Instead of trucks pulling farm equipment or big rigs barreling along Santa Maria’s West Main Street on Sunday, children rode bicycles, pedestrians strolled in traffic lanes, adults pedaled oversize tricycles, and one dog sat in a stroller wagon pulled by his human.
The inaugural Santa Maria Open Streets meant one mile of West Main Street, also known as Highway 166, lacked its normal vehicle traffic.
For six hours Sunday, also César Chávez Day, the segment of roadway between Broadway and Blosser Road had activities, information booths, music and more as the wide thoroughfare focused on promoting fitness, flexibility and fun for a family event.
Along the way, people could race adult trikes, cuddle with a rabbit or watch a clown wielding a marionette to moonwalk as dozens of spectators crowded around the stage.
On Sunday evening, Carlos Escobedo, Santa Maria Open Streets coordinator, was ecstatic at the outcome.
“There’s no words to describe how I feel right now,” he exclaimed.
As the event wound down at a 5 p.m., he said people were reluctant to leave the street.
“It went way over my expectations,” he added. “It was awesome.”
Santa Maria Bici Centro, a branch of the Santa Barbara County Bicycle Coalition, provided bike repairs, a spot to valet bicycles and a location for attendees to borrow bicycles for the day.
But they also solicited information from community members about areas of Santa Maria in need to improvement for bicyclists, and offered information about upcoming classes to help residents become confident riders in city conditions.
The organization had several canopy tents set up along the center of West Main Street for the event.
“It’s basically trying to promote health and active transportation,” said Santa Maria resident Ken Dahmen from the Bike Coalition. “Those two things go hand in hand.
“It just gives people the opportunity to be on a street that they’ve never felt safe on while on a bike or even walking down the most part of it,” he added. “It’s nice to give people that chance to enjoy it with all their other community members.”
The free bike rental service, with 40 available, was busy all day, Dahmen said.
“I hope we can do it again,” he added.
For Sunday, some California Highway Patrol officers from the Santa Maria and Buellton area offices along with the Coastal Division temporarily ditched their patrol vehicles to promote bicycle safety in conjunction with SLO Bikes.
In addition to holding a bicycle rodeo, they also gave away 300 helmets to youths, quickly running out the supply.
“We made a lot of kids a lot safer,” CHP Officer Efrem Moore said. “That’s our goal.”
Similar Open Streets events, also known as Ciclovías previously were held in Santa Barbara, Lompoc and Guadalupe. Traffic Solutions, a division of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, spearheaded the event along with a committee of local residents.
“It was a great day, a great event for Santa Maria,” Moore added. “I see it continuing. I think the community enjoyed being out there, and the weather was great.”
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.