By Carrie Abel
Santa Cruz City officials are reaching out to the bicycle-riding community by drafting plans to renovate King Street for safer biking.
Plans for the King Street project are just getting started, and there are many issues to address in the process. According to Cheryl Schmitt, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the city of Santa Cruz, the planning committee will look at commercial corridors, residential neighborhoods and the city’s different traffic patterns.
“We are updating the bike transportation plan this year,” Schmitt said. “We will be looking at city-wide bike plans.”
However, the city has not made any conclusive decisions yet. “It is going to be a community conversation,” Schmitt added.
Potential renovations include adding bike lanes, lowering the speed limit, or diverting traffic. There are a few ideas being worked on.
“If we were to put bike lanes on King Street we would have to eliminate parking on one side [of the street],” Schmitt said. An alternative to bike lanes is making King Street into a bike boulevard, though this might result in diverting motor traffic onto Mission Street.
Daisy Austin, a resident of Rigg Street, a side street that intersects King, said that Rigg Street could also get more traffic with a bike boulevard on King.
But traffic wasn’t her main concern. “The issue is safety, not how loud it’s going to be,” Austin said, and added that King Street is already a safety hazard for bikers. “[King Street] gets really busy, so there is nowhere to ride but in the car lane and cars may not see you.”
Although the King Street renovation would give cyclists a safer alternative to Mission Street, Jon Sapp, a fourth-year student and member of the campus Bike Co-op, said that there are other issues that need to be addressed. He believes bikers should pay closer attention to their own safety.
“If there’s one thing [that should change], it’s ticketing more people for not wearing their lights,” Sapp said, adding that he has been chased down while riding his bike by local drivers. “Santa Cruz is a fairly biker-friendly town, if you know which streets to use.”
Sapp noted that the King Street project is not the first that Santa Cruz County has undergone. “The Rails to Trails program has been going on for years,” Sapp said.
The project has yet to be completed, but Sapp explained that, if finished, it would be a highly used trail as well as a great recourse for cyclists. The Rails to Trails program proposes creating a bike path that runs along the train tracks from Watsonville to Felton, which crosses through Santa Cruz. However, the City of Santa Cruz is not in charge of Rails to Trails; it is what Schmitt called a “regional project.”
All other projects aside, news about the King Street proposal is getting out, and many are ready for work to begin. “I wish they would make [King Street] into a bike-friendly street,” Austin said. “It is definitely not.”