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Re: Bicycles Over Cars Which Do You Prefer?

In his recent article, Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss proposed that a poll be taken to really gauge the type of transportation infrastructure Santa Barbarans want. But as is so often the case in these matters, how a question is phrased both reveals the biases of the questioner and influences the answers likely to be received.

The premise of Mr. Hotchkiss’ proposed poll is that our transportation infrastructure is a direct consequence of our desire: we desire to drive, therefore we should build roads for cars. By backward inference, the roads that have already been built are an indication of our collective preference for driving.

bikegreenBut it is equally true to say that what we desire is a consequence of what has been built. My desire to drive my car is greatly influenced by the existence of wide, fast streets, low-cost gas available every couple miles, freeways, free parking, and all the other affordances that make driving remarkably painless and guilt-free in our culture. (Can you imagine driving without all those things?) Conversely, the lack of equivalent bicycling infrastructure kills my desire to ride my bike. Ride where there is no bike lane? No thanks, I just don’t want to.

Additionally, Mr. Hotchkiss presumes that one transportation mode must necessarily come at the expense of any others. But, as the recent examples of the restriping of Cliff Drive and Haley Street have shown (in which there has been no impact on car traffic that I have observed), some of our streets are over-provisioned for cars, and our civil engineers have proven their skill at designing multi-modal solutions. In any case, my garage, like many others, contains both cars and bicycles. Why not support both?

Lastly, if Mr. Hotchkiss is permitted to stereotype bicyclists as showing up “en masse to promote any expanded biking plans” (emphasis original), may I be permitted to call out the car-only advocates who predict gridlock and catastrophe whenever pedestrian or bicyling improvements are proposed? Their dire prophesies invariably fail to materialize.

The question is not as simple as, Do you want to drive or bike? Our desires and our built infrastructure influence each other in complicated and subtle ways. I propose that a better question is: What infrastructure will foster the transportation choices that will in turn create the kind of community we want to live in? For me, that community includes being able to drive, and equally to walk and bike.

Greg Janée
SB 93111

24 Responses to “Re: Bicycles Over Cars Which Do You Prefer?”

  1. el_smurfo

    The final question is always the one that drives our Utopian leaders…You can also rephrase it as “I know better, so what can we do to force people to do what I want”. Anytime someone wants to “foster” one of your “choices” with your own tax dollars, it’s because they couldn’t convince you with their words.

    • el smurfo being against something is alone an excellent reason to be for it.

      The fact is that this “survey” is a sham … political consultants for Hitchkiss and Francisco told them that the best way to get more right leaning voters like el smurfo to the polls is to push divisive issues, and bicycling is an excellent one for getting right wingers all hot and bothered.

  2. Anonymous

    I ride my bike at least 100 miles a week in SB. I ride either a road bike(yes the spandex kind), a mountain bike(yes the one with the bell), or a beach cruiser(the rusty beat down version). I ride for fun most of the time, but will run errands and commute to work as well. Something that would make biking better would be if the roads are were in better shape. I spend a lot of time in mexico, and can say that the roads in northern baja are in about the same shape as those in SB. it doesn’t matter how big your bike lane is or if you have a stupid bulb out if the roads are full of potholes, broken glass, etc. Aside from the roads, the drivers anywhere within 5 blocks of state st are terrible, and you may be run over.

    One thing i’d also like to clarify is that in SB we seem to complain about “bikers” never following the rules. There are many types of bikers and i believe they all break different rules at one time or another, but are all clumped together.
    road bike(spandex type with helmet)…run stop signs and ride more than one wide
    fixie(looks like a road bike but 1 gear and no helmet)..usually downtown, run red lights, and swerve all over.
    homeless(tan white guy on a rusty thing that resembles a bike)…usually downtown, break almost all rules
    bmx(20″ wheel w pegs)…. ride on sidewalk, bunnyhop things
    recumbent bike(laying down bike, helmet with mirror)…dont break any rules besides lack of being cool
    beach cruiser(tourist or college girl, no helmet)….unaware of rules, therefore break most of them

    One last thing is that imo SB has quite a number of hills that connect all the different neighborhoods. these can be difficult for someone getting into biking and trying to make it a viable method of transportation. I could see this quickly turning people off.

