The Solvang City Council on Monday chose to postpone the Mission Drive bike lane project that would remove some or all of the parallel parking along the road and wait until the Santa Ynez Valley Bicycle Master Plan is completed.
During last year’s July 23 meeting, in a 3-2 decision, councilors voted to eliminate parking on the south side of Mission Drive from Nykobing Street to Pine Street and to consider adding bike lanes to both sides.
Because the decision was made after the budget was passed, Public Works Director Matt van der Linden said the city hired a consultant to do a preliminary cost estimate for the project.
He said the cost was much higher than anyone anticipated - $230,000 to remove 21 parallel parking spaces on the south side of Mission Drive or $173,000 to remove 57 parallel parking spaces on both sides of the street.
Van der Linden said the cost was higher to do only one side because it would require shifting the center line striping and reconstructing traffic signal loops.
“If you just eliminate parking on the south side of the street you have to shift the center line to the south to provide enough room between the center line for a travel lane, for a westbound travel lane and bike lane,” van der Linden said.
He also said there are a few locations along Mission Drive that aren’t wide enough to fit a standard bicycle lane, which could cause problems when submitting plans to the California Department of Transportation. Van der Linden said whenever cities deviate from Caltrans standards, it requires a design exception that is reviewed by a committee.
“For example, you have a 4 feet wide or a 3-and-a-half feet bike lane and the parking is there and someone opens their car door and the bicycle slams into the car door, the first thing the bicyclists’ attorney is going to do is look to see if everything was constructed and built according to Caltrans design standards. And if it wasn’t then there’s kind of an open door for a lawsuit,” van der Linden said.
He noted that Caltrans is risk averse.
“There’s the possibility we could do the engineering and submit to them and they wouldn’t approve the design exceptions,” van der Linden said.
Councilor Chris Djernaes asked if there had been any studies on how the bicycle lanes and bicyclists would impact the flow of traffic.
Van der Linden said the city hasn’t evaluated that.
“You have to keep in mind right now there already are bikes on 246,” said Mayor Ryan Toussaint.
“So you already have the problem, and you think this is going to solve that problem?” Djernaes asked.
“I’m just telling you that they already do go down 246 normally. So, they’re already there, they already have an impact,” Toussaint replied.
Solvang resident Ed Skytt said he felt the project should be postponed and the major concern should be the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.
Skytt said if the 16 diagonal spaces along the north side Mission Drive remained, cars would be backing out into a bicycle lane.
Resident Joan Jamieson also supported postponing the project.
“I want to see the big picture, I don’t want to piecemeal this and I think that’s what we’re doing at this point in time,” Jamieson said.
Councilor Karen Waite said the city should wait to see the Santa Ynez Valley Bicycle Master Plan.
“I am very much in favor of having bike lanes or paths, whatever would work. But I want to do it right, I don’t want to do it halfway,” Waite said.
Councilor Daniel Johnson asked why everything takes so long.
“I just feel like nothing’s going to ever get done if we keep having to wait for this many months to get these reports out,” Johnson said.
Van der Linden said, “a lot of times when you want to accomplish something, you have to do it incrementally.”
The public works director said City Council can wait until the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments comes up with a draft for the bicycle master plan, then it will be brought before the councilors for review and input.
“And if it meets your satisfaction you have the option of implementing the Solvang portion of the Santa Ynez Valley Bicycle Master Plan as the city’s bicycle master plan,” van der Linden said.
Djernaes moved to postpone the project. Councilor Robert Clarke seconded.
The motion passed unanimously.