OPINION by T. KEITH GURNEE
On Aug. 15, all five members of the San Luis Obispo City Council essentially said the hell with Broad Street and Chorro Street residents by ramming a “cycle track”—a bike highway– right down the throat of their neighborhood. This was despite the overwhelming neighborhood objections to such an action. It was a remarkable display of the council’s arrogance and self-absorbed ideology delivered without an ounce of compassion for the neighborhood.
In appeasing the selfish “bike zealots,” regardless of the consequences to those who live on Broad and Chorro streets, the council sent a clear message that the bike lobby is more important to them than our neighborhoods.
Our council should be working preserve and protect our neighborhoods rather than cleaving them in two. Should the bike lobby succeed with this selfish endeavor, what is to become of the rest of our neighborhoods? If it happens to Broad Street could your neighborhood be next?
From preserving our neighborhoods
Instead of dividing our neighborhoods and destroying their character, our council should be focused upon preserving the physical and social distinctness of those neighborhoods. Instead of growing by one development project after another, we should be growing by fully functional neighborhoods with a strong sense of place and cohesion. Non-neighborhood traffic should be routed around neighborhoods, not through them. Yet these principles seem to be missing in action in the planning of our city and in the minds of our council members.
It’s great that some people ride bikes to work or recreate with their families on Broad Street. After all, it is already a shared corridor with painted bicycle symbols located in the travel lanes. With its stop signs and speed bumps to control speed, Broad Street works well and safely with both cars and bikes. Just leave it the way it is!
Conscientious bike riders, in contrast to the bike zealots, have no problem getting around town on our local streets. The conscientious cyclist stops at stop signs where the bike zealots blast right through them at full speed. The conscientious cyclist is wise to respect the automobile, bike zealots resent the cars on our roads.
Motorists pay fuel taxes and fees fund our roads, bikes pay nothing for. The conscientious cyclist is fine with sharing our roads, bikes zealots want our roads all to themselves. Bike zealots are confident they are doing “God’s work” by exercising and not polluting our air, but they have no compunction about visually and functionally polluting our neighborhoods.
For those who want them, bike highways belong on the arterial streets that frame our neighborhoods rather than running through the middle of them. Broad and Chorro streets are designated in our General Plan as “residential collectors” rather than arterials like Foothill Boulevard, or Los Osos Valley Road, or Johnson Avenue, or the Higuera Street and Marsh Street corridors.
Our local streets within our neighborhoods should be treated like Broad Street is today: as a shared street for both cars and bicycles in keeping with the character of our neighborhood–not as a bicycle highway.
To trashing our neighborhoods
These principles of neighborhood preservation are lost on the bike zealots. They can’t stand sharing the road. It’s just not enough. Remove the stop signs that controlled traffic speeds. Get rid of on-street parking and let residents park in somebody else’s neighborhood. Transform Broad Street into a hideous obstacle course bristling with plastic pylons, cluttered with public signage, and clogged with goofy traffic circles that require eight public signs at each Intersection.
The bike zealots constantly preach for bikes over cars and they do so with a religious zeal. They exhibit a smug sense of moral superiority over those who drive cars, as evidenced by the flippant comments of Councilmember Dan Revoire, an avid cyclist himself, who blithely dismissed the concerns of neighborhood residents at the hearing.
Not everyone wants to join the bike religion. Ask my disabled wife to go grocery shopping on a bicycle or ask my eight-month pregnant daughter-in-law to do the same. And what about when it rains? Yet one avid cyclist said recently on Nextdoor that even 100-year-olds should ride bikes (emphasis added). What arrogance!
Bikes and fiscal responsibility
Bikes and fiscal responsibility should go hand-in-hand. Here they are way out of whack. Remember bikes don’t pay anything for building and maintaining our roads. If that is tough to reconcile, what the city proposes to do at Highway 101 and Broad St. is outright lunacy.
Part of the city’s Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard concept is the eventual closure of the Broad Street on-and off-ramps at Highway 101 and the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the freeway and the two large drainage systems of Stenner Creek and Brizzollara Creek.
Caltrans has already announced that it will never close the Broad Street on and off ramps to Highway 101 until it can resolve how to deal with freeway traffic at the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 101. That project, anticipated to take well over $65 million at a time when the state has no money, will not happen anytime soon, if ever.
How our council can make sense of spending millions on such a project is a, only to dump high speed bicycle traffic directly into what should be the pedestrian district of Mission Plaza, is beyond me. But building such an expensive facility just one short block away from the Chorro Street underpass that already has bike lanes is fiscal insanity.
Rather than spending so much money on the “wants” of the bike lobby, the council should focus on projects to meet demonstrated “needs”. What about such needs as completing the rail trail from the Edna Valley to Cal Poly or the Bob Jones City-to-the-Sea Greenway?
Building a pedestrian and bike bridge adjacent to the Monterey Street railroad bridge and extending the existing rail trail to the north is something that can become a true bicycle highway running on essentially flat ground to easily convey cyclists from north to south across the entire community. It’s priorities like these that the Council should be addressing and implementing.
Meanwhile, perhaps the city should charge an annual $200 registration fee for all bikes using our roads so cyclists can help share the costs of such facilities.
Stop the nonsense
Has our council become a government of, by, and for the bike lobby– our neighborhoods and the rest of us be damned? Apparently so.
But it isn’t over yet. The council gave direction to staff to come back with another alternative, and our residents are starting to organize to parry this blow to their neighborhood character and the quality of their lives. When it comes back to the council, we’ll be back in force.
Join us. After all, your neighborhood could be next!