  3. According to the Bicycle Coalition’s own bike count data bike ridership/commuting is down at least 14% from its peak in 1997-1999. The Coalition’s bike count was done using a scientific, verifiable method. The City of Santa Barbara government participates in the bike counts and uses the results as conclusive evidence as to increases or decreases in ridership and bicycle commuting. Dr, Dru Van Hengel was the city staff employee who verified the scientific accuracy of the bike count and actually participated in the counts until she left the city to take a position in Portland, Oregon in 2011. She trained the Coalition in how to properly conduct the counts and she monitored the collection and processing the information. She is still in contact with the city and the Coalition and continues to assist in making sure the counts are being properly done and evaluated. There is no doubt the bike counts are true, accurate and conclusively prove that bike ridership has suffered a significant decline over the last 17 years.

    • “According to the Bicycle Coalition’s own bike count data bike ridership/commuting is down at least 14% from its peak in 1997-1999.”


      • Source: The Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition website. Title of article: “Ralph’s final bike count”. Date of article: July 30, 2014. Author: Omari Fuller.

  4. Just to add to my previous comment: The 14% drop in bike ridership/commuting has come AFTER the City spent over $4 million dollars on bike facilities and doubled the number of bike lanes. After all that money, effort and removal of traffic lanes and on-street parking the city has nothing to show for it.

    • Hoar frost

      They have receipts, don’t they? And an institutional memory about what works and what does not. Oh forgot, term limits wipes out institutional memory so maybe the receipts for the $4 million expenditures can be framed somewhere as a reminder.

  5. el_smurfo

    Silly Ray…when was the last time the City actually did a followup study on whether their schemes work? It’s not about data, it’s about feelings and they won’t rest until we all pedal our way back to our downtown people hives with a fresh baguette in the basket just like that quaint little European village from their dreams.

    • Au revoir, mon faux amour

      Good thing is a new generation addled-eyed young Americans will no longer see European bike riders, let alone anyone who does not have their baugette now wrapped and sealed hermetically instead of poking out the back of a bike basket.

      They now take their smelly diesel Peugeots to the hypermarkets well outside of town and the old bakeries now sell tee-shirts, snow globes with scenes of temp perdu, and the usual Chinese knock-offs we are all sick of seeing. Quelle tristesse.

  6. Triangulate the issue

    I prefer fixed rail mass transit. Along with underground utilities with only overhead electric trolly line. Fixed routes – frequent service – no more than four blocks from where one wants to go or be.

  7. The People have spoken

    The cycling enthusiasts seem to pretend that we are faced with an exciting new potential mode of transportation- the bicycle. The truth is that the modern bicycle and the modern car both emerged around the turn of the 20th century. The infrastructure of the nation was not particularly well suited to either technology at the time. In the century since the people have overwhelmingly shown their preference for the car and have directed resources toward building the infrastructure to support them. Today most of the people riding bikes do it either because they enjoy it or because they can’t afford a car. Even recognizing environmental and sustainability concerns, most of us expect those issues to be addressed by new technology and not personal sacrifice. You can argue whether that’s right or wrong, but don’t expect those concerns and the offer of a few new bike lanes to change anything dramatically. Other nations have kept car ownership and usage lower by offering practical and attractive alternatives like convenient and efficient rail service. To think that people will start switching from cars to bicycles in any significant quantity is about as likely as them switching back to horses and carriages.

    • Green means go

      What is the carbon footprint of a bike rider, huffing and puffing per mile?

      • Carbon footprints are about *sequestered* carbon … the stuff that was laid down by millions of years worth of dying microvegetation. Huffing and puffing doesn’t have anything to do with that.

        • Hot air cartoon balloons

          Got it.

          CO2 from fossil fuels is baaaaaad. But CO2 exhaled from breathing is gooooood.

