On Tuesday night, Santa Barbara City Council decided to move forward on applying for grant funding for a Sola St. Bicycle Blvd and 2 other bicycling projects on Las Positas, Cota and Alisos Streets. These projects will be reviewed by the state over the next few months. In September of 2016, it will be announced whether they have been chosen for funding.
In addition to the infamous Westside Gap project, new bikeways were discussed for the Eastside and Mesa neighborhoods. One project will construct a bicycle blvd. along Alisos Street and a bicycle lane along Cota Street from Alisos to Chapala. The other project is the construction of a bicycle path along Los Positas Street from Cliff Drive to Modoc Rd. This would eventually connect to a future bicycle path along Modoc Rd. from the Las Positas interchange to Calle de Los Amigos (where Santa Barbara County Jurisdiction begins). Both projects will also move forward to compete for grant funding.
This meeting was also the culmination of a 6 month long debate over two projects that both aimed to close the Westside bicycle gap between Micheltorena Street bridge and downtown Santa Barbara. No bicycle lanes connect the Westside to downtown, between State and the Micheltorena Bridge. This presents a huge gap in Santa Barbara’s Spine Bicycle Network- a set of connected streets for bicycling that are safe and inviting to residents of all ages and abilities. By closing this gap in the Bike Master Plan, the City of Santa Barbara hopes to make streets safer for everyone and more appealing to new bicyclists.
Specifically, Council voted on the Micheltorena vs. Sola St. decision, Rancheria St. bicycle lanes, Cota Street bicycle lanes, and lanes on Cabrillo Blvd. All of these bikeways were being further reviewed for whether their parking removal or lane reconfiguration would impact roadways for cars.
We’re happy to report that the City did decide to move forward with these great bike network improvements. Several great supporters came out to support this decision including our community partners at the Community Environmental Council, Santa Barbara City College, and the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST). In addition, a number of other individuals who took the time to attend, speak and write letters. Thank you to all of you for supporting better bikeways in Santa Barbara.
The City also showed its commitment to the Bicycle Master Plan by applying for grant funding this year in 2016. If awarded these grants, bikeway construction would begin in 2019 at the earliest for the Alisos Bike Blvd, Las Positas Pathway and Sola Bike Blvd. projects.
Sola Bike Blvd. Re-Design
The new design of the Sola Street Bicycle Boulevard that was approved will connect from Santa Barbara High School on Nopal and Anapamu, jog over to Sola St. and continue on Castillo St. to the Eastern end of the Micheltorena St. Bridge. From there, it will connect over the bridge and connect to a Chino St. Bike Blvd. A bicycle boulevard is a street that is made calmer and given signage that promotes bicycling. While the user still shares the street with cars, physical barriers are used to discourage through traffic and reduce the traffic on the road. These barriers do allow for the movement of emergency vehicles and have been approved by the Santa Barbara Police & Fire Departments.
While initially, City Council decided on February 23rd to move forward with buffered bicycle lanes on Micheltorena Street, this new Sola Street design is longer, connects to other bikeways and to Santa Barbara High School. It's also grant fundable where the older version was not considered to be. According to City Staff, this design will be as safe as Micheltorena Street Bicycle Lanes. In part because it will include the installation of new traffic signals at De La Vina, Chapala, Anancapa and Santa Barbara street. However, City Staff did report that it’s unlikely to attract as many new bicycle riders as the Micheltorena Street bicycle lanes because it does not provide the level of separation between bikes and cars that appeal to new bicycle riders. However, this design does not require the removal of parking spaces on Micheltorena Street. When asked about a follow-up plan for the Westside Gap should Sola Street not be chosen for grant funding, Gregg Hart encouraged bicyclists to be optimistic.
SBBIKE supports this new connection because it is a far more tangible project compared to what was proposed in earlier drafts of the Bike Master Plan last year. Moving forward, we’ll participate in the design process to ensure that it’s a high-quality connection that puts the safety of bicyclists first. We’re happy to see a design come forward that will finally address a 40 year old gap in our bicycle network.
So, When is the Bike Master Plan being adopted?
The Bike Master Plan will be back before City Council in August, likely on August 2nd although that date is not concrete. At this point, all the hard decisions have been made so this meeting should be a breeze. We hope it’s a time for Santa Barbara residents, city staff and decision-makers to celebrate the end of a year-long process of meetings, emails and discussions and the cumulative 29 projects in the Bicycle Master Plan.