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No room for Segways on West Cliff path, reader says
Dear Street Smarts, Q: I read your column weekly and felt compelled to comment on the Segway situation. A recent article in the Sentinel featured a story on the newly established Segway Santa Cruz. As a frequent user of the West Cliff shared path I find the addition of the Segway to be a urban hazard. The path is already crowded with runners, walkers, baby strollers and cyclists. By adding one more wheeled contingent to this thoroughfare, the city is asking for disaster. It is already challenging enough as a runner or walker to keep from being hit from behind by cyclists as users of the path ignore walking to the right side of the path and force the rest of us to walk around them. Imagine Segways in this mix, often ridden by tourists and others with little experience. I understand the city supports this new business as it brings in additional revenue. However, if the City is concerned about overall safety on the West Cliff path they either need to install striping – Santa Barbara has done this – to encourage people to stay to the right or remove the Segways entirely. And if Segway Santa Cruz is serious about offering eco-tours at state parks such as Wilder and Henry Cowell, I guarantee you there will be hell to pay. I don't see how the Segway fits into the current right- of- way equation of cyclists, hikers and horses who frequent our park trails. Where do the rest of us go when Segways are allowed on our dirt trails? Thanks for hearing me out. Debbie Melnikoff via email A: First, Segways are pedestrians, no different than electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Regarding your concerns about overcrowding on the West Cliff Drive path, “There are standardized capacity analysis tools for intersections and street segments,” said Chris Schneiter, assistant director of the city's public works department, “but I’m not aware of any standardized ones for pedestrian and bike facilities. There are times when all transportation facilities are at or beyond capacity locally – often during our peak tourist season. There are significant space and financial constraints to accommodating all the users of the transportation system, especially with the peaking factors of a beach and university community.” As much as possible, the city adjusts and improves “the system to maximize the use of the space and provide a balance between users,” he said. Knowing that the trail is popular, the city tried to widen the path, Schneiter said. But the effort was shot down. “Some time ago, we attempted to get a coastal permit to widen the West Cliff path and narrow the street,” he explained. “This project met opposition from a neighborhood group and our coastal permit was denied.” With the grant funding for that proposed project funneled to other approved projects, the city has since “done some minor widening” along the path “as isolated projects have allowed,” said Schneiter.