  8. Richard Potter

    I have a bike and I like to ride — BUT only on paths/routes where there are no cars. It’s just TOOOOOOOO dangerous to cycle where there are cars — I won’t put my life in the hands of someone who’s distracted. Now, having said that, I live on the Riviera and there’s NO way I’m going to cycle to downtown, or to the stores to shop for groceries and carry them back on my bike. Santa Barbara is too far flung, and too hilly in places, to expect that people will jump on their bike to get around town. So, I’m all for making it _easier_ for the cars, including mine!

  9. Barbara

    I am constantly amazed at how much antipathy there is between bike riders and car/truck drivers. For many reasons, people need to drive, for many others, people want to or must ride.

    I regularly experience drivers and bike riders who are courteous and aware of each other, acting civilly. I also experience the opposite, on both sides. The only difference is that the two ton vehicles can maim or kill so easily, bicyclists are rather defenseless. I do not know about statistics, but see a lot more bicyclists now than I used to. Cars do not need defending, they are the majority, our infrastructure has been built for them. Give the riders a break! Make it a bit safer for them.

    • Wrong is so many ways

      Just saw a bike rider yesterday blow past on while we were on the sidewalk. Sure he was at least on the street but going totally the wrong way against the lane of traffic.

      I pictured if this was a car doing the same thing and it could only be characterized as illegal, reckless and arrogant.

      Sorry but those do ride amongst you and they get away with it because they think bikes are special and the normal traffic rules don’t apply to them.

      If we even had one car do what this bike rider was doing, it would represent total breakdown.

  10. The question should not be about preference, but one of practicality. I would love to have a lifestyle that would allow me to bike daily to pick up a fresh baguette, hit the farmers market twice a week and take a hour or 2 to run a errand that takes 15-30 minutes to do by car, but that would be a luxury. Living on a hill doesn’t help.
    I am all for expanding the public transportation options that would make it practical for people to use and perhaps a bike share program.

  11. Narcissus Beware

    “I ride a bike and like it – I ride it a lot – 100 miles a week!” Therefore we should change everything for me and anyone like me.

    “I am healthy and environments,my superior to anyone who does not ride!” Therefor let’s make bikes more important.

    To heck with those who have taxi kids or elderly relatives. Damn those who work two jobs. And if you have a disability or health challenge – get on a bike is the magic cure.

    20%, 14% , 5% want to dictate how our public streets are used to suit their own hobby.

    I do my work out in my home in the early morning dark. I take my mother to elder care before going to work. My wife takes our kids to school before work.

    It would be nice to have time of the luxury to ride – just like it would be to shop at Whole Foods. I can’t afford either.

    And I can’t afford to have travel lanes dedicated to the five bikes in the morning why my 87 year ok’d mo. And I wait in traffic.

    I’m sorry but life goes on for the rest of us while a small minority want us to create a bike utopia for them.

    Grow up and think of the rest of us for once in your selfish sorry life.

  12. Narcissus Beware

    Sorry about typos. It’s late and I’m tired from a long day and tired of the self righteous.

  13. Anonymous

    If you’re a biker and don’t like all the cars in your way, get a grip. It’s always going to be dangerous to ride a bike with all the crazy car drivers out there. It’s insane actually to expect that nothing will happen to you when you play in traffic with 5ooo pound vehicles all around going willy nilly. Maybe in Utopia it will all be different, but ….we’re here and this is now. You’re taking your chances on a bike- you know it and so does everyone.

    Having said that I think shared lanes are a good idea. Bikes can’t be expected to stay to the right on Santa Barbara St or Anacapa, for instance. It’s too close to car doors and it’s just better to ride in the lane so everyone knows what you’re doing. Chicken Littles, the sky isn’t going to fall if we put in a few more bike lanes or add some ‘sharrows’ to the pavement.

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  15. commenter

    Bicyclists need to cough up a lot of license fees to pay for the chunk of road they have dedicated to them…mostly wasted. Nice sidewalks would be better. Small electric cars, preferably robotic, will be the way to go for city commuting. Yes, work out at home doing a few squats, jump in a car, get to your destination, walk around, touch stuff, instead of slowly cruising past life on a $2000 road bike.