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.


Back in the late 1930’s in my home state you had to register all bicycles you had to pay annual fee and you was issued a license that had to be affixed to the rear of the seat the license number was stamped into the crank housing the cops could stop at any time and check the license number against the number on the crank housing you also had to carry what is aquavilate to a vehicle title. This cut down on thefts. But today’s cry babies want everything for nothing.


Tax the Bikers!!!!

Kevin Rice

Tax them hard! Bikes need to pay for the streets and paths.


And also, we should fine them for riding 2-up (or more). I see this all the time on country roads, like out in Edna Valley. They expect you to swing all the way left into the other lane–a little dangerous in the wine country!

I used to street bike. I never tried to make my own rules, or ride anything other than single file

George Bailey

I think San Luis Obispo is going downhill under Mayor Heidi Harmon, and the vision of the so-called ‘SLO Progressives’ is a city with high taxes, abandoned neighborhoods and political correctness run amok.

Heidi Harmon supports sanctuary city policies, and she puts her own political career over the safety of local taxpayers.

I say let’s recall Mayor Heidi Harmon and send a message to these losers.


Jorge Estrada

Just remember the song: If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear a flower in your hair… Yes “Mighty Heidi” is photogenic and what a smile but if you have ever picked up a cute little house mouse you’ll know what I mean. That said, I hope she can deliver for the LONG TERM benefit for the residents of San Luis Obispo.

Jorge Estrada

I see this subject having a difficult resolve. It would seem logical to have bicyclists be required to carry liability insurance and be licensed just like the operators of motorized vehicles that the roads are engineered for. Certainly those who do not have a drivers license should not be exempt from these requirements. If children are on the road they too can learn traffic safety and be insured for the damages they may cause to some one else’s private property. Currently, if you are a motorcyclist you have that endorsement on your drivers license, that too would work for bicycles and the “bicyclist only” can obtain a separate bicycle license reflecting their use of the public road ways. This is not the direction I’d like to go but if the cyclists want special treatment then they eventually raise the bar resulting in more of that costly governance.


Go to other parts of the world bikes are part of the traffic pattern. They don’t make all these sissy-ass accommodations. What a waste of time, energy and$$$


While I agree with your comments in general, there is one notable exception to your generalization about other countries. Holland has a massive, widespread and intricate network of bike lanes which is heavily used. (There are a few other scattered cities that have done so too.) I don’t think that would be financially practical in the US unless designed into an area prior to development.


So the city has a sign law but its ok to put up ugly signage on city streets on their silly roundabouts where people have to look at them all the time, the roundabouts over on the other side of town are pretty dumb also.


Mabey their property value should drop that would mean less tax revenue for the city. I have not been down town in years and if I can I will avoid it all together bicycles,bums and vehicles with loose nuts on the steering wheels is enough to keep me away.


SLO has to create these new road ways because with in the next 5 years you will not be able to drive a car in SLO with all the conjestion of new homes, businesses, students overwhelming the City. We were in SLO last Friday and the traffic on Los Osos Valley Road near Costco (with the re-construction being done for another bike path) was insane. We go to SLO once every couple of months, hit Costco, car service for our new car, a stop at Whole Foods (that’s gone as of today). Petco and get the hell out of that rat hole. I was born on Foothill, grew up in the downtown area, went to Mission School and lived and worked for 40 years in SLO. It is now a conjested rat hole with high rates yet limited parking, stores like every other Metropolitan area, crazy rude drivers, and impacted freeways. Can’t wait until that 500 new homes on Madonna will be built, and all the others being planned and the additional 2000 new students. Keep your mess in SLO and stay out of our other communities!


If we’re imposing “ego fees,” Kevin Rice alone should be able to fund all public roads in the county for the remainder of his life.

Kevin Rice

Only roads for cars though. Bikes need to pay up.


Such a sad little man.