The little feud between cyclists in Santa Cruz and the more mainstream environmentalists made the front page of the local paper on Christmas morning. Here’s a little background and my thoughts on the issues.
Arana Gulch is a small oval of open space next to the Santa Cruz Harbor. People Power Santa Cruz (the walk / bike advocacy group) and some cyclists have advocated for a bike trail across Arana Gulch a couple of decades, but the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club have consistently opposed this Broadway – Bromley Path, due primarily to the impact this trail would possibly have on the habitat of the nearly extinct Santa Cruz tar plant.
I personally have been on the fence on this project. The existing routes (Soquel Avenue and the Murray Street Bridge across the harbor) seem fine for bicycle transportation, but I only rarely bike east to Twin Lakes and Capitola. People I know and respect strongly support the Broadway – Bromley path and believe the path is a vital east-west link between Santa Cruz and Capitola.
Habitat preservation, however, is important to me as well, and other People Power members oppose the half mile Broadway-Bromley path, hence my vacillation on Arana Gulch.
The Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz have taken the lead in advocating for a bike trail along the eastern edge of of Santa Cruz Pogonip Park because there’s some sweet singletrack possibilities through there, but I personally think Pogonip could be a more important commuter link than Arana Gulch. I’ve described my reasons for this before, and to summarize:
- Pogonip can provide a good cycling link between San Lorenzo Valley, the University of California Santa Cruz and the city of Santa Cruz.
- Alternative routes are Highway 9 (curving mountain road with heavy traffic and no shoulders) or Graham Hill Road (ditto).
- The other cycling route — the “U-Conn” trail between Henry Cowell State Park trails and UC-Santa Cruz fire roads — is challenging even for fit, skilled cyclists.
- The Big Trees Railroad right of way was once the preferred cycling route for several people who commuted between Felton and Santa Cruz by bike. Biking on track ballast isn’t an ideal travel mode, but that option was removed in 2009 when Big Trees Railroad began enforcing their property rights. I know people who’ve given up cycling in favor of driving to work because of this removed access.
Santa Cruz Bicycles most recent blog post describes the Pogonip situation with a little more humor and profanity than me.
The Sierra Club election
Though the county has spent millions to widen and improve Highway 1 and Highway 17, the local Sierra Club chapter seems to spend an inordinate amount of time fighting bike projects that the local advocacy groups deem high priority. Some frustrated bike advocates put themselves on the Ventana Chapter ballot for this month’s board elections.
The cycling advocates running for the Ventana Chapter board are Tawn Kennedy, Greg McPheeters and Mary Odegaard. I know Greg personally, and the other two by reputation. They believe climate change is as important as habitat preservation, and changing transportation habits is as big a part of reducing the impact on the climate as development is. Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz and People Power represent very different groups of cyclists, but they agree on their endorsements of these candidates.