On a bright weekend afternoon, the Bob Jones Trail’s parking area was packed with cars, many with bike racks. Runners stretched and put on their sunglasses, dog walkers gripped their leashes, and families on bicycles cautiously crossed the road to the entrance of the trail.
Many joggers, bikers and dog walkers had to drive to the lot to get to the start of the scenic trail, which winds from Ontario Road through four miles of the Avila Valley to the seashore.
One organization is hoping to get the county into gear to build more pedestrian-friendly trails. Connect SLO County is an initiative created by the San Luis Obispo County Bicycle Coalition, with the goal to advocate for completion of paths like the Bob Jones Trail.
“In the initial plans of the Bob Jones Trail, it connected from SLO all the way to Avila Beach,” said Leslie Bloom, the bike coalition’s marketing and outreach director. While the trail covers a good distance now, it is not completed. “So Connect SLO County is trying to quickly get the wheels moving a little bit faster to make that a reality.”
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The coalition’s website — www.slobikelane.org — will be a “one-stop shop” for resources on the trail expansions, she said. The group will post updates, maps and information such as dates of public meetings regarding the trails so that the community can be involved. Also, donations will help coalition representatives attend meetings, gain community support and amplify the public’s voice.
The three main bike paths Connect SLO County focuses on are the Bob Jones Trail, connecting San Luis Obispo to Avila Beach; the De Anza path, connecting San Miguel to Santa Margarita and Pismo Beach to San Luis Obispo; and the North Coast path, connecting Cayucos to Morro Bay.
Dan Rivoire, the bike coalition’s executive director, said the process to build a path is to have a plan, study the environmental impact, get the property rights, and then get funding for construction.
The plan part of the process for the Bob Jones Trail has existed since the early 1990s, when the first phase was constructed. Ultimately, an approximately 4.4-mile stretch of path will go from Ontario Road to the Octagon Barn, according to the environmental report.
The environment is not the only challenge for any bike path. Community opposition might also get voiced.
“Politically, there’s challenges, as well,” Rivoire said.
One example: the Cayucos Citizens Advisory Council had problems with the North Coast trail. One of the route proposals goes along Studio Drive, near where several advisory council members live. According to the council’s minutes for May 4, 2011, one of the main concerns was how narrow the road was and how it would impact parking.
“We’re trying to overcome that and show them that this is going to make their community better,” Rivoire said.
The price of the Bob Jones Trail expansion is about $2 million, more or less depending on how the path will cross Highway 101, Rivoire said.
“Bike path projects cost less per mile than roadway projects, and they employ more people, mainly because they can’t use many large machines building a bike path,” Rivoire said.
The path will be funded by local tax revenues and general fund money. It also qualifies for state and federal transportation grants.
“Fifty percent of the trips in the United States are less than two miles in distance,” he said. “So those short trips are the ones that we can replace by bike.”