City aiming to improve traffic of pedestrians, cyclists near Stearns Wharf
The city of Santa Barbara is working to alleviate the logistical tensions between bicyclists and pedestrians as both navigate the downtown area of Santa Barbara.
Last week, the city began construction on pedestrian and bicyclist safety improvements from the beachway at Skater’s Point off Cabrillo Boulevard west along the beachway to the entrance to Stearns Wharf.
Workers will reconstruct the sidewalks and beachway around the Stearns Wharf restroom and reorient the beachway toward the ocean by six feet on the northeast side of the Stearns Wharf crosswalk. They will also install a pedestrian-only crosswalk northwest of the existing shared crosswalk.
Green bicycle stenciling will be painted on the beachway to reinforce that only bikes are allowed on it.
A permeable sidewalk will be constructed at an angle connecting the Stearns Wharf sidewalk to Cabrillo Boulevard’s sidewalk, so that pedestrians don’t damage the Chase Palm Park grass, and the concrete will have a perpendicular path connecting to the restroom in the area.
“The challenge for us now is particularly around the wharf area, when there are too many pedestrians walking with the bike riders. It’s a really big conflict,” Rob Dayton, the city’s transportation planning and parking manager, told the News-Press. “This project is to better separate pedestrians and bikes from each other — particularly the tourist crowd — so that we eliminate safety problems.”
The project is a Vision Zero Project, part of Santa Barbara’s goal to eliminate any and all severe injuries and fatalities by 2030. It involves new signage, additional bicycle racks for beach goers and landscape improvements, including removing two concrete connections between the skate park’s perimeter sidewalk and replacing the beachway with turf.
A wrought iron rail will separate the sidewalk and the beachway, matching existing rail and further defining the paths’ separation.
The beachway was installed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, according to Mr. Dayton, and it was installed because there were too many pedestrians and cyclists competing for space on the sidewalk adjacent to Cabrillo Boulevard. However, when a resident of Santa Barbara got a grant from the state to build a bike path, all the pedestrians started using the bike path because it was closer to the water.
“It (the beachway) is actually narrower than the sidewalk,” Mr. Dayton said.
He added that it’s been difficult to actually track how many reports have been made about collisions or problems in the area because the beachway isn’t on the street. Mr. Dayton said some visitors report issues to the Santa Barbara Police Department, some report them to the Parks and Recreation Department and some even report to California Highway Patrol.
“But we have a lot of anecdotal evidence of people getting hurt, particularly on the days where tourist activity in that area is the strongest,” he said, adding that cyclists are more likely to be injured from collisions as they try to swerve out of the way or stop abruptly for pedestrians. “The main purpose for this is that bicycles and pedestrians don’t mix well, and create unsafe situations.”
The project is anticipated to be complete in early February, and once it’s finished, the city hopes pedestrians will stick to the sidewalk so that only cyclists will be able to use the bike path in the sand.