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New signs help with shared space issues on the  State St. promenade

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - If you strolled down the middle of State St. in downtown Santa Barbara's newer promenade to talk about the day's happenings, you would more than likely be very aware of your surroundings to make sure you don't have a bad hit from a passing vehicle.

The popular area for pedestrians is also sometimes more popular for bike riders and others on wheels. 

That could include skateboards, single wheels, scooters, and even the hybrid designs such as the beach chair on wheels that's often whizzing through about three feet high from the ground. 

 Executive Director of the Downtown Organization Robin Elander said,  "It really is a beautiful thing what  we have created  but we are still working through a transition and this is a new space that everybody's  learning to use together. " 

Cars are only on the cross streets but everyone and everything do come together at the intersections.

It's been a lively change to the street but at times, the complaints have been emotional. 

The speedy ebikes are one of the top worries.

Bike rider Robert Bernstein said, "when it first opened as a promenade there were some kids doing wheelies and some people were grumpy about that and I thought it was really cool!" These days, he says, "there's now a concern about these kids on motorized bikes going too fast  and  I have to say sometimes that is a problem. "

The City of Santa Barbara has recently put up new safety signs to educate the public on the shared area, with a reminder of safety and spacing.

It's a step that many people say has been necessary, but it will work only if those who have been on higher speed risky rides, tap the brakes a little more often, and ride a little softer when they are around pedestrians.

Restaurant customer Michael Schmitt said he is concerned about other vehicles too.  "You can skateboard, jump off the walls,  ride down the sidewalks , it's nuts"

Some shoppers have said the blending of so many uses in one area has not been comfortable for them to shop or come to the area to dine.

Elander said,  "we don't want at all to ban bicycles but we do want them to be able to connect well  with others in the same space.  If you have a bell on your bike just say hello and ding that a little as you are passing."

A couple of teens on their bikes stopped and said, "yea there are quite a few reckless drivers riding ebikes.  For us we are on the safer side of riding ebikes." said bike rider Ethan Loxman.

With him, John Smith said, "even if it is a green light you got to slow down a bit.  You never know if the driver has like pumped a few beers and is going to speed right through that red."

The city is reminding younger bike riders to wear helmets, which are required by law.

Bernstein said bike riders should have more choices and,  "if you are on a bike and you need to get somewhere fast,  State Street is not the best place to do that."

City officials say they are working with a consultant on a master plan that will include public outreach and options for more safety, public use and design features for the promenade. There will also be economic development strategies and doing more with underutilized spaces.

There is no plan to restrict bikes as some pedestrians have suggested.

Article Topic Follows: Safety
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about John, click here.


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