The Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday to approve an interim bike share program in the downtown corridor.
The council voted unanimously in support for the program and will now work with BCycle, a bike share operator with 10-plus years of experience and the backing of the Trek Bicycle Corporation. BCycle will place some 200 to 250 bikes and dock stations on certain portions of State Street, which will remain for the next three years during the pilot program.
The council approved Phase One of the project implementation Tuesday. In order to place additional bikes and dock stations along the waterfront, a coastal development permit is required from the city’s Planning Commission, according to the staff report.
Other than some of the language included in the staff recommendation, all council members spoke in favor of the project due to the possibilities it opens up for alternative transportation.
Tuesday’s approval by the City Council came after the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission denied the program. After the HLC denied the program, city staff shifted the program to more of an interim program than permanent, while also moving the dock stations from the sidewalks into the street, much like the parklets have been moved onto the main corridor to help economic recovery during the pandemic.
The city is not allowing bicyclists to ride in the 500 block due to increased foot traffic, and the dock stations would not be placed in this corridor, but would appear in the 400 and 500 blocks, said Rob Dayton, Transportation Planning & Parking Manager for the city.
Several commenters spoke out against the bike share program, and discussed the disrespect shown by local bicyclists towards pedestrians in the downtown area. Residents cited an increase in the number of altercations, near collisions or actual collisions that have occurred since the city shut down the main corridor of the downtown area to vehicle traffic.
Others argued in favor of the program, explaining that it offers a new tool for people to use for transportation in the downtown area. Several councilmembers also expressed an interest in having the program expand to their respective districts, such as the Eastside, Westside, Mesa, Coast Village Road, and upper State Street.
Council member Alejandra Gutierrez expressed concern with the dock stations being located so close to the parklets, explaining that because of the pandemic she wanted to be respectful of people’s space.
Mr. Dayton said the city would work with local businesses in order to get the locations right for the dock stations.
“We don’t want to be moving it later, we want to get it right the first time,” he said.
Mr. Dayton added that the bikes are around $2,000 each and are “made to live on the street.”
“That doesn’t mean they can’t be scratched or damaged in some way… but they put up with a lot of punishment,” he said.
Due to the temporary nature of the bike share program, as well as the ongoing experiment of the State Street promenade, council member Eric Friedman argued that now is the best time as any to find out if this program would work in Santa Barbara.
“We have the opportunity to gather real data and see how things work,” he said. “I think the worst outcome would be that we come up with a long-term plan, that includes bikes, and we implement it, and there’s a lot of unintended issues that come up.
“I think we’re actually going to make the long-term plan a lot better by moving forward with it today.”
He also requested that city staff work with HLC member Anthony Grumbine on where the docks should be placed downtown.
Council member Mike Jordan supported the sentiments shared by Mr. Friedman.
“I’m really reminded that this is an opportunity,” he said. “The whole street is a pilot and will continue to be a pilot, I think, and I’m not willing to let … the pursuit of perfect be an enemy of good in this particular case.
“This is so potentially good that I’m happy to make a mistake and have to fix it, rather than having to keep putting this through a process and process and meeting and subcommittee to think we’re still doing the right thing.”