We are not your enemy. We are SLO cyclists who want safe streets for everyone

Members of SLO Streets for All at Santa Rosa Park in San Luis Obispo.
Members of SLO Streets for All at Santa Rosa Park in San Luis Obispo.

We, the members of the "SLO Bike Mafia," hereby commit to destroying our community by ramming our multi-modal infrastructure through our defenseless neighborhoods, persistently and repeatedly, until all car-owning residents are forced to abandon their vehicles or flee.

If that sounds absurd, it's because it is.

But the tenor of recent conversations about the Anholm Bikeway is such that a few, uninformed residents have attempted to reduce those of us who bike, to this ridiculous caricature. Opinion letters published in local media outlets have publicized inflammatory and factually incorrect information about bike infrastructure. One online comment from a particularly vocal resident inspired over 50 “thumbs ups” for a call for physical violence against people who ride their bikes on current bike boulevards. We are embarrassed and disgusted by these viewpoints, some of which have gained national attention for their absurdity. These opinions do not represent the values of our neighborhood or the majority of our community.

Here is the simple truth about those of us who advocate for bike safety: We want to improve the city we love by making its streets safer for all residents, regardless of their travel mode. And we actually call ourselves SLO Streets for All, a group of Anholm and SLO families who envision a future where our streets are designed with safety for all roadway users in mind.

We are parents who want to get our children to school safely without encasing them in steel. We are citizens of the global community who are concerned about the effects of climate change on the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world. We are scientists and doctors who understand the increasing risk of distracted driving. We are professional engineers who design complete streets with protected bike lanes and sidewalk connectivity because these are the safest options for all roadway users. We are public health professionals who see active transportation as a way to improve community health and reduce healthcare costs. We are Cal Poly students, staff and faculty who want to free up the campus's limited parking spaces for those who really need them. We are disabled residents who cannot roll our wheelchairs or push our walkers along the length of Broad Street without going into the streets — this project isn't just for cyclists!

Above all, we are residents of the Anholm and surrounding neighborhoods who understand that our community will benefit from completing this project that has been part of the General Plan for many years. The circulation element of that plan, by the way, was supported by a majority of residents who participated in our city's public budget prioritization process. Our City Council responded to the will of its constituents when it set multi-modal transportation as the #2 priority for this budget cycle. Since then, council members have served those constituents by working toward that objective and others such as Vision Zero, which envisions a safer streetscape where death is not a potential consequence of your transportation choice.

If you think our City Council members are tyrants shoving infrastructure down the throats of residents without compromise, think again. When our SLO City staff transportation experts presented preferred alternatives with protected bike lanes, they did so because infrastructure and design principles for the 21st century indicate that protected bike lanes have the most potential to increase bicycle ridership and decrease accidents.

Not only is this the opinion of transportation experts, 63 percent of respondents in the city-wide online survey chose protected bike lanes as the preferred alternative. Instead of unanimously approving the entire project, the council elected to implement the less contentious portion of the project while continuing the discussion on the middle portion to see if we can meet our goals with more consensus.

Although we are disappointed that a few, vocal residents have delayed the approval of a solid complete streets design that would make streets safer for walking, biking and driving, we understand the City Council’s hesitation and desire to make sure all of their constituents are included in the conversation and that the best possible solution is achieved.

As residents of the Anholm neighborhood, daily users of this corridor and participants in the greater community of San Luis Obispo, we pledge to continue the democratic process and to engage with civil discourse. We ask that everyone to remember that we are all allowed our opinions and way of life without fear of violence or harm.

We are excited about the progress that has happened in recent months, and we urge our City Council members to lead the way toward meeting our city’s goals while making our neighborhoods safer with projects such as the Anholm Bikeway. Yes, there are still details to work out. But we are confident that our city staff, elected officials and the vast majority of residents can move forward with a solution that benefits our neighborhood, our city and our planet.

The authors belong to SLO Streets for All, a group of San Luis Obispo families who envision a future where our streets are designed with safety for all roadway users in mind.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune