“Cleaner air, happier citizens,” “to see wildlife,” “so my daughter can walk or bike to school more safely,” “less fossil fuel use,” “for my health”--these are just a few of the reasons cited by South Coast residents asking for better infrastructure to accommodate their alternative transportation choices.
This Saturday, the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition (SBBIKE) and Traffic Solutions teamed up to bring that request to elected officials. They hosted “Connecting Our Communities in Tandem,” a thirty-seven-mile tandem bike ride along the Coastal Bike Route from Goleta to Rincon at the Ventura County line. The ride was broken into segments of two to four miles, and at each segment, an elected official or other dignitary climbed aboard the back of a tandem as it passed through the various jurisdictions along the route.
As demonstrated by nearly three hundred handwritten postcards, the constituents of these jurisdictions are choosing alternative transportation, particularly bicycling, in rapidly growing numbers. And they’re asking for the infrastructure to keep up. The tandem ride brought together a number of strides (or pedal strokes as it were) toward filling in the gaps along the coastal bikeways. Sam Franklin, co-leader of SBBIKE’s Connecting Our Community campaign (Connect), says the event symbolized the need for all the jurisdictions to work “in tandem” to plan well-connected and safe bike routes.
Along the ride, the tandem bikes were joined by a constant stream of enthusiasts, residents and SBBIKE members both adults and kids, some of whom rode the entire route. All in all, the “peloton” was some sixty strong. SBBIKE director Ed France says that showing of support is important. “I think our elected representatives generally get the importance of bike routes,” he says. “But most of them are surprised by how common bicycling is as a form of transportation and how important it is to have that infrastructure be coherent and complete.”
France points to another benefit of connected bikeways. He hopes the ride helped the officials see “what a resource these routes are not just for our residents but for visitors--for our tourism industry.”
One of the highlights of the ride was a press event at the Chromatic Arch, where Congresswoman Lois Capps, First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, Assembly Member Das Williams, and Santa Barbara Councilmembers Gregg Hart and Cathy Murillo “had some real discussion around our giant map” (Connect’s eighteen-foot long, interactive map of the South Coast on which community members drew in their routes and highlighted trouble areas during last month’s CycleMAYnia events), “pointing out sections and discussing financing,” says Franklin.
Omari Fuller, Franklin’s CC co-leader,presented to the representatives the 278 postcards, also collected during CycleMAYnia. Community members wrote about why they’re choosing alternative transportation--less pollution, promoting kids’ independence, enjoyment, and exercise just a few of the reasons--and why they want officials to take action and update the routes. Among the constituents’ requests were more dedicated, marked bike paths; greater visibility; fenced and locked bike areas near schools; road improvements; and more off-street bike paths. ” One parent wrote about a desire to “feel more comfortable riding on the road with my children.” Another person hopes better bikeways will “delete road rage.” And another asked the representatives “to promote environmentally friendly commuting.”
During the press conference, Fuller, and City of Santa Barbara Transportation Engineer Derrick Bailey discussed both the feedback from the community and potential ways of addressing improvements for bikeways around the city.
Elected officials and dignitaries who joined the ride, along with Carbajal, Williams, Hart, and Murillo, were Goleta Councilmembers Paula Perotte and Jim Farr, Goleta Planning Commissioner Meg West, and Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett; UCSB representatives Dennis Whelan and Stephen Conner; Assistant Santa Barbara County CEO Dennis Bozanich; Carpinteria Councilmember Gregg Carty; and Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett.
In addition, several city staff officials joined the ride, including Bailey, Teresa Lopes from Goleta, Rebecca Bjork and Rob Dayton from Santa Barbara, and Jim Kemp from the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. Also along was a group from the county’s Air Pollution Control District, including Executive Director Dave Van Mullem, Joel Cordes, Chris Hewes, Mary Byrd, Ben Ellenberger, Molly Pearson, and Dave Harris.
France says the event was an idea borrowed from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “We want to thank Peter Brown for coming to the CycleMAYnia group and challenging us to do this kind of event,” he says.
Each elected official was interviewed at the end of his or her segment, and Traffic Solution’s Daniel Girard is making a video that will be available next week. Dennis Coffman, owner of Rincon Cycles, joined on a tandem and helped with the camera team.