Roadways are in the Public Domain, they can and must evolve to serve the changing needs of the whole community:
Within the last six months, two SLO County residents have been struck and killed by cars while riding their bicycles. They were both riding in accordance with the vehicle code and they had the same right to use a public road for transportation as any other citizen who might be walking, driving or riding a bike or horse.
The SLO City Council is in the process of gradually improving the safety of residents who utilize bicycles for transportation and recreation. They are not alone in this effort. The San Luis Obispo Council of Governments and other local City governments, including those of Morro Bay and Paso Robles, are actively working to improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians throughout the County. This is an ongoing and very gradual process, working within the limitations of available resources. It is meant to have a positive long-term effect on traffic congestion, air quality and public health.
Currently the SLO City Council is focusing on improving the safety of people who travel by bicycle along the corridor between downtown and the neighborhoods along Foothill Blvd and in the vicinity of Bishop’s Peak. The Council has been soliciting input from City residents; the process is ongoing and no decision on a final course of action has been reached.
There are currently two draft options being considered for implementation. The options utilize portions of Chorro Street, Mission Lane, and Broad Street and in the case of Option Two, Lincoln Street. Neither of the proposed options have a net negative effect on the flow of car and truck traffic through the area. In fact, Option One has the potential to improve traffic flow through this region of the city by removing bicycles from vehicle travel lanes.
In the Marine Corps, where I spent 24 years on active duty, we refer to roads as Lines of Communication (LOCs.) The function of an LOC in the military is primarily to move forces and supplies. In the civilian world, LOC’s functions are to facilitate personal travel and commerce. Improving the safety of people who choose to use bicycles for travel along the Broad/Chorro corridor will do just that while also encouraging more City residents to choose to utilize multi-modal transportation options.
The protected bike lanes proposed in Option One would improve travel for cars and bicycles alike through this area, by removing cyclists from the vehicle travel lanes where they currently are traveling. Cars and bicycles along most of the proposed route would not need to be as concerned about avoiding each other because they would be physically separated.
Not only will the proposed project make car drivers and bicycle riders safer and more comfortable (and I’d like to point out that the vast majority of bicycle riders are also car or truck owners; my wife and I have a truck, an RV and a car) the proposed changes will also likely have a long term increase in property values. Similar improvements have been implemented across the State and Country and have increased property values throughout the effected communities because they make the communities more desirable places to live.
Though the proposal appears to be a win for people travelling by car and by bike, there is some opposition to the project. It stems from the potential reduction in on-street parking availability along a portion of the route. Yes, implementation of Option One would require a change in the habits of neighborhood residents who currently choose to store their privately owned vehicles (POVs) on public property. They would have to store their POVs on their own property or on property that they rent.
Roadways are public property. They are in the public domain and their benefits are to be shared by all members of the community and by people travelling through the community. Making public streets safer for all users allows more people to safely pursue healthy, active lifestyles while simultaneously reducing impacts on our air quality and our already congested roadways.
The Bishop’s Peak student who wants to ride a bike across town to school should be able to do so safely. The Cal Poly student whose only means of transportation is a bicycle and who needs to get to a job downtown at night, should be able to do so safely. The retired Marine who wants to ride from his office over to Cerro San Luis to go for a mountain bike ride with friends after work should be able to do so safely. The parent who wants to go for a morning bike ride with their children over to SLODOCO for breakfast should be able to do so safely. And, the cycle-tourists who are attracted to this wonderful place we call the Central Coast should be able to enjoy it safely.
In the proposed Bike Blvd., we have an opportunity to gradually improve the safety of our transportation infrastructure while adapting to our growing population, our changing climate and the changing lifestyles of current and future generations.
The members of Bike SLO County who reside throughout San Luis Obispo City and County support the City Council in their effort to provide transportation options which help make our community safer, cleaner and healthier now and in the uncertain future.
LtCol USMC, Retired
Executive Director Bike SLO County