The recently completed Lower Milpas Sidewalk Project, with safety enhancements for all users, is one of many puzzle pieces of the SB BMP.
A couple strolling hand in hand, a baby cradled on his shoulder; a group of women in bright colors powering along the new sidewalk; a young man swinging a bag from Tri-County Produce on either arm, earphones dangling; a father tapping out a rhythm on a pole, his two kids giggling and grooving; handfuls of people on bikes cruising the cycling lanes on either side of the road; people traveling in buses and in cars. This kaleidoscope of humanity moved around me yesterday, when I paused for a few moments on the pedestrian ramp near the Union Pacific Railroad crossing to take in the recently completed Lower Milpas Project.
The project ($1.6 million, $1.1 million provided by a state Active Transportation Program grant) includes new sidewalks, ramps, and lighting; intersection signal modifications; landscaping; safety improvements at the railroad crossings; and clear bicycle lane lines. The corridor connects the Eastside neighborhoods and East Beach and, in the city’s words, “creates a safe, predictable path of travel to nearby schools, the waterfront, hotels, downtown, the zoo, and Dwight Murphy Field.”
As I took in these changes and the people around me, I thought back to the passing of SB’s Bicycle Master Plan in 2016. The cycling community in Santa Barbara was among the many who came together to envision safe, equitable streets throughout the city—streets that welcome and protect a plethora of users.
Advocating for long-term plans like the BMP requires vision. You can only see in your mind (and okay, on maps and drawings) what you’re working for. And change can feel (and be) slow sometimes.
For me, enjoying the pieces of the puzzle as they come, one by one, is where I find perspective. The Lower Milpas corridor is a route I frequent, and it’s more enjoyable for me to ride now for sure. Moreover, considering the importance of these changes for all the people who live in or travel through that neighborhood is a reminder of why advocates do the work they do.
Since the BMP passed, the city has acquired $31 million in ATP funding for pedestrian and bicycle projects. We’ll keep you tuned as more of the puzzle pieces get built.