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With electric bike sharing program approved, SB’s State Street keeps evolving

B-Cycle Bike Dec. 2019 bicycle
Ryan Fish/KEYT

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara's downtown corridor has already transformed into a pedestrian promenade during the pandemic.

And more change is coming, with the city's electric bike-sharing plan now pedaling forward.

“We don’t know what the city’s going to do, what the [City] Council’s going to decide on how we move forward with State Street,” said Rob Dayton, the city’s Transportation Planning and Parking Manager. “So this is a way to get bike share in temporarily, test it out, and see if the council wants to move forward with it in the future.”

Phase One of the plan will bring bike docks to the sidewalks along the Waterfront, and to State Street, where they will be placed on the street itself.

Dayton says about six bikes will be stationed on each State Street block up to Sola Street, except for the especially busy 500 block, which will not have any docks.

The program received unanimous approval from City Council on Tuesday, after being dubbed an "interim" measure. That made it possible for the plan to go past the city's Historic Landmarks Commission, which previously denied the project.

Commission chair Anthony Grumbine clarified Thursday that the Commission denied a previous version of the project, which had bike docks placed on downtown sidewalks. He says moving them to the street makes them more temporary and allows them to blend in with outdoor dining parklets and seating areas.

“We’re excited to see it,” Grumbine said. “We think it’s gonna be a great addition to Santa Barbara, if done well and right.”

Last week, City Council approved aesthetic and safety upgrades for the promenade, which were also called "interim" and passed without the need for HLC approval.

Grumbine hopes that move does not becomes a shortcut for city changes moving forward, because he thinks the formal process is in the public's best interest.

“Our system is meant to be, right now, it’s slow, it’s a process and it produces a really great thing in the end,” he said. “Part of the challenge is trying to be a little bit quicker and more nimble but with still getting that high-quality result."

The approved State Street improvements would add bike lanes--painted green--running down the middle of State Street, with pedestrians walking on the outside.

Adding more bikes to the pedestrian-cyclist mix on the new State Street makes some feel uneasy.

“If they are uncomfortable, we encourage them to move to the sidewalk where bikes are not allowed,” Dayton said. “Until we’ve come up with the final design for State Street, if that’s where Council wants to go, we’re gonna have to live with this tension.”

The project still needs final approval from the Coastal Planning Commission before construction can begin. That will likely happen in early 2021.

Company B-Cycle will provide the bikes and docks. The project was originally announced late last year, with a targeted rollout this May.

The coronavirus pandemic upended that plan and put the program in jeopardy, before this week's City Council approval put it back on track.

Article Topic Follows: Lifestyle

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Ryan Fish

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