Bicyclists ignoring dismount signs create potential danger for pedestrians
As the city of Santa Barbara tries to regulate the State Street promenade, maintain social distancing and enforce mask-wearing, another problem has been added on top: bicyclists.
Residents and city leadership alike have seen, and dodged, large groups of bikers coasting down the promenade, sometimes doing wheelies.
The city put multiple signs in the 500 block of State Street marking a “dismount zone,” where bicyclists have to get off and walk their bikes through the area with parklets. However, many have been ignoring the signs and getting away with it.
Ann Katheryn is a hostess and server at Holdren’s Steaks & Seafood at 512 State St.
“When I was hosting the other night in front, a biker almost hit me,” she told the News-Press. “He was doing a wheelie and turned his wheel at the last second so it didn’t hit my face.”
The hostess added one of her coworkers said the bicyclists have almost gotten into fights, and she’s seen people along the street get “really annoyed.”
Jennifer Earwood is one of three managers at Holdren’s, and said she, the staff and customers saw a physical fight break out between a teenager doing a wheelie and an older man who almost got hit.
“Obviously, that doesn’t really make for the best dining environment,” she told the News-Press. “You see wheelies and stuff all the time. It would be nice if they would just dismount. It’s very dangerous, especially for people that can’t move away as fast or aren’t paying attention, especially tourists.”
Justin Fitzgerald, the manager of The Cruisery at 501 State St., said he sees bikers riding through the 500 block “like 60 times a day.”
“They just go up and down State Street, just back and forth and it’s the same group of kids,” the manager told the News-Press. “We’re tucked in enough where it doesn’t bother us, but it is frustrating. There’s clearly signs everywhere and everyone else is adhering to the rules.”
He also recalled a confrontation between two groups of bicyclists, and said he even saw one bicyclist reaching for his waistband. Law enforcement was called and the bicyclist took off running, according to Mr. Fitzgerald.
“You can see the safety concerns. People are having to step and get out of the way — people with kids, people with dogs. It’s frustrating to watch,” he said.
Marisol Vega manages the Natural Cafe next door to Holdren’s, and said she hasn’t personally heard any complaints.
“I think they (the customers) know that it’s out of our hands to do anything about it anyways,” she told the News-Press. “How effectively can we control that? We really can’t, honestly. We’re trying to control everyone wearing face masks. We’re not going to add onto that when it doesn’t physically hurt us.”
When asked if he had seen wheelies, Daniel Bridges, who manages Institution Ale at 516 State St., answered, “Big time. Big time.”
“We do see it at least three or four times a day,” he told the News-Press. “Some people walk their bikes. Some people ride respectfully and others not so respectfully. It’s been getting a little dicey.”
Maya Brooking and Nick Marx were walking their bikes through the 500 block on Friday afternoon, and locked their bikes to the parklet fence at one of the restaurants.
“It takes maybe a minute longer (to walk),” Mr. Marx said. “It’s one block.”
Ms. Brooking agreed that walking the bike through is simple.
“It takes five seconds to walk through. It’s really nothing,” she told the News-Press. “Just be human about it. There’s a lot of pedestrians here. We’re all in the same, weird boat together.”
The matter was mentioned in Tuesday’s city council meeting by council member Mike Jordan, who said the bicyclists who ignore the signs are “clearly there for confrontation.”
“I can tell you they (the bicyclists) were going right by the guys in the booth (the ambassadors), so the guys in the booth need a stick or something to stick in their spokes. They’re very obnoxious,” the council member said. “I witnessed multiple people tell them to stop, and their responses were F-bombs. They are not there because they’re looking for some place to do their tricks. They’re clearly there to do them right there in other people’s faces where they’re being told not to.”
Rob Dayton, the transportation planning and parking manager for the city, responded to Mr. Jordan’s comments.
“Without judging what’s going on in their (the bicyclist’s) heads, they’re having a lot of fun. It’s really nice to see so much youth activity going on on State Street,” he said. “Yes, the 500 block behaviors are not acceptable. We think the best solution is to have some police department presence and education in coordination with the ambassadors to stop that behavior, but we do think it’s important to address bicycling in general and not focus on the wheelie riders.”
Mr. Jordan responded to Mr. Dayton, saying, “I’ll not read into their heads either, but they were definitely doing it on one block back and forth on purpose, so I don’t think you have to read further into their heads to get their ideas. I’ve gotten emails that there are people who are uncomfortable on that block, not because of the small percentage of people not wearing masks, not because of the close proximity — it’s the bikers that are terrorizing them.”
Council member Oscar Guiterrez addressed Mr. Jordan’s comments as well, and pointed out that during the council’s youth safety task force meeting, law enforcement stated crime among the youth in Santa Barbara has dropped “significantly.”
“I don’t know, maybe it’s because they’re biking and they’re actually staying active and staying out of trouble,” he said. “To make comments about having city staff put sticks in their spokes.. These are children we’re talking about. I’m not a parent but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want someone, especially an elected official, talking like that about my children.”
The council came to a consensus that additional signage and police presence will most likely decrease the poor biking behavior, and it will revisit the issue if it continues.