New Times San Luis Obispo

SLO City Council balks at contentious bike project

Peter Johnson Feb 8, 2018 4:00 AM

San Luis Obispo City Council members gave the yellow light to a controversial neighborhood bikeway proposal—the Anholm Bikeway Plan—on Feb. 6, after scores of local residents showed up to express concerns about its impacts.

Designed to provide a safer throughway between Foothill Boulevard and downtown SLO and increase bike ridership in the city, the $1.4 million bikeway would send cyclists into a two-way protected "cycletrack" down Chorro and Broad streets, through the Anholm neighborhood.

File Photo By Kaori Funahashi
KICK THE CAN On Feb. 6, the SLO City Council delayed a decision on a two-way protected bike track on Chorro and Broad streets that would lead to the loss of 73 on-street parking spots.

After hours of public comment—and a blowup earlier in the day between Mayor Heidi Harmon and former Mayor Ken Schwartz after Schwartz blasted the project as "urban rape"—the City Council voted to move forward on some aspects of the plan while not pulling the trigger on the cycletrack, which would result in a heavy loss of on-street parking.

"In essence, what it does is it allows us to do the improvements that we can all agree upon and gives ourselves another year to monitor and see what's working," City Councilmember Andy Pease told New Times on Feb. 7. "I think we're still open to something bigger, but we're giving ourselves extra time to see what works first."

Per the council's direction, city staff will proceed with purchasing a right-of-way from the Church of Latter Day Saints on its property on Foothill, which will be the site of a bike and pedestrian path connecting Foothill with Ramona Drive. A protected bike path is then planned to connect Ramona Drive with Broad Street.

While the City Council continues to mull whether it wants a protected cycletrack down Broad and Chorro, the city will install signage and traffic calming measures on those streets. That work is supposed to be completed in 2019.

Community discussion around the Anholm Bikeway Plan has been passionate and often contentious. Tensions boiled over on Feb. 6 after former SLO Mayor Schwartz, in a letter published in The Tribune, called it "urban rape ... not to be performed by a male penis, but by thousands of inanimate bicycles ... ."

Mayor Harmon issued a press release later that afternoon condemning Schwartz's rhetoric and calling for more civil discourse.

"The tone and tenor of this discussion and other topics has been out of control," Harmon stated in an email. "It is especially shocking and disappointing to see a former mayor, who should know better, saying things like [that] ... . This is unacceptable in light of hearing more and more how real women and girls are actually being violently raped in this country every day."

Harmon added: "People need to be held accountable for this type of behavior when discussion moves away from civility and is rash, inappropriate, inflammatory, and downright disrespectful." Δ