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Lompoc to look at extending bike path network, promoting city as cycling destination
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Lompoc to look at extending bike path network, promoting city as cycling destination

Promoting Lompoc as a destination for cycling tourism and finding ways to connect the city’s network of bike paths with other popular Lompoc Valley locales — such as Surf Beach — were among updates made to a Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan approved this month by the Lompoc City Council.

The governing body voted 5-0 on June 3 to approve the new plan, which sought to assess the existing cycling and pedestrian networks, identify community needs and prioritize future improvements.

Several local stakeholders — such as Lompoc Unified School District and the Healthy Lompoc Coalition — were involved in the development of the plan, which also took into account results from community surveys.

By approving the plan, which serves as an update to the city’s 2008 Bicycle Transportation Plan, the City Council ensured that the city will be eligible for future grant funding that it otherwise would not have.

The 88-page document, which is available online at https://www.cityoflompoc.com/home/showdocument?id=29173, also will help city staff plan for and prioritize projects as the city updates and implements its 2030 General Plan.

Some of the projects described in the plan, which is nonbinding and does not guarantee that any project will be pursued, have been discussed or suggested by various community groups going back several years.

One of the proposals is for the city to explore having a bridge constructed for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the Santa Ynez River on Highway 246 east of the city limits. Currently, the Robinson Bridge, which is for vehicular traffic, has no shoulders for cyclists or pedestrians, which creates a dangerous situation for those walking or biking to the Bridgehouse Shelter or River Park.

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A cyclist rides on Ocean Avenue overlooking Ocean Beach Park on Tuesday. Lompoc officials will explore extending the city's bike network all the way to Surf Beach.

The plan also calls for additions to the city’s current bike network, which has 5.6 miles of paved off-street paths, 20.4 miles of on-street bike lanes and 2.1 miles of shared-use bike routes.

One of those additions would connect the city with Surf Beach, which is about 8 miles west of the city, and another would connect Hancock College’s Lompoc Valley Center with Vandenberg Village, which is about 2 miles north of the campus.

City staff is expected to further assess the viability of those proposals. Those that are deemed beneficial to the city could then be added to the 2030 General Plan and potentially move forward from there.

Although many stakeholders expressed support for the plan, not everyone was on board.

Robert Petty, a 42-year Lompoc resident and past president of the Lompoc Valley Bicycle Club, submitted a letter to the city on May 22, during an 11-day public review period, in which he took issue with several aspects of the plan and its development process.

Petty wrote he would have liked a longer review period and suggested that the city didn’t do enough outreach to solicit input from the community.

The plan notes that the city received 468 responses to its 20-question community survey that was made available last year. That total accounts for about 1% of Lompoc’s population.

Petty said he felt that small sample size was “from a statistical point of view, almost useless.”

“And so many important decisions in this plan are based on these exceedingly small numbers,” he wrote.

Among the statistical findings from the surveys that were included within the plan were that nearly 53% of respondents said the major reason they don’t walk more frequently in Lompoc was because of concerns about personal security or safety, while nearly 45% of respondents said that was the major reason they don’t bike more in the city.

When asked which destinations need the most improvements to make walking safer, 33% of respondents listed schools, while 26% listed parks and 22% listed shopping centers. The results were similar when asked about improving bike safety, with 32% listing schools, 26% citing shopping centers and 24% noting parks.

The plan lists 88 projects, ranging in complexity, for improving bike and pedestrian trails, as well as the closest school to each project. Many of the projects involve infilling sidewalks and adding flashing beacons in crosswalks to improve safety around campuses.

The plan also suggests adding more bike repair stations throughout the city’s bicycle network and using the bike trails to increase cycling tourism with targeted promotional materials, similar to the way the city promotes its wine industry.

The overall estimated cost for all the projects is $46.6 million. That includes nearly $33 million in improvements to bike paths and lanes.

The cost of developing the plan was almost entirely covered by Transportation Development Act grant funds from the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, or SBCAG. Those grant funds were set to expire at the end of June, which is why the city moved to have the plan approved before then.

Michael Becker, SBCAG’s director of planning, submitted a letter to the city on May 21 in which he expressed support for the plan.

“SBCAG values the benefits of a safe, convenient, and complete pedestrian and bicycle transportation system in all areas within the Santa Barbara County region,” read a portion of his letter.

“This plan aligns with SBCAG’s Regional Active Transportation Plan (2015) with a vision for improving the bicycle and pedestrian network countywide," it concluded. "SBCAG supports efforts of the city of Lompoc to adopt and implement its Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, which will improve transportation for the community.”

A resource page developed by the city regarding the plan can be accessed at https://www.cityoflompoc.com/government/departments/public-works/pedestrian-and-bicycle-master-plan.

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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