February 23rd was a historic night in the City of Santa Barbara government. It is reported that attendance at the Bicycle Master Plan hearing was more than any City Council hearing of recent memory. The outdoor balcony, the overflow room, and even the City Council offices were all full to capacity, and many of our members had to wait outside, temporarily locked out from the hearing due to fire code. But in the End, City Council passed the Bicycle Master Plan, and Green Lanes on Micheltorena, pending some legal hurdles that may be small.
Like most all of us who have been participating in the long 18 month public process of the bike master plan, I’m looking forward to going from planning to implementation. We have so many great projects to celebrate: our first Bicycle Boulevard on Alisos. Protected bikeways on Modoc and Las Positas. Green lanes on core routes like State St. A safe bike route to SBCC from both the Mesa and the lower westside. These all reflect great progress for our bicycle network and honor the collaborative effort that crafted them.
As we've been told, repeatedly 'All the easy things have already been done.' One major project- and point of contention- was how to finally address the 101 divide that bars a safe route for cyclists heading downtown from the Westside. Because all of the alternatives were set for at least ten years out and likely unfundable, the bicycling community came together around finally closing the bottleneck on four blocks of Micheltorena to connect the bridge to state.
This is the point where intelligent people with different interests may disagree. Many Micheltorena business and residents are really concerned, even afraid, of what the transition to less parking and a multi-modal Micheltorena will look like. Over the next weeks we are hoping to reach out and look for any common ground or workable compromises that can help lower the divisiveness and address all of our needs.
It's up to the bicycling community to celebrate and support our local Micheltorena corridor, let's all bike by and grab a sandwich at South Coast Deli, get a haircut, or check out many of the professional services offered there. Not only do we want the westside bike connection to thrive with ridership, but our local business' thriving must also be a part of this.
Together, we are stepping into the next chapter for a more multi-modal city. We are achieving our shared bold Vision for Santa Barbara to be a nationally leading bicycling city. While the advantages of this are clear to so many of us, for others, we are moving outside of their comfort zones. Let's join together and celebrate both the Bicycle Master Plan and the Micheltorena community that will host the first safe continuous bike lanes from the Westside in our City's history.
But our work has just begun. Council will vote to fully adopt this plan again on March 15th, after achieving some legal clarity. And SBBIKE has much more to do to make our streets more safe and accessible for everyone.