By Victoria Martinez
Solvang’s lack of bicycle infrastructure was at the forefront of the City Council’s Dec. 11 meeting, bringing dozens of residents to discuss their views about future bike path development in the city.
The council unanimously agreed to support the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) in its preparation of a Santa Ynez Valley Bicycle Master Plan scheduled for development during the 2018-2019 fiscal year, and also voted to commission a study of options for connecting the bike paths on Highway 246 and Alamo Pintado Road.
The study was deemed necessary after a lively debate about a proposed Sunny Fields Spur Bike Trail, which would extend from the existing Class 1 bike lane along Highway 246, across Alamo Pintado Creek, and north to Sunny Fields Park. At least two optional alignments were identified: one that would run along the creek and another that would extend into the Creekside residential subdivision.
Creekside residents showed up in mass to share their displeasure with the proposed spur route. Their concerns ranged from heavy bicycle traffic in a residential neighborhood to environmental impacts and lack of resident input on the matter.
“It’s a design for disaster,” Creekside resident Carl Butler said.
Mayor Jim Richardson, who, along with Councilwoman Joan Jamieson, had to recuse himself from the discussion due to the proximity of his home to the project, voiced his displeasure with the county’s plan during public comment and his belief that the opinions of Creekside residents were not being considered.
“Why does the city staff support that particular trail without even considering the people living in that area?” Richardson asked.
The local cycling community was also heavily represented during the meeting, all of which encouraged the council to at least explore the spur and to move forward with better bicycle infrastructure in the city.
Sam Sweetland of Solvang, a member of the Santa Ynez Valley Cycling Club, shared his disappointment with the lack of bike route development for families in the area since the adopting of the City of Solvang 2008 Bicycle Transportation Plan.
“I want more options. My kids want more options. We want better options,” Sweetland said. “Nine years, no action. We’ve let our kids down.”
Councilwoman Karen Waite, a longtime proponent of a better bicycle infrastructure in the area, fully supported further examination of the spur, but acknowledged the need for alternatives that would not disrupt the Creekside neighborhood.
“To me this is a no-brainer and it has to be done,” Waite said. “We need to come out of the Stone Age with our bicycle infrastructure.”
Mike Hecker, director of SYV Spoke, shared his belief that moving forward did not mean the plan was set in stone.
“This is all about creating a safer community,” Hecker said.
The council voted 3-0 to commission the study of the spur route and alternative options in the hope that a study would provide SBCAG with a clear direction for the safest and most feasible option for connecting the two paths.