For the first time since the early 1990s, Santa Maria is updating its Bikeway Master Plan - a blueprint for additional bicycle transportation and recreation facilities in the city.

The plan describes improvements to Santa Maria's bikeway network, such as support facilities and an expansion of more than 130 miles of new bike trails.

Brian Halvorson, Community Development Department planner, said the 1992 plan is "very functional" and was key in the development of several bike trails throughout the city, including the 3.2-mile Santa Maria Levee trail.

However, the document has not been updated with street and highway code standard revisions from Caltrans. Additionally, the city has been unable to apply for funding from state, federal and local sources because of the lack of an update, Halvorson said.

The update is a "huge upgrade" to the existing bicycle network, Halvorson said. The new plan promotes bicycle riding in the city while serving as a starting point for future developments and setting new guidelines and standards, he said. The plan is good for about 20 years, he added.

"We're almost doubling all the types of bike paths, " Halvorson said.

A city Planning Commission review Wednesday was continued until the next regularly scheduled meeting due to several late letters commenting on the plan. Friday was the deadline for written comments. The letters were not part of the meeting packet for planning panel members and staff did not have time to prepare responses, said Kathleen Wilson, Planning Commission recording secretary. The item is scheduled to return to the commission at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 4 in City Council Chambers, 110 E. Cook St.

Approval of the plan is scheduled for the Nov. 17 City Council meeting at the same time and place as the planning meeting. If approved, it would become effective in 30 days.

The bike plan will be incorporated into the municipal Circulation Element - one of seven required elements of the city's General Plan.

David Beas, Public Works Department engineer, said the update is funded by a $55,000 regional state transportation enhancement grant.

The new plan calls for 139 new miles of proposed bike facilities - 59 miles of bike paths, 64 miles of bike lanes and 16 miles of bike routes. Total cost of the new system is estimated at $62 million. Annual maintenance costs for the new bikeways are estimated at $260,000 a year. The plan also calls for promotion and marketing of riding a bike to work or school.

There are three types of bikeways: Class 1, a bike path separate from traffic lanes; Class 2, a bike lane with a separate striped lane on the street; Class 3, a bike route on the street with signs only and no lane markings. A Class 3 bike route is by far the cheapest at $5,000 per mile, according to cost estimates. Class 1 bike paths are $1 million per mile and Class 2 bike lanes are $35,000 per mile.

Among the recommended bikeway improvements are bike paths and lanes along active and inactive segments of Santa Maria Valley Railroad track.

Rob Himoto, president of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad Co., said his main concern is any type of public access that is close to active railroad tracks. SMVRR would prefer a complete separation between the two, Himoto said. The railroad is the busiest it has been in years, Himoto explained, and with that comes more freight traffic and increased car loads on its tracks.

Santa Barbara County Action Network, a local nonprofit group dedicated to public participation, also has concerns about the plan.

Deborah Brasket, SBCAN executive director, said she is most concerned with a recommendation for Class 3 routes along Broadway and Main Street - two of the city's most used thoroughfares by cyclists.

SBCAN would prefer Class 2 lanes and additional traffic calming measures to slow traffic on Broadway and Main Street, which are both state highways, she said.

According to the draft master plan, there were 154 total bike collisions with 126 injuries from 2009 to 2007. There was one fatality in that time period. Of the crashes, 53 were on Broadway and 24 were on Main Street. The plan cites a study reporting 60 percent of bike-vehicle collisions are the fault of the cyclist for not obeying traffic laws.

Also, SBCAN favors a new bicycle facility coordinator position and better maintenance of bike facilities, among others.

Overall, Brasket said the plan is a solid one.

Dr. Glenn Prezkop, a Santa Maria dentist and recreational cyclist, said he would be more likely to commute to work by bike if the city's network of bikeways was better connected to allow travel from one point to another, crosstown.

"This plan would go a long ways into putting Santa Maria in a pro-bicycle infrastructure that would promote a safe use of bicycles throughout the city," said Prezkop, a member of the Orcutt-based cycling club Cutters. "That kind of forward thinking is no longer forward, it's here in many other progressive and energy-conscious communities."

(1) comment

An Observer

Briefly, why go through the added cost of mixing bicycles with cars? Since they don't contribute to the tax base with license fees, designate different routes/areas for them to use. A 200lb bike and rider should not be playing dodge with 6000 lb automobiles.

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