SLO City Council appeases the bike zealots

August 28, 2017

T. Keith Gurnee

T. Keith Gurnee

On Aug. 15, our San Luis Obispo City Council unanimously voted to ram a “cycle track”– essentially a bicycle highway—right down the throat of the Broad Street, Mission Street, and Chorro Street neighborhoods–despite the overwhelming neighborhood opposition that spoke against such an action. It was a remarkable display of our council’s arrogance, disinformation, and unshakeable ideology without an ounce of compassion for our neighborhood.

Yes, the council embraced the selfish “bike zealots,” regardless of the consequences to those of us who live on these residential streets. But not all cyclists are selfish.

As a former cyclist, I was an unselfish one who had no problem getting around town before it had any bike boulevards or bike paths. For example:

1.       I actually obeyed traffic laws and stopped at stop signs, while the bike zealots blast through them at full speed without hesitation.

2.       I respected vehicular traffic, while the bike zealots curse the automobile.

3.       Motorists pay gas taxes and registration fees to fund our roads, but bikes pay nothing for our streets.

4.       As a motorist, I respect the space and safety of cyclists, but they want priority use of our streets at the expense of the rest of us.

5.       While they may feel they are doing “God’s work” in terms of healthy exercise and not polluting our air, they have no compunction about functionally and visually polluting our neighborhoods.

We should be preserving 0ur neighborhoods

Instead of dividing our neighborhoods and destroying their character, our city should be focused upon preserving their physical and social distinctness. Instead of growing by and reacting to one individual 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.

Now it’s great that people want to ride bicycles to work or to 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.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Despite voting with the council majority, Councilmember Andy Pease was the only one who seemed to have some concern for our neighborhood. She asked the Public Works Department why they hadn’t considered running bike boulevards around the neighborhoods rather than through them. A good question. She was onto something.

Bike highways belong on the arterial streets that frame our neighborhoods rather than through the middle of them. The Broad/Chorro corridors are designated as “residential collector” streets rather than “arterial” streets like Foothill Boulevard, or Los Osos Valley Road, or Johnson Avenue, or the Higuera/Marsh street corridors.

The residential 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.

But they want to trash our neighborhood

But such principles of  neighborhood preservation are lost on the bike zealots. They can’t stand sharing the road. It’s just not enough.

They want our roads all to themselves. Get rid of on-street parking, despite the fact that some residents have no off-street parking. Let those people park in somebody else’s neighborhood. They want to trash Broad Street by turning it into a hideous obstacle course bristling with plastic pylons, cluttered with public signage, and clogged with goofy traffic circles that require eight public signs per intersection wherever they are placed.

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, as he blithely dismissed the concerns of those who live in the neighborhood at the hearing. They are also very well-organized.

The bike lobby is one the most powerful special interest groups in the city, and they have apparently gotten a lock on the San Luis Obispo City Council.

Despite their proselytizing, 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). There’s that arrogance again!

Bikes and fiscal responsibility

Bikes and fiscal responsibility should go hand-in-hand, but in San Luis Obispo they are way out of whack. Remember that cars pay all the taxes and fees for the construction and maintenance of our roads. Yet bikes don’t pay anything for them. If that is more than tough to reconcile, what the city proposes to do at Highway 101 and Broad Street is downright ridiculous.

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 as well as over the 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 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 city can make sense of spending millions of dollars building such a project when bikes provide no funding, only to dump high speed bicycle traffic directly into what should be the pedestrian district of Mission Plaza, is beyond me. But building such a facility just one short block away from the Chorro Street underpass that already has bike lanes is the height of fiscal insanity.

Consider other cities like Los Angeles, Baltimore, MD, and others who have done similar installations to those proposed on Broad Street, only to later recant the problems they’ve caused and remove such installations. Councilmember Michael Bonin of the City of Los Angeles who championed a number of “road diet” projects openly issued a profound personal apology for messing up city streets and wasting the city’s money in doing it.

Rather than trashing our neighborhoods and wasting our money, the bike lobby and the city should focus on projects of true benefit to the bike riding community like 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. That’s where the city should be spending its bicycle money.

Just say no

Quite simply, has our SLO City 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 SLO City Council, we’ll be back in force.







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42 Comments

  1. sjdunbar says:

    “Remember that cars pay all the taxes and fees for the construction and maintenance of our roads.”

    Absolutely 100% false. You’re simply wrong.

    (2) 8 Total Votes - 5 up - 3 down
  2. c.d.cox says:

    If nothing else put a large users fee on all bicycle sales.This fee should be used for bicycle lanes only. Remember fees do not have to be voted on.Put a fee on all related bicycle equipment.

    (8) 12 Total Votes - 10 up - 2 down

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