The City of Santa Barbara plans to create bike lanes to separate bicyclists from pedestrians on the eight blocks of the State Street promenade.
The Santa Barbara City Council voted 7-0 to create the designated lanes, at a cost of about $10,000 a block, during a nearly four-hour meeting on Tuesday.
That was the easy part.
Most of the drama that emerged, however, was over whether to also create a speed limit to slow down bicyclists. Police Chief Kelly Gordon said speed limits for bicyclists would be unenforceable and too complicated on State Street at this time, and that it would be better to take a staggered approach.
“It is too much to do it all at one time,” Gordon said. “We’re actually not going to know what is effective.”
Councilman Mike Jordan pushed back.
“When you don’t do anything, or you can’t do enough, the vacuum is filled by the bad actors,” Jordan said. “We don’t even have a speed limit on that street right now — at all, zero — so there’s nothing to tell people other than, ‘Don’t look like you are riding dangerously.'”
Jordan said a 20 mph speed limit would be “too fast.” He said it’s no longer the vehicles taking over State Street; it is the bicyclists.
Not managing the bicyclists, Jordan said, was diminishing the goodwill of people in the community who are trying to be supportive of a closed State Street.
Councilwoman Meagan Harmon refuted Jordan.
“This idea that signage is going to be the thing to influence the bad actors when we have no mechanism for enforcement is just wishful thinking,” Harmon said.
Her statement put an end to the discussion that meandered in multiple directions. In addition to installing paint and delineators for bike lanes, the council agreed to direct staff to consider a deep cleaning of State Street and surrounding areas. The staff will return next month with some options.
The council also voted 7-0 to create some kind of shuttle service on State Street, but directed city staff to figure out the details and who would provide the service. They paused on whether to allow vehicle drop-offs on State Street in front of The Granada Theatre.
Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse expressed frustration with the process and what he described as overcomplicating matters. He is a proponent for opening at least part of the promenade to vehicles again, and leaving perhaps the 500 and 600 blocks as the area that is vehicle-less.
“I am sitting here listening to us spin ourselves into a tizzy, trying our best not to do the simplest thing on the planet,” Rowse said.
He said if the streets open again, the city could have a trolley, car traffic, and allow for drop-offs in front of The Granada Theatre during performances.
“I think we could make this a lot simpler,” Rowse said. “I really think we could do this and activate the street.”
He also said it’s safer for public safety to allow vehicles.
“Public safety is doing their best, they are getting down there on bikes, but they are also leaving their fire engines and running to a victim in the middle of the block,” Rowse said. “We’re not getting black and whites down the street because you really don’t want to run a black and white down the street when there are pedestrians as well.”