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By Katie Davis, President, Sierra Club Santa Barbara-Ventura Chapter
Bike lanes reduce pollution and are essential in the fight against climate change. A path from Goleta to Santa Barbara can also save lives.
I spent time in France this summer marveling at how cities can be transformed by cycle paths. In Paris, separate cycle lanes are everywhere, including the busiest sections along the Seine, and the city is cleaner and less polluted as a result. Bordeaux has been transformed with the addition of trams and cycle paths, and car-free streets. Apparently they will give you a free bike if you live there.
There are also examples in California. In the city of Davis, which has extended separate bike lanes from its UC campus to the rest of the city, 20% of trips are made by bike. Providing safe and separated cycle lanes is particularly beneficial for poorer residents, students, young people, pedestrians, the disabled and anyone who would like to drive less.
A separate cycle path in Paris (courtesy photo)
It is also an important climate action. Studies show that replacing the car with walking, cycling and e-biking, even just one day a week, has a significant impact on personal carbon emissions in cities. Cyclists emit 84% less CO2 during all their daily trips than non-cyclists.
With our temperate climate, relatively flat cities, and infrastructure funds now available to fund transportation, our region could become much more bike-friendly. Our cities and county have “active transportation plans” that outline how to improve infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians, and these are beginning to be implemented. It’s great to see more separate bike trails such as the beautiful and recently completed Las Positas Bike Trail in Santa Barbara.
Goleta is currently working on the San Jose Creek Bike Path, which would connect popular separate paths from UCSB and Goleta Beach to the rest of the town of Goleta, including a new 101 underpass. There has been some movement on the plan to re-line the old town of Goleta to also make it safer for bicycles.
At the other end of this path, Santa Barbara County has a one-time grant opportunity to fill a missing gap in the famous Coastal Access Road by connecting the Obern de Goleta Trail to the new City of Santa Barbara bike paths. on Modoc and Las Positas. The Modoc Road is important because Modoc has a relatively high accident rate, including biker fatalities and serious injuries.
A close-up of dots showing pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries in the Modoc area of the Santa Barbara County Active Transportation Plan.
Unfortunately, the $5 million grant is time-limited and the plan is hitting snags due to initial community opposition to the loss of 63 trees. They are right. Urban open spaces and mature trees are valuable and the initial number of trees affected in the Modoc Reserve seemed alarming. However, the County may provide a shaded multi-use trail that minimizes the loss of mature trees. The latest iteration of the plan reduces the removal to 49 trees, with another alignment option only removing a maximum of 22 trees. Most of the trees felled would be eucalyptus, a non-native and highly flammable tree. As a mitigation, the county would plant oak trees, which grow quickly and are both native and fire resistant. It’s a better long-term choice given climate change and warmer, windier conditions.
It should also be noted that the removal of non-native trees is part of conservation management, because in addition to the risk of fire, non-native trees like eucalyptus can use up so much groundwater that they dry out wetlands, kill and crowd out other trees and plants, and require constant maintenance. Aging trees also pose a fall hazard. The county consulted with conservation experts to plan path options that will benefit both users and the environment.
Roads often take priority, so it’s a good idea to let city and county planners and decision makers know that you want them to improve our cycling infrastructure. You can start by signing the SB Bike petition supporting the Modoc route.
Op-Ed’s are written by community members and organizations, not edhat representatives. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of edhat.
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