Maybe it’s the approaching change of seasons. Maybe it’s the reality of a national obesity epidemic. Whatever the reasons, Solvang seems to have embarked on a health kick.

First, the city has applied for a state grant for funds to be used to create a new bicycle trail. Second, having just recently learned of the city getting an “F” grade from the American Lung Association, the City Council asked staff to look into writing tougher tobacco rules.

The tobacco/smoking issue has been simmering for a while, despite the city generally adhering to the state’s requirements with regard to smoking in public.

Among the potential new policies discussed at a recent City Council meeting were creation of designated smoking areas in public places, receptacles for cigarettes and putting up more prominent no-smoking notices around town.

The council meeting was a member short during the discussion — Neill Zimmerman missed the event — but the others generally displayed favorable inclinations toward toughening smoking rules.

Totally outlawing smoking seems unlikely, in that the habit is, in most cases, legal. But council members seem to be fully aware that smokers aren’t the only ones at risk from cigarette smoke. Second-hand smoke is a threat to health on so many levels, the most serious of which involve the fact that smoke and slipstream smoke contain a litany of cancer-causing chemicals and additives.

Still, a full ban on public smoking seems unlikely. Smokers could help their cause by being more aware of the non-smokers around them.

A good way to kick the smoking addiction is to take up a healthy habit — such as bicycling, which is where the city’s application for grant money comes into play.

City officials conducted an alignment study this past spring with public outreach and a workshop on the proposed Sunny Fields Spur Bike Trail, which would connect the existing bike trail along Highway 246 to Sunny Fields Park and the bike lanes along Alamo Pintado Road. That project carries a price tag of $2.8 million.

That’s a big chunk of the city’s budget, thus the application for a grant of nearly $2.2 million through the state’s Active Transportation Program, which is being funding via the state’s gas tax.

City officials probably won’t hear back from the state until early next year. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt for city officials to start beating the bushes in an effort to stir up interest for local biking enthusiasts, many of whom may have good suggestions on how to raise the necessary funds‚ in case the city’s application for the state money is denied.

You can find out how to get involved by contacting Matt van der Linden, city engineer and public works director, at 805-688-5575, or at mattv@cityofsolvang.com.

One way or another, improving local bike lanes is a good idea, and not just because Solvang has been a pass-through and stop-over place for the annual Amgen Tour of California.

Not all Valley residents are big fans of the Amgen race, in large part because it can be, and admittedly is disruptive. But it’s a big deal when the race comes through town, or Solvang is a host city, and it means a lot to local bicyclists and business owners.

Like it or not, the Santa Ynez Valley is a bicyclist’s paradise — except for narrow roads with little or no escape room for bike/car coexistence. New bike lanes won’t change that completely, but it will help riders stay out of harm’s way when out for a leisurely trek.

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