Going Car-Free in Santa Barbara


Contemplating taking the leap?
After living car-free in Santa Barbara the last five years, I’d like to share my experiences along with the lifestyle advantages and disadvantages. These insights may help other who are contemplating going car-free or car-light.

The obvious advantages

1.  Financial – as long as you don’t overdo it with car rentals, Zipcars, and Uber, you’ll probably come out ahead; I certainly have – maybe as much as $500 per month.

2.  No more fretting about car parking.

3.  I may never wash a car again.

4.  For those of us who have little enthusiasm for gym workouts, walking and bicycling are a godsend.

5. Maybe best of all, I have room in the garage for more bikes!

Of course, there are a few challenges

1.  Although I have used my cargo bike to carry groceries, Christmas trees, a wheelbarrow, and various grandchildren, some things cannot be carried on a bike. (Does that sound like a challenge to some folks?)

2.  Weather is usually not an issue here, but I’m not a fan of riding in the rain at night. One or the other is ok, but not both at the same time.

3.  The lack of safe routes in some areas.  For example, if you want to get from Santa Barbara to anywhere in the Santa Ynez Valley; the lack of a safe cycling route or public transportation make this quite a challenge!



So, anyone interested in taking the car free (or “car-light”) plunge? Here’s my humble advice: 

First, do a little research regarding the availability of public transportation in your area.

  • Zipcar, our new car share system, is a great addition to SB’s transportation system that lets you rent a car cheaply and quickly for trips as small as an hour to longer trips. 

  • Whether you’re going completely car-free or downsizing from two cars to one, try it for a couple of weeks before actually making that sale/donation.

  • Overall, going car-free is very do-able in SB. I ride or walk year-round, since we really have no severe weather.

  • All of my other transportation needs in the last five years have been met by public transportation via SBMTD, Amtrak Train Service, VCTC service and occasional car rentals. This is getting easier and better, SB Carfree offers 20% off your Amtrak ticket and SBMTD recently launched an app showing where your bus is all the time.  

What would make it easier? To encourage more people to be less dependent on cars, we need to improve our bicycle infrastructure and public transportation, including commuter rail.

See you all on the road or trail – keep the rubber side down!   

Mark Sapp is a long-standing resident of Santa Barbara and member of SBBIKE. Five years ago, Mark and his wife Nancy donated their only car (a small pickup truck) to the blossoming Bici Centro shop and took the car-free plunge. 



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SBBIKE releases South Coast Bike Count Numbers

SBBIKE announces the release of the 2016 Santa Barbara South Bike Count Report. Finally, an answer to the age-old question: “Does anybody ride a bike in Santa Barbara?”. In all seriousness, it’s essential to measure biking as our region invests in bikeways that reduce congestion and improve daily life for residents. The report covers 30 locations throughout Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Goleta and South Santa Barbara County and can be downloaded here

By providing estimates on the number of people biking and insights into cycling behavior, bike counts support bicycling in our region: what gets counted, counts. We couldn’t have collected all this information without a dedicated team of 70 bike count volunteers who took to the streets with clipboards, pens, and astute eyes. Thank you!

(best viewed by hitting the square in the bottom right corner of the window) 


SBBIKE’s Top 5 Bike Count Takeaways:


1. All bicyclists and especially female bicyclists were more likely to be found on Bike Paths. 69% of the people counted were on bike paths even though bike paths only made up 1/5 of the count locations. The ratio of male to female cyclists was closest to evenly split at off-street bike paths, with 39% women and 61% men. However the number of women dropped significantly on bikes lanes where females made up only 21% of the people counted. Similarly, That number was 22% on shared streets (roads with sharrows, bicycle signage and no bikeways).

2. State Street was really busy! In Santa Barbara, State Street had the highest amount of people biking- 155 people in a 2 hour morning period and 263 in the 2 hour evening period. The top 10 busiest bike count locations ranked were:

1. Pardall Rd. at Embarcadero Del Norte 6. Cabrillo Blvd. at Milpas 
2. El Colegio Bike Path at Camino del Sur 7. Carpinteria Ave. at Linden
3. Obern Trail at Henley Gate  8. Maria Ignacio Trail
4. State Street at Canon Perdido 9. Rancheria St. at Gutierrez
5. Obern Trail at Maria Ignacio 10. Castillo St. at Haley

3. The number of bicyclists at locations had low variability from day to day. 
To measure how much the number of people biking varied we measured bicycle riders on 3 consecutive days on State Street and found that the number differed very little day to day.

