‘Bikelash’ on Broad Street: SLO’s bike lobby wants roads all to themselves

Members of the Tortoise group of the SLO Bicycle Club take a ride along Broad Street in July 2015.
Members of the Tortoise group of the SLO Bicycle Club take a ride along Broad Street in July 2015. Tribune file

The Broad Street Bicycle Boulevard. How can such a bad idea get so far in city governance?

The answer will come on Aug. 15, when the San Luis Obispo City Council considers three zany concepts for “improving” the Broad Street/Chorro Street corridors as “bike boulevards.”

The impetus? The bike lobby, one of the most powerful special interest groups in the city.

Having lived on Broad Street since 1973, I used to be an avid bike rider who never had any problems getting around. But now the bike lobby wants our residential streets all to themselves, regardless of those of us who live on them.

All three alternatives being considered are flat out bizarre. Any one of them will require tortured traffic movements, eliminating residential parking, increasing traffic on local streets and diminishing the livability of our quality neighborhood.

Removing any long-standing stop signs that have controlled traffic speeds along the Broad/Chorro corridors for decades is a nonstarter. But to then clutter up Broad Street with plastic pylons, traffic diverters, bright yellow “speed cushions,” plastic traffic circles, swerving “chicanes” and reflective paint, all bristling with public signage, would relegate Broad Street to an obstacle course rife with visual graffiti.

But it was the decision of the City Bicycle Committee to back converting both our streets into a one-way couplet, despite the public outcry that such an option was unacceptable. Under staff analysis of this option, the maximum average daily traffic volumes on the short block of Lincoln Street, between Broad and Chorro, would more than double!

In talking with some local cyclists, even they feel this is going too far. The last thing they need to do is to alienate those of us who live, park, and access our homes on our residential streets.

Recent articles in the Los Angeles Times reveal that the city of Los Angeles has had to roll back many similar improvements on its streets at great expense due to the public backlash against them, not only from residents and commuters but cyclists as well. In one letter to the editor to the L.A. Times, a cyclist called one set of “improvements” on a local street similar to those proposed for Chorro Street were “dangerous.”

Rather than a problem looking for a solution, this is a solution looking for a problem. Those of us who live along the Broad/Chorro corridors want to keep our streets the way they are. As long-standing residents on Broad Street, my wife and I do not fear change. What we do fear is change for the sake of change.

So to those of our neighbors who live along the Broad/Chorro Street corridors, please attend the City Council meeting on Aug. 15 to let your voice be heard.

As for our voice, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

T. Keith Gurnee is a planner and urban designer who once served on the San Luis Obispo City Council while a student at Cal Poly.

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