Green light for contentious San Luis Obispo bike lane plan

Sep 6, 2018

After two years of fierce community debate, the San Luis Obispo city council cast a deciding vote this week to build protected bike lanes between downtown and Foothill Boulevard.

According to city staff, the project will “feature a bicycle and pedestrian signal at Foothill and Ferrini, a pedestrian and bicycle path between Foothill and Ramona, and a combination of protected bike lanes and shared bike/automobile lanes in place of on-street parking along the west side of Chorro and Broad Streets from Ramona to Lincoln.”

The downtown Highway 101 undercrossing will get new lighting. The plan also calls for connecting existing sidewalks for safer walking for pedestrians.

Stretching Tuesday night's city council meeting into hours, dozens of residents spoke against the plan because it will take away street parking and change traffic flow.

“Our three-quarter-mile stretch of pavement between Foothill and downtown has generated so much antagonism,” Kate Murray said during public comment. “Restricted bike lanes on either Chorro or Broad [Streets] that would cross many driveways, I believe, would be downright dangerous.”

“My concern with the current bike path proposal is if a diverter is used on Broad [Street], increased traffic on Chorro [Street] will predictively incentivize drivers to take quiet residential side streets, like Lincoln and West, where my family and I live,” Claire Swenson said.

“I will be greatly impacted by increasing traffic,” Bonnie Mello said. “I'm not in favor of it. It's very bad, bad, bad for the neighborhood and I believe it's bad for the city.”

Many others spoke of their support for bike lanes and expanding bicycle safety and infrastructure in San Luis Obispo.

“I'm a local emergency physician, I've been living in this community for 15 years and we see a lot of bike accidents in the emergency department,” Clint Slaughter said. “I can't even imagine how many close calls there are that aren't reported. Something really does need to be done.”

“I'm here to speak for protected bike lanes—to bring this into the modern age, like Europe, where a lot of people bike, a lot,” Peter Schwartz said. “The bicycle ridership is high and their carbon emissions are low. We know enough about the issues to make a decision now.”

“I support protected bike lanes and safe sidewalks because this is a significant step—or pedal stroke—in to getting more people out of cars and into the community,” Gary Havus said.

The vote was 3-to-2, with council members Christensen and Pease voting against building dedicated bike lanes. Mayor Heidi Harmon cast the deciding vote. The project, called the Anholm Bikeway Plan for the neighborhood it will cut across, is estimated at $3 million dollars, $1 million of which is already funded.

Keith Miller summed up for many a frustration over the length of the Anholm Bikeway debate, both among residents and city staff, since 2015.

“I ask—could you please approve a project tonight, so that all smart and dedicated residents in this room, on all sides of the issue, can move on and use their brain power on the city's many challenges. Thank you,” Miller said.