4. We’re on track to better quantify how new bike lanes influence ridership. We strategically counted at streets scheduled to receive new bike lanes in the next 3 years. These “before” counts provide valuable information by allowing us to measure how biking is affected when streets evolve to have new bike lanes, bicycle boulevards and even protected bike lanes. The graphic below shows locations where ridership will be closely monitored as new bikeways are installed. 


5. Future Bike Blvds. (Sola and Alisos) already have some ridership but not as much as their faster-moving alternatives Micheltorena and Milpas St. The 2016 Bike Master Plan plans for both Alisos (46 riders) and Sola (32 riders) to become Bike Boulevards as alternatives to the faster-moving Milpas (93 riders) and Micheltorena (131 riders) Streets. It will be worth tracking long-term how Santa Barbarans utilize the new bike blvds. on Sola and Alisos as the design is new to Santa Barbara but very popular in Portland, Vancouver, and Berkeley. Also worth noting? Sola already has the highest percentage of female ridership in Santa Barbara at 41%. 


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Lompoc Hosts Open Streets

Did you miss it?


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Bath Street bike lane gets buffered

bath.jpgPeople should still bike along the biker symbol, the left section is a new buffer 

Monday morning was the debut of a new Bath Street between Haley and Carrillo St. The newly repaved Bath Street features several improvements, most notably, a new painted buffer between the bike and car lane. This project is a win-win for people biking, walking and driving on Bath Street.

Buffered bike lanes are great because they make it easy to follow California’s 3-Foot Passing Law, which requires that car drivers give 3 feet of clearance minimum when passing a person on a bicycle. By providing more space, buffers helps people on bikes feel safer around traffic, make bicyclists more visible, and can discourage speeding on the street. Most notably, better and more robust bike lanes like make biking appeal to a broader range of people of all experience and fitness levels. When surveyed, 9 in 10 bicyclists prefer a buffered bike lane to a standard bike lane and 7 in 10 bicyclists were willing to bike out of their way to use a buffered bike lane.

This project also added new, highly-visible ladder crosswalks at Haley and Carrillo. These make people on foot more visible and discourage drivers stopping in the crosswalk, making the street safer for people walking. You may also notice that at intersections, the bike lane becomes dashed on both sides but continues through the intersection. This indicates an area where cars may be turning or moving through (a "conflict zone"). Dashing the line through the intersection is another safety feature that works by providing drivers with a visible cue of where to expect people on bicycles. Residents along Bath Street with driveways face the street have the added benefit of a calmer street and safer exit when backing cars out onto the street. 

What do you think of the new Bath Street? Email eve@sbbike.org and let us know! Happy biking!

crosswalk.jpgNew ladder crosswalks make it better for people crossing the street at Haley + Bath and Carrillo + Bath!
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SBBIKE partners with Jack Johnson

SBBIKE is teaming up with Jack Johnson at our concert bike valet at the local stop of his 2017 Summer Tour!

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SB County Resolves to go Bike Friendly

Margaret Mead was right. 25 years ago, bicycling didn't have a lot of traction in our county. Great infrastructure and cycling gains in the 60's and 70's had hit a standstill. Meeting in a conference room in the County Administration building pictured here, a group of thoughtful, dedicated individuals set out to promote the idea of bicycling for transportation and recreation, and bring in new federal dollars to help make that happen.

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3 Things we learned at the Places for Bikes Conference


1. It’s not about the Bike

The bicycle is the tool but the real goal is strengthening our cities. Bicycling is a means to a stronger economy, social connectivity, better health, equity and personal mobility. As we transform our streets block by block, it’s important to emphasize how individual projects can achieve a city’s livability, equity and sustainability goals making our cities stronger and better.  



 2. Visible improvements (done well) count

Visible, physical changes to the street (like adding bike lanes or parking) is the number one way cities communicate that they are serious about supporting people biking. It’s absolutely essential to work with your community when you’re re-thinking a street. Have a meaningful and sincere dialogue about what the neighborhood needs (it might be even more than a bike lane) and be serious about considering not doing a project. If you’re ready to build, talk to businesses and residents to design the best possible details for the needs of the neighborhood. Bicycle Coalitions like SBBIKE have a huge role to play as we have strong ties to neighborhoods and can build the case for how biking can benefit people in these conversations.  


