Nearly every seat in the house was taken at the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday, July 21 for the Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) hearing. City staff began with a presentation of their proposed plan for extensions to the existing network. Afterward community members – including local entrepreneurs, bicyclists, drivers, and representatives from businesses, community organizations, and public agencies – made impassioned appeals to the Council in support of moving forward with the BMP.
Community Support for the Bike Master Plan
Many community members said that the projects proposed for the Bicycle Master Plan update will benefit all road users by increasing safety for cyclists and making it easier for drivers to share the road with people traveling by bike.
Ed France, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, demonstrated that bicycling is a win-win for the city. He began by acknowledging that bicycling is not for everyone, but went on to highlight ways that bicyclists create benefits for people that use other modes of transportation. In particular, he noted that more people traveling by bike means more parking spaces left open for those who truly need to drive.
Downtown businesses, such as Right Scale, and entrepreneurs from local startups also spoke in support of the Bicycle Master plan, telling City Council members that the best and brightest employees want to live in a city that gives them the option to travel by bike – safely.
Suggested Additions to the Plan
Calls to incorporate specific policy goals into the updated Bicycle Master Plan were another major theme of the night. CEC advocated for a specific bicycle mode share goal, which would set a threshold for increasing the percentage of bike travel in our city as compared to other forms of transportation. Several other speakers expressed support for safety and education goals.
While a few public comments were negative, they were not in opposition to the plan as a whole but rather toward specific details. West side residents expressed concern about the proposal to turn San Andres Street and Chino Street from two-way streets without bike lanes into one-way couplets with bike lanes. These concerns centered around changes in traffic volume, increased traffic-related noise, and the impacts these would have on property values along the streets. There were also concerns about safety and the fact that buses would travel along Chino Street if the City moved forward with the proposed west-side couplet.
For the City Council, the removal of parking to create bike lanes running along Micheltorena Street was another sticking point. Parking removal has proven highly controversial in the past and some City Councilmembers expressed concerns about the impact the proposed changes to Micheltorena would have on nearby businesses and residents.
Noticeably absent from the Micheltorena discussion was the fact that having bike lanes next to a business can attract new customers, especially for businesses that differentiate themselves by becoming “bicycle-friendly.” Since patrons that drive would still be able to park on other nearby streets, this could actually mean more business overall. In reality, residents in the area that own cars but do not have off-street parking would probably be the most effected.
Still, last night was a clear win. Overall support for the updated Bicycle Master Plan was strong and the majority of proposed projects appear to be viable. Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition helped pack the room with supporters, and they deserve a big shout out for all the advocacy work they’ve done. City staff and consultants also deserve a huge ‘thanks’ for all the hard work and late nights they have put in.
At the close of the meeting, the City Council provided recommendations for developing the updated Bicycle Master Plan and gave approval for staff to move forward with drafting the plan. No dates were set for future City Council meetings related to the Bicycle Master Plan, but Peter Brown of the City’s Transportation Division said they aim to have a draft version of the document finished and ready for review by October.