Goleta Councilmember aims to create safer, more connected communities
Goleta City Councilmember Kyle Richards is participating in a 9-month program with the Complete Streets Champion Institute. It’s a national program that brings elected officials together from around the country to share ideas for making their communities healthier, more equitable, and safer.
“The goal of the program is having more activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations. And by everyday destinations that means where we live, where we work, where we go to school, and community resources like the library,” Richards said.
He said activity-friendly routes refers to the ability to get places in a safe way without relying solely on cars. He said people who don’t own cars need safe routes to reach stores or public transportation.
“These are for everybody, people of all ages regardless of income levels. This is something that we want our communities to be – open, available, and accessible for everybody,” he said.
Goleta is located about 10 miles west of Santa Barbara. It was once a rural area that now includes tech companies, shopping centers, and 32,000 residents.
Richards said the City is actively exploring ideas for Old Town Goleta in an effort to reduce congestion and improve access for bikes and pedestrians. He said the commercial corridor is a busy stretch of Hollister Avenue surrounded by densely populated residential neighborhoods with few, if any, alternate routes.
“This is one of our busy intersections here in Old Town at the corner of Kellogg and Hollister Avenue,” he said as we waited for a break in traffic.
A steady stream of cars and city buses went by and the street was lined with parked cars. There is a sidewalk but the bike lane ends just one block up.
“You’re riding in a lane that has cars whizzing by you, oftentimes very close to you and at the same time, you’re trying to stay as far away as you can from the parked cars on the street,” he said.
The Goleta Valley Community Center is on this same stretch of road. With activities for people of all ages, it’s a popular place.
Richards said the City installed a new pedestrian-activated stop light in Old Town. When the button is pushed for the crosswalk, the lights turn red to stop oncoming traffic.
Recent pedestrian deaths in Goleta weigh heavily on the community, and Richards said more updates like this can help make the town safer.
As part of the Complete Streets Champion Institute, Richards will create a Project Work Plan for Goleta during his 9-month program.
He said he’s just getting started, but he’s committed to finding creative ways to safely connect different parts of the city – whether that means traffic solutions, sidewalks, bike lanes, or anything else that might make the area more accessible for all residents.
The Complete Streets Champion Institute is sponsored by Smart Growth America, the Active People Healthy Nation Initiative and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.