3. Biking is fun and Even more fun in groups

Group bikes rides are building community from rural towns to big cities throughout the U.S. Social bike rides build relationships, and city pride in ways that have the potential to be more inclusive and fun than any other type of venue. They remind individuals of the independence and interdependence of transportation in our communities. Last but not least, the bonus benefits of group rides is they help people think critically about streets, feel more comfortable biking on their own, support local business and get people moving. 

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Castillo Underpass: Temporarily closing for a long-term fix.

Castillo1994.jpg SBBIKE Member Art Ludwig at the underpass with daughter Maya in tow, 1994

If you bike in Santa Barbara, chances are you’ve navigated the murky Castillo Underpass at some point. Watery conditions make the underpass an uncomfortable and dangerous place to ride a bike. Issues related to drainage (or lack of) are documented as far back as the 90's and as recently as 2017 when SBBIKE’s newest Board Member covered the topic.  

SBBIKE announces with mixed feelings that the infamous underpass will undergo minor re-construction beginning next week. The good news: this is a major advocacy success that will be a long-term solution to a serious safety issue. Less than a year ago, SBBIKE led the charge asking Caltrans to address conditions at the underpass after we received reports of a major rise in bicycle crashes at the site (bicycle crashes doubled over the course of 2016). The challenge: the underpass will be closed from June 19th through August.

castillo2017.JPGSBBIKE Member Art Ludwig at same underpass with daughter Maya, 2016

In August 2016, SBBIKE members asked Caltrans to fix the underpass and shared personal stories of crashes or near misses in the underpass. Caltrans responded offering a range of temporary solutions (increased scrubbing of the algae, signage discouraging biking) while assuring SBBIKE that they would consider a long-term solution (such as reconstruction).

Reconstructing the surface of the underpass is a serious capital project ($1.5 million). It required serious advocating from SBBIKE together with then Assemblymember Das Williams, later Assemblymember Monique Limón, SBCAG and the City of Santa Barbara to finally convince Caltrans that this investment was not only necessary but essential to ensure the safety of bicyclists in Santa Barbara. 

Thank you to all of the SBBIKE members who shared their stories. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to convey the urgency at this site. You can rest assured that because of your input and SBBIKE’s leadership advocating for a long-term fix, future bicycle crashes have been prevented. 

Readers, please note that the next few months will be a serious travel inconvenience as this key connection will remain closed from June 19th to late August. That means closed to people biking, walking, driving and MTD’s buses (which will undergo rerouting). However, if all goes as planned, Caltrans’ project will finally stop the underpass issues and make Santa Barbara an even better place to ride a bike. In the meantime, we will advocate that the street is open to people on foot and bike as soon as possible!

Bear with us!,

Eve Sanford

SBBIKE Advocacy Coordinator 

Caltransadviceresize.pngConfusing advice from Caltrans. Note the lack of curb cuts to access sidewalk. 


Alternatives while Castillo is closed from June to August.


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Important Study for Bikeshare in Santa Barbara Published

Imagine a fleet of well-tuned, self-service bicycles available 24/7 in locations all around Santa Barbara, enabling commuters to jump on a bike for a quick trip around town, to run errands, or to connect to transit. A newly released study, the South Coast Bike Share Feasibility Study, imagines and analyzes this concept in detail. Bike shares, already a staple in some 700 cities around the globe, allow users to temporarily rent bicycles from strategically located spots, returning them at other spots for their convenience. These public networks of bicycles are an important part of a city’s transportation system, as they increase equity for all road users, connect communities, and enable people to conveniently utilize a healthy form of transportation that is low impact in terms of congestion and pollution. The study, can be read at issuu.com/sbbike/docs/bikeshare-6__1_ or downloaded here. It shows Santa Barbara is a prime location for such a network and sets forward the first vision of a thriving bike share system locally.

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Cycles * Camping * Cooking * Creeks * Cosmos * Community

8th Annual Tour De Tent

As I started writing this post and began gathering our stories of the Tour de Tent experience, the idea of Six Word Memoirs came to mind...

Tour de Tent 2017: Cycles*Camping*Cooking*Creeks*Cosmos*Community.


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