A look into how one local bike advocacy group is pushing for a safer commute, and paving the city green.
Last week was Santa Cruz’s 28th Spring Bike to Work Week, a community event that urges everyone to leave the car keys at home and bike to work, school, or anywhere else your schedule may take you. Bike Week was packed with perks to motivate you to put the pedal to the metal, like Ecology Action’s breakfast giveaways and UCSC’s numerous bike workshops filled with free gear. However, not everyone feels comfortable joining in on the fun of bike week. Safety is a major concern for many bikers — and for good reason. The central coast leads the state in bicycle deaths and it is reported that Santa Cruz County has the most bicycle accidents per capita. Last year alone there was 203 reported accidents, image all the accidents that don’t get recorded.
As a college student, affordable housing in Santa Cruz is limited. As the price of on-campus housing increases and more students are admitted as banana slugs, the housing market becomes limited, which is how I ended up living in Capitola. I enjoy living here; it’s calm, I live within biking distance of grocery stores and the beach, but biking to Santa Cruz is a challenge. While I’ll admit I have only attempted once, there’s a reason for it.
photo by Diane Terry
It is 8 and a half miles from my front door to UCSC, which isn’t too far to ride (the average biker travels 11-12 mph while cycling). However, within those 8.5 miles is a series of narrow, bustling, and often one way streets. On many of the steep and jagged roads there are not separate bike lanes, and when there are, the white line separating me from the side of a car that is zipping down Soquel Avenue can be easily blurred. For many people who don’t consider themselves serious bikers it can be scary riding your bike in traffic. While that is a fear you have to face if you are going to be serious about making biking your first mode of transportation, there are also simple infrastructure improvements that can be made to boost a biker’s confidence and safety.
Bike Santa Cruz County, a local non-profit organization whose mission is to bring cycling to all levels of riders, is paving the way for “greener transportation” in Santa Cruz by allocating funding for green bike lanes around the city. The organization successfully won a campaign to finance green lanes on Soquel Drive and Laurel Street.
photo by Richard Masoner
Green bike lanes are common in large cities and are a relatively low-cost improvement for boosting biker’s confidence and also reducing the chance of injuries to riders, drivers, and pedestrians. Green lanes are eye catching and constantly remind drives to share the road with bikers, something that the white lanes commonly fail to do.
Some may say, “What is green paint going to do to protect me?” Believe me, I commonly ride to the Soquel Village and notice the difference the green lanes make. Not only do they act as a clear barrier between bikers and drivers, they also allow me to feel more confident and aware of the boundaries of the bike lane.
Bike Santa Cruz County is not done paving the way for greener lanes yet. They are currently urging community members to help allocate funding in the 2016-2018 transportation budget for more green bike lanes around the city. The final decision will be made during the budget hearings in late May, and they are now calling all bikers to be apart of the process. They presented to the City Council just yesterday, but I am already dreaming of safe green lanes for every path my bike will take me.
To learn more about Bike Santa Cruz County check out their website.
photo by Diane Terry