By Alex Pujo, COAST Advisory Board Member
The City of Goleta’s proposal to widen Storke Road south of Phelps to complete a full-blown arterial from El Colegio to Hollister caught local residents and sustainable transportation activists flat footed. Are cities still addressing the transportation needs generated by new developments by widening streets? Really? Doesn’t current State law now require the study of vehicle miles travelled (VMTs) instead of the old-fashioned level-of-service analysis in the consideration of proposed projects and mitigations?
Many of us thought that these “capacity improvements” that defined the 1960-80’s concept of transportation planning had gone the way of bell bottoms and shoulder pads. The trend has been in the direction of “road diets” (eliminating traffic lanes in favor of bike lanes and wider sidewalks) as done on upper De La Vina and Chapala streets, the top of Milpas, lower Cliff Drive, Shoreline and elsewhere.
It is troublesome when a road widening project is seen as a solution for an area where bicycle use is the number one mobility choice for a large segment of the population. Particularly egregious is the proposed removal of a bike path currently used by children and their parents on their way to Isla Vista Elementary School. Its replacement with bike lanes painted on the roadway is not an acceptable solution, especially when the road itself will become more dangerous and fast in a four-lane configuration.
“If you build it, they will drive” –a simple way to describe the effects of encouraging automobile use, and discouraging walking/biking. How safe is a bike lane painted on a fast, four-lane road compared to a separated bike path? Would you let your children use it, or would you feel compelled to drive them to school –thus adding to the problem?
Safety, especially the safety of children, should take precedent over automobile convenience. A degree of congestion –the ‘lead car’ slowing down the rest- is an acceptable alternative to the denial of a whole generation of future cyclists. Storke Road is an area where bicycle access has historically been prevalent. We believe that a complete re-evaluation of this project is in order. Please share your thoughts with your Goleta officials.
Project webpage: http://www.cityofgoleta.org/projects-programs/road-improvements/storke-road-widening