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Santa Barbara Bicycle Master Plan Update

Over the last three months, Santa Barbara City staff and consultants have carried out an impressive community engagement campaign to develop an updated Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) for Santa Barbara. Neighborhood meetings, listening sessions, online surveys, and an interactive online map where residents identified and commented on problems and potential solutions all gave community members a chance to weigh in on the future of bicycle transportation in Santa Barbara.

What is the Bicycle Master Plan

The Bicycle Master Plan is a proposal created by Santa Barbara City staff that provides strategies and recommendations to encourage more bicycling transportation in Santa Barbara. The plan is intended to provide guidance for the development of the physical bicycle system as well as education, promotion, enforcement, public policy, and information distribution.

This year’s revamping of the City’s BMP comes in response to the national trend of increased bicycle ridership. As the last update happened over 15 years ago, the work being done now represents a rare opportunity to improve the “bikeability” of our streets and ensure that the City adopts policies that support continued growth of cycling in our community.

Improved “bikeability” translates to improved liveability

There are numerous compelling reasons to support the growth of bicycling in Santa Barbara. In California, transportation emissions account for 37% of the State’s total greenhouse gas emissions – more than any other sector. A high volume of automobiles drive our roads, and a large percentage of these are often occupied by a single individual. This contributes to air pollution and traffic congestion, negatively impacting our health and quality of life.

Increasing the number of bicycle trips in Santa Barbara is one of the greatest opportunities we have to address climate change issues, breath cleaner air, and improve traffic circulation. Clearly demarcated, well-connected bicycle networks will make traffic interactions between people driving cars and people riding bikes more fluid and predictable, reducing commuting stress for everyone. This is a clear win-win.

Expanding our bicycle network and improving its infrastructure will also support Santa Barbara’s local economy. Our scenic mountains and coastlines make this region a perfect fit for bicycle tourism, which is on the rise across the United States and can provide major economic benefits to our region.

Models in our community

Some of the City’s largest businesses – including Sonos and Invoca – have  made cycling a cornerstone of their company culture, and for good reason: these companies know that bicycle-friendly workplaces improve employees’ quality of life and help attract top talent. Statistics on transportation trends support this fact. A study conducted in 2009 found that the average U.S. person aged 16 to 34 drives 23 percent less than they did in 2001. Simply put, young working professionals bike more.

Cycling pays off for cities that invest

Other cities have seen the vision and promise of strong bicycle networks, and they have provided the financial backing to create them. San Luis Obispo City established a bicycle mode share goal of twenty percent. (A “mode share” is the number of trips for a transportation mode such as bicycling relative to the total number of trips made in a region, expressed as a percentage.) San Luis Obispo also enacted a policy that makes the allocation of general fund dollars for transportation proportional to the percentage goals for mode shares. Translation: twenty percent of San Luis Obispo’s general fund dollars for transportation will go to bicycling-related infrastructure, education, and advocacy.

Bicycling can become an economic engine for Santa Barbara’s community as well, but only if we invest in the necessary infrastructure to make it safe and accessible. Updating Santa Barbara’s Bicycle Master Plan is the first step to realizing the full social and economic benefits of bicycling in our city.

Next steps for Santa Barbara City’s BMP

Santa Barbara has been a leader in bikeability for the past decade, and the City’s Climate Action Plan states that a reduction in the number of vehicle-miles traveled is one of its focal strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the city has not established specific mode share goals for bicycling and other forms of transportation. If Santa Barbara is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector and improving our community’s quality of life, it should take steps to establish these targets, as San Luis Obispo has done, and provide a dedicated funding stream to reach them.

What you can do

Before Santa Barbara City staff can move forward with the updated Bicycle Master Plan, they need to receive approval from the City Council, who are meeting on Tuesday, July 21 to see current plans for the BMP.

Attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 21 at 6:00 p.m. to express your support for an improved bicycling experience in Santa Barbara. Stay tuned to CEC for other Bicycle Master Plan advocacy opportunities.

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