Any doubt that San Luis Obispo is a City with severe growing pains while searching for an identity, was put to rest on Aug. 15 in a packed council chamber, with a respectful but intense public hearing on proposed bike boulevard alternatives taking center stage.
While city staff presented four options, including a “no-build” or “do nothing” option, and dozens of citizens spoke up, council members eagerly waited their turn to weigh in.
One was avid bike rider, Dave Houghton, a Lincoln Street resident, who spoke in favor of that street as the potential bike route away from busy Broad and Chorro Street corridors. He also put in a plea to improve the Chorro Street Hwy 101 underpass. Unfortunately, many other speakers pitted cyclists against motorists as if to say our roads can’t be shared.
Still, the reality is that many cyclists don’t feel safe riding on higher speed roads while neighborhoods fret over the potential impacts of roadway/parking reductions. Los Angeles officials just got an earful about an ill-conceived road diet through the Playa del Rey community that has infuriated both residents and commuters and triggered lawsuits.
But the big question remains, will street improvements for bikes actually encourage more people to ride who aren’t doing so already? Only the Shadow knows…
Despite many objections, the Council voted to create bike lanes on Chorro and Broad by eliminating parking along those streets. But they also strategically hedged their bets by agreeing to only add signage and traffic-calming measures if more studies show that getting rid of on-street parking adversely affects the Lincoln-area neighborhood.
In the end, civic engagement is a positive thing with outcomes and decisions getting a full public vetting. To our town’s credit, residents here are some of the most active, community-minded out there.
The challenge or trick, if you will, is garnering all the info, weeding out the false narratives and making improvements that benefit our city as whole not just one neighborhood or specific group.
Good luck with that.
By Colin Jones
Colin Jones is a PIO for Caltrans Dist. 5, which covers the Central Coast, and a sometime contributor to the SLO City News.