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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 19th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 3 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 3

Plan developing for improvements to Santa Ynez Valley bicycling paths

By KASEY BUBNASH

It's estimated that thousands of experienced road bicyclists pass through the Santa Ynez Valley every year, and yet the region lacks the bike paths and lanes necessary to support less experienced bikers, like kids going to school or adults commuting to work.

In a community survey completed in the fall of 2018, 71 percent of those surveyed said they did not feel that the Santa Ynez Valley was an appropriately accommodating place for bicyclists. Only 21 percent said there were safe places for kids to ride their bikes, and 95 percent said the Santa Ynez Valley should work to improve its infrastructure for bikers.

So the towns, cities, and jurisdictions that make up the region are working together to do just that. At two public workshops on March 12 and 13, community members were able to choose what improvements should be prioritized within the next 10 years.

Mike Becker, director of planning for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), said that because the Santa Ynez Valley encompasses so many jurisdictions—Santa Barbara County, the cities of Buellton and Solvang, and the Chumash Nation—plus both incorporated and unincorporated towns—Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, etc.—a cohesive vision for biking in the region is lacking.

Only two roads in the area have class II bicycle lanes—separate and marked lanes for bikers toward the edge of a road—and there is only one class I bicycle lane, which consists of a bike path entirely separate from roads. There are several local roads with bicycle amenities, primarily in Buellton, according to the Santa Ynez Valley bicycle master plan draft introduction, but these amenities do not support connectivity within the region.

That has made it difficult for residents to commute by bike to work. A resident of Buellton can't easily and safely ride to work in Solvang, and vice versa. It has also made it difficult for kids to ride their bikes to school, Becker said.

Santa Ynez Valley kids attend several different elementary schools, but the student body is combined into a single junior high school and a single high school. Students living near either of those schools can safely commute to school by bicycle, but many cannot.

With the help of Santa Ynez Valley's various jurisdictions, SBCAG started working to fix that in the fall of 2018, and Becker said the planning process, which is being funded by Caltrans Sustainable Communities formula planning funds, is fairly far along.

"It'll do the valley good," Becker said. "When you have these multiple jurisdictions, it really makes sense to plan as a sub-region. It really makes sense what we're doing."

At the recent public workshops, Becker said community members voted for three of their favorite large and transformational projects: a bike, pedestrian, and equestrian path that would be built along the Santa Ynez River and provide a connection from Buellton to Solvang; a multipurpose trail that would run from Los Olivos to Los Alamos; and a trail that would connect an existing path along Highway 246 with Sunny Fields Park.

Community members also voted for five smaller projects, which include extending an existing bike trail to Refugio Road, implementing bicycle pump tracks at River View and Hans Christian Andersen parks, and other improvements.

With the chosen projects in mind, Becker said SBCAG is working on a draft plan, which it will present to Solvang City Council in May.




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