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SLO wants to create a bike boulevard, and residents aren’t happy

The San Luis Obispo City Council recommended a preferred plan Tuesday that would create a bike boulevard along Chorro, Mission and Broad streets in San Luis Obispo, including protected bike pathways on the busiest stretches.
The San Luis Obispo City Council recommended a preferred plan Tuesday that would create a bike boulevard along Chorro, Mission and Broad streets in San Luis Obispo, including protected bike pathways on the busiest stretches.

Faced with fierce opposition from neighbors at a packed meeting Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo City Council moved forward with plans for a protected bike pathway that connects the downtown to Foothill Boulevard.

The council’s goal is to help bike commuters, children and recreational riders feel safer and encourage cycling. The thoroughfare is used heavily by those traveling from downtown to Cal Poly, and to Bishop’s Peak and Pacheco elementary schools.

“The issue is people aren’t biking, and we want to encourage biking,” said Vice Mayor Dan Rivoire. “Asking drivers to share the lane with cyclists is not working. People are saying it’s not safe enough for my 8-year-old to ride there.”

After reviewing various proposals for a “Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard” that could have reconfigured or diverted vehicle traffic in the northern San Luis Obispo community, which many neighbors opposed, the council opted for a plan that wouldn’t change traffic flow. More than 10,000 motorists use the Broad and Chorro street thoroughfares each day.

But the new plan would remove street parking on Chorro and Broad streets to make more space for cyclists. The City Council directed staff to draw up its preferred plan with details for future final consideration.

A protected bikeway is a path that runs adjacent to vehicle traffic on the roadway but is separated by dividers such as curbs, posts or planters.

The new route would remove parking on one side of Chorro to provide space for two-way protected bikeways. It would remove parking on one or both sides of Broad for protected bikeways. Cyclists would connect between Chorro and Broad at Mission Street, which would only require markings and signage because of lower traffic volume.

The council’s fallback plan is to only add signage and traffic-calming measures if further studies show the removal of parking would impact the neighborhood significantly.

About 330 bicyclists use the corridor each day. The city believes that number would significantly increase if cyclists felt safer.

“It’s a city goal in the General Plan to increase the mode share of bicycle transportation to 20 percent,” said Luke Schwartz, a city transportation planner. “We’re about 6 to 8 percent now. Our studies have shown a significant number of residents would ride bikes if they felt safer.”

About 60 people spoke in public comment. Several neighborhood residents argued that reduced parking and barriers would clog the neighborhood traffic and require residents and visitors to park far away from their homes.

They argued against other considered proposals that included one-way streets on Broad and Chorro to better accommodate biking, or raised traffic diverters on Broad to re-route car traffic. The council opted against those ideas.

“The people who live there have been least considered in making these plans go forward,” said resident Richard Schmidt in public comment. “You can make biking safer without doing any of these sorts of radical things.”

But Rivoire said that street parking shouldn’t be relied upon for “vehicle storage,” prioritizing public roadway use.

The city expects to pay up to $280,000 to complete the upgrade by 2019, about 62 percent of which would come from state transportation funds with the rest coming from the General Fund.

“If this bike lane were installed, I would use it,” said neighborhood resident Elizabeth Farrington. “I will be one less car on the road.”

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