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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OldNed

Right, “bikes don’t pay taxes.” Make those bikes get jobs and pay taxes. Ah, but bicyclists do pay taxes, even the relatively few cyclist who don’t also drive and pay gasoline taxes. And approximately 50% of road costs are paid from general funds having nothing to do with auto use or ownership. Of course, bicycles cause almost no road damage, unlike motor vehicles. Your anti-cyclist diatribe is ill-informed and cliched. It reads just like the other 100 or so such articles written primarily by angry old men whose butts haven’t touched a bicycle seat in decades.


TKG

This Butt touched a bicycle jest yesterday.


OldNed

There’s a joke in there somewhere, but I’m too tired to try to find it.


Kevin Rice

Of course bikes cause road damage! They use space which damages the space available for the people who actually pay for it. Your fuel tax pays for driving. Bikes need to pay for all the dedicated lanes they hog.


OldNed

Online dictionaries are free and widely available and any one of them will provide you the definition of “damage.”


George Bailey

I support the comments of Mr. T Keith Gurnee.


The S.L.O. city council needs to stop and reflect about the decision to create a bike highway, at the expense of these historic neighborhoods.


Vote people, vote.


George


Kevin Rice

Cyclists should pay $1,000 annual registration, plus 20% valuation fee, plus an arrogance and ego fee. Pay for their roads and maintenance costs!


copperhead

Whichever side one falls upon in the bicycle road debate is one thing. I find it disturbing when people want the government to impose ridiculous taxes on others. I enjoy paddle boarding, Should government impose a license tax on my boards, or a use tax on the ocean?


Be very careful what you wish for. they could tax your hobby next.


Kevin Rice

They already tax all of my hobbies. Why not bikes? And if it’s just a hobby, booked should ESPECIALLY pay up.


womanwhohasbeenthere

I enjoy canoeing and pay an annual registration fee for my canoe. You need a license to fish, to hunt, to fly a plane, and many other activities. Perhaps you pay a parking fee or entry fee for your vehicle when you go to the beach to paddleboard. So you are already being taxed or charged, like it or not.

I don’t have a problem with requiring bicyclists to get a bicycle license. This was a common practice years ago. Given the amount of money the city spends on bike lanes, which serve only a very small percentage of our community, it seems only fair they should pay something. An annual license fee would help assuage a lot of bad feelings of those who are tired of taking a back seat to the bike lobby. Perhaps a bike group could coordinate it for the city for a small percentage and actually make it profitable (as opposed to hiring three or more people at city hall to do it).


RonHolt

Kevin, as much as I agree with you on many other topics, you can take this opinion and stuff it. Streets are not built with vehicle taxes and only in small proportion with gas taxes. Bikes do not contribute to maintenance costs in a measurable manner. Cyclists should not have to pay those fees. When I ride, it actually decreases the wear and tear on roads as I would be driving my pickup if I wasn’t.


As to arrogance and ego fees, they should not be limited to cyclists. You might go broke if you had to pay one.


Also in response to your second post, bikes are not “just a hobby.” With me, they are more for commuting than hobby riding and I suspect the same is true of a majority of Poly students who ride. If your hobbies are all taxed (other than sales taxes which everyone pays), maybe you should take that into account before taking them up.


Kevin Rice

You’re right—bikes don’t CONTRIBUTE. Yet they cost millions in construction, striping and signage, not to mention lots of street space. Bikes SHOULD PAY for what they use.


RonHolt

You dodged the points I tried to make about relevance of costs. You are not dumb so I am going to guess that was intentional.


The taxes I pay are funding most of what you complain about as much as your taxes are. I have a right to use those roads in any legal manner. When I am on my bike or on foot, I am not contributing to wear and tear on roadways which I would be in one of my trucks. That is what a large part of the gas taxes get used for so I don’t feel guilty for not paying them on my bike any more than I do when I am afoot.


As far as construction is concerned, you MAY have a case for separate, segregated bike lanes where motor vehicles aren’t allowed. I have always assumed that one reason funding for them gets approved is to encourage cyclists to get off the streets. If you would rather have a larger percentage of cyclists mixing in traffic, you have a valid complaint about funding/signing/striping separate bike lanes. I would rather not not use them if only bicyclists have to pay for them because they rarely get me where I want/need to go on a bike.


Kevin Rice

tojofay is right… People with trucks should all buy a second vehicle.


tojofay

There are hundreds of loud oversized pickup trucks barreling along SLO streets with out a tool in the truck and with complete disregard for anyone on the road. The drivers trying to fulfill some idealized tough guy, truck commercial stereotype, ( see EX-Stoic). But cyclists are the problem- got it.


griffleroy

I hate those guys too but still doesnt address the fact that a majority of cyclists in this town dont obey the traffic laws. I have almost hit at least 10 people running stops signs over the years driving on chorro and/or broad street on the north side of the highway. Until there is mutual respect and adherence to the traffic laws theres going to be issues. I feel sorry for the home owners that live on those streets. hope their property values dont go down due to this idiotic decision.


RonHolt

I don’t want to detract from your point as it is fundamentally correct . . . but you greatly exaggerate the percentage of cyclists that don’t obey traffic laws. They may represent the majority of those you notice but then law abiding cyclists are much less likely to be noticed as they don’t disrupt traffic patterns nearly as often.


Extremely Stoic

The bike on my grill was a result of an abrupt left turn by a lawless biker. Glad you asked.


tojofay

Old and in the way T. K. Talk about a zealot.


TKG

Ahhh, kick the oldsters to the curb. Nice. I rest my case.


rukidding

When I grew up, many years ago, I rode my bike everywhere. But now I’m really stumped on how I ever did this since there were no bike lanes and I didn’t have a helmet. I think it was very simple that at a young age I was able to determine that a car was bigger than I was and I quickly learned to respect that. In today’s world it appears that the bicyclists want to be bully’s and push the cars out of the way. This is just another example of fleecing us tax payers. Narrow the traffic lanes that the cars pay for, compound the flow of traffic, draw a white line and let the bikes ride on the other side of the white line. The bottom line, the white line is not going to stop a car from running over a bike.


Ricky2

Hope you all like what they’re doing to LOVR and Madonna — narrowing the already narrow vehicular lanes to make wide bike lanes. Oh, the effect is intended to create gridlock so you’ll hate driving so much you’ll ride a bike instead. Now all you Costco and Home Depot shoppers — get a bike! They actually think this way at city hall (if you can call it “thinking”) — not making this stuff up.


1965buick

Sounds fun!


Extremely Stoic

I had a bike for awhile, but I was able to dislodge it from my grill.


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