Avid cyclist and cycling advocate confident Broadway-Brommer will prevail

Charles Dixon and Santa Cruz is an avid cyclist and cycling advocate who favors having a straight and safe connector between the city and mid-county. But the project that would do that, called the Broadway-Brommer Bike Path, is held up in an appellate court. Yesterday’s blog featured Jean Brocklebank and the Friends of Arana Gulch, a group that’s participating in a lawsuit to stop the $4.2 million project that also would create a series of trails in Arana Gulch from moving forward. A court date has yet to be set. But Street Smarts has been hearing arguments for and against the project. And what I’ve found is that both Dixon and Brocklebank cite environmental concerns for taking the stance they do. Here’s Dixon’s take on the project. Street Smarts: Why is the proposed path important to Santa Cruz, Live Oak and Capitola? Dixon: By providing the first safe, direct, convenient bike route from Capitola and Live Oak to Santa Cruz it will in perpetuity encourage the timid, hurried, reluctant mainstream to get out of their cars and onto their bikes, decreasing traffic, and lessening carbon emissions into the environment. It will provide the city’s citizens and handicapped improved access to the park. SS: The Friends of the Arana Gulch say the project would destroy the federally protected protected tar plant. You say otherwise, why? CD: The bike path has been designed by the city to avoid any existing tar plant areas. Not a single existing tar plant would be harmed in the building of the bike path, and in fact, the bike path would not even come close to any tar plant. The city has legally committed, in the environmental impact report of this project, to provide planned trails that avoid the tar plant, to close existing trails that impact the tar plant, to enforce that closing, and to provide the kind of careful mowing and management of the tar plant that give it the chance to expand rather than shrink in area. If the bike path is not built, none of those things are a legal obligation of the city. If the bike path is built, all those pro-tar plant actions become legal obligations of the city and get funded first -- bottom line. If the bike path is built, the tar plant will be better off. If the bike path is not built, the tar plant will continue its slow decline. SS: How would the path impact pollution areas in the area? CD: Local air pollution will be reduced because less people will be driving their cars. SS: How would it impact bike-pedestrian safety? CD: The existing routes are dangerous and circuitous. Both the Soquel Avenue route and Yacht Harbor route are busy with traffic. Both routes into Santa Cruz include sections without bike lanes that are so narrow that they instruct cyclists to take the lane. Those routes are Soquel Avenue between Branciforte and Ocean inbound, and East Cliff between Murray and Jessie, the portion down the hill right next to the river. Bicycles taking a lane is dangerous and stressful for the cyclist, and aggravating for the motorist. There was one bicycle fatality at Jessie and East Cliff last year. Calling the route through Frederick Street Park a "bike" route is ridiculous because it includes a staircase with 46 steps. Completion of the multiuse path would give bikes the only safe, convenient, direct route between Live Oak and Santa Cruz. SS: Why is it so important to the disabled to have access to this area? CD: This would be the only greenbelt of four that would include access for them. SS: What does the first court ruling, which sided with the city, signify? Are you confident a second ruling will support the proposed project? CD: In November 2007, Justice Paul Burdick, ruled decisively in favor of the city, the Arana Gulch Master Plan and the bike path. In his written decision, he refuted every point raised by those attempting to stop the project. Further, the judge’s decision had been written with a level of thoroughness and care that suggested he anticipated that the bike path opponents would appeal. We are, therefore, confident that his decision will be upheld.
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3 Responses to Avid cyclist and cycling advocate confident Broadway-Brommer will prevail

  1. Fritz says:

    Taking the lane can be stressful to the cyclist and annoying to the motorist, but it is *not* dangerous. Lucian Gregg’s fatality on E. Cliff last year was likely because he wasn’t equipped with brakes and had nothing at all to do with how dangerous the route is.

    That written, a more direct route between Santa Cruz and Capitola would be nice. Motorists have Hwy 1, but cyclists get to wind all around.

  2. Michael Lewis says:

    There is no evidence to support the self-serving claim that the Broadway-Brommer project would attract motorists from their cars, other than those who drive to Arana Gulch for a recreational bike ride.

    Furthermore, the handicapped access would attract even more motorists to Arana Gulch.

    A short, switch-back, paved path between major automobile thoroughfares is no safer than the streets themselves.

    I am an avid cyclist and cycling advocate with 35 years daily bicycle commuting experience who opposes development of Arana Gulch Greenbelt for bicycling convenience.

  3. Jean Brocklebank says:

    Thanks to Street Smarts for providing this forum to clarify some misconceptions about Arana Gulch, endangered species, Federal and State laws, and the Broadway-Brommer Bicycle-Pedestrian Project.

    I would like to counter Mr. Dixon’s remarks from March 10th with the following:

    The less than 1/4 mile project planned through Arana Gulch is not “a straight connector between the city and mid-county.” Neither is it “direct,” unless one lives on Brommer Street or Broadway Street. Everyone else is going to have to come from somewhere else to get to Arana Gulch. True, for some commuters, the project would shave 90 seconds each way. Is this convenience important enough to disturb Hagemann and Arana Creeks and develop the smallest greenbelt in the City? What kind of lesson do we teach our children when we demand such convenience at the demise of undeveloped open space and undisturbed waterways?

    There is currently plenty of access to the Arana Gulch Greenbelt (and, no, it is not a “park,” although the City wants to have it designated as such). One can approach it from the north, off Agnes Street or from the south via the Harbor, either from Frederick Street Park or Brommer Street. Lots of choices.

    For years, bicycle advocates worked diligently to get the City to develop the Soquel Avenue bike lane project, to provide a safe route that would help “get motorists out of their cars.” Has this happened? With that finished project and the Capitola Road intersection reconfiguration, Soquel Avenue is now much safer for both bicyclists and pedestrians. I use it frequently. I also see just as much vehicular traffic, with the exception of last year’s $4/gallon gasoline days. Maybe higher priced gasoline (with tax dollars coming back to the City & County to support our bus system) would “get more motorists out of their cars” than a recreational paved route through a greenbelt.

    The entire greenbelt is “critical habitat” ( a legal designation) for the tarplant. That means the tarplant can, given a chance, occur anywhere. It is not something that the City grows in patches like daisies in our home gardens. The coastal prairie meadow is a unique system, evolved over thousands of years before Santa Cruzans were here. It is part of a remnant (less than 2% remaining) of such soils systems left in California, in the U.S., in the world.

    Tarplant individuals are ephemeral. They come and they go each year, in different locations, depending on conditions (and management). True they have appeared in generalized areas of the greenbelt recently (as compared to over thousands of years), but their habitat remains mostly whole now. It is not as simple as finding a plant and re-routing the paved bike route around it. That is not science-based management for an endangered species in critical habitat. “Critical” means something. And the bike project would cover, for as long as it remained, the soils of the tarplant’s critical habitat; it would diminish the remaining Statewide less than 2% of remaining tarplant habitat. Question: can’t we be content with destroying 98% of a species home? Must we always have more? When do we stop? How much is enough for us?

    To say that “if the bike path is not built,” none of the legal obligations of the city to manage for tarplant would exist is flatly wrong. The City is currently obligated by its own Interim Tarplant Management Plan to provide for its protection. It is also mandated by both the State and Federal Endagnered Species Acts. The bike project does not save the tarplant or its critical habitat.

    Some day we will have fewer cars on the streets, more bicyclists, pedestrians, and buses, maybe even some horse drawn trolley cars. Let us wait a while and let Arana Gulch breath, just for itself. We will all benefit.

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