In Support of Santa Barbara’s Bike Master Plan

Comments for the City Council, Feb. 23 2016

My name is Jeff Rawlings, and I’m here as the chairman of the board of Our Mesa Neighborhood, Inc., also known as OMNI, a membership organization supporting and enhancing the Mesa community. I’m delighted to report to you that the board and officers of OMNI unanimously support the bicycle master plan as-is. These improvements are critical for our multimodal transportation infrastructure.

Bike Master Plan illustration, along with existing bike facilities

Specifically, three projects in the plan top the priorities for the Mesa neighborhood. The improvements to Cliff Drive will tame the most dangerous street in our community. The multi-use path along Las Positas and Modoc will improve our connection to Goleta and UCSB. And finally, the long-planned facility on Micheltorena will dramatically improve our neighborhood’s connection to downtown Santa Barbara.

As an employer in the downtown area for ten years, and as a parent of two students at Santa Barbara High School, I am intimately familiar with the commute from the Mesa to downtown Santa Barbara. For commuters cycling from the western Mesa, a safe and direct route over Micheltorena would cut the commute in half. In comparison, the alternate safe route, which goes all the way down to the pier and then up State Street, is four and a half to six miles, vs. two to two and a half miles over Micheltorena. Sure, three extra miles isn’t a lot for a cycling enthusiast. For the casual rider or teenager, though, that detour adds 20 extra minutes or more. The Micheltorena facility will encourage cycling on this route, providing much needed relief for the worsening congestion on Carrillo Street.

There are many more reasons to support a bold bike plan, including changes in the transportation economy, which have already begun with Uber, Lyft, and car sharing, and which will accelerate over the next five to ten years. I wish I had time to discuss the health and environmental benefits as well.

I urge you to keep the bike master plan intact, with a strong vision for a vibrant and connected future for our beautiful city. Thank you!

Update: The city council voted 5–2 to support the Micheltorena bike lane, 5–0 to support the Chino Street bike boulevard, and 6–1 to support the remainder of the plan. I’m disappointed to report that the Mesa’s representative, Randy Rowse, voted “No” twice. The other “No” vote on the Micheltorena lane was from Frank Hotchkiss. I’d like to thank Councilmembers Hart, White, Dominguez, and Murrillo, and Mayor Schneider, for their strong leadership.