Can you spare a moment for the safety of cyclists in SLO, neighbor?

A cyclist bikes towards Cal Poly in the green bike lane along California Blvd., which was added to increase safety for bicyclists.
A cyclist bikes towards Cal Poly in the green bike lane along California Blvd., which was added to increase safety for bicyclists.

As an 18-year San Luis Obispo citizen, as well as a father and husband, I am holding our officials (Mayor Heidi Harmon and Council Members Dan Rivoire, Carlyn Christainson, Aaron Gomez and Andy Pease) accountable for their decisions, as T. Keith Gurnee encourages us to do in his Dec. 5 viewpoint.

I’m holding these officials accountable to make San Luis Obispo safe for bicycle commuters, and to plan for the future as our society transitions to accommodate contemporary concerns and technologies. With everything from climate change to autonomous electric cars to bicycle ridership, things have changed in the past 100 years since our community was established. And it is the responsibility of the mayor and city council to act accordingly.

Bicycling is a great way to get around in San Luis Obispo, taking up less space, making less noise, producing no emissions, using no natural resources and providing exercise. However, SLO is not as bicycle safe as it should be, and most of the people I know who don’t bicycle tell me it’s because they are afraid of being hit by a car.

Every person I know who does bicycle has had life-threatening incidents with cars. My wife spent a week in intensive care after being hit by a car, and Kennedy Love, recently killed bicycling, was one of my students — and yes, he was as wonderful as all those stories about him claim. For several years, I bicycled the Broad Street route with my kids to and from Pacheco Elementary School. However, I know several families who don’t out of safety concerns.

Please answer this question for me, T. Keith Gurnee: Do you believe that my family and I have the right to safe passage through town? Do you think that we need to have a fatal bike accident on a street before we should consider how safe it is for bicycling? Does our safety and our concern for safety mean anything to you?

T. Keith Gurnee, as someone who shares San Luis Obispo with you, I would be concerned if you or your family was hurt or felt unsafe. It would mean something to me. T. Keith Gurnee, thanks for the reminder. Yes, we should certainly hold our city officials accountable for their decisions. So far, I’m pleased with their efforts. I also understand that their success requires our support. So, when the city holds its final community meeting to present findings on the Broad Strett Bike Boulevard from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, you can count on me to be there.

And when you speak your piece at the meeting, T. Keith Gurnee, please remember that if and when you or your family feels unsafe, I’ll speak out for you.

Pete Schwartz is an associated professor focused on sustainability in Cal Poly’s Physics Department.