consultants, "who we are paying a lot of money to," to seek a "Santa Barbara solution." He also opposed any proposal to remove parking on Micheltorena Street. 

The consultants will take this input and return to the Transportation & Circulation Committee and Planning Commission for more discussion. The consultants want the council to approve a bicycle master plan by the end of 2015.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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