Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sidewalks jump in SB

I’m recommending we raise money in Santa Barbara for a new Museum of Government Goofs. There could be various areas in the museum, but the one I most want to fund is the Transportation Wing, located right off the roundabout hub in the center rotunda, next to the Unfulfilled Promises gallery, the children’s What Were They Thinking?! interactive area, and the Sidewalk to Nowhere exhibit.

The first installation for the ‘Nowhere’ area will be photos from the Carrillo Street Sidewalk Improvement Project which I have watched unfold over the past five months. This museum-quality work caught my eye for several reasons.
First, living on the Mesa, I traverse between Cliff Drive and Chapala no less than twenty times a week. Intrigued by the City’s obvious concern for cyclists and pedestrians, I’ve enjoyed watching the city expend a few hundred thousand dollars to connect the Mesa neighborhood, home of Santa Barbara City College, to the ‘new’ downtown.
The only problem is nobody uses it. And how could they?
A dear friend of mine who is wheelchair dependent, howled with laughter when I told him they’d completed the new sidewalk connector. While reminding me that next month is the eighteenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said the thought of sidewalk access to downtown was wonderful, though he pointed out a few challenges in its construction.
Now, to the defense and credit of the City Public Works department, whose employees are friendly, open and helpful, it isn’t their fault that projects are scheduled by leaders in bits and pieces, and funded in fits and starts. With the latest Carrillo Hill Sidewalk Improvement project, crews and contractors have trimmed trees, graded lands, built retaining walls, and installed curbs, gutters and drains; they’ve paved, irrigated and landscaped; and finally, poured the sidewalks.
Alas, as this improvement project comes to a close, we’re no more likely to be able to safely walk, bike or use a wheelchair than we were back in 1997, when the now defunct ‘Quick Release’ bicycle coalition announced the upcoming construction of eight foot bike lanes on Carrillo Hill, or in 2005, when the General Plan Update promised to “construct all missing sidewalk links on Carrillo between San Andreas and Cliff.”
For my friend with disabilities and even those without, the current state of the sidewalks gives ‘access’ a rather tortured definition.
Starting at Cliff Drive, we take Carrillo (though it’s really Meigs Road for a short segment, though it was Shoreline before it was Meigs… But I digress) toward downtown. We have sidewalks past Red Rose and Delores on both sides, although there are no curb cuts, so the wheelchair is already out. Then at Ricardo, the concrete pathway continues on the right side of the street, but ends on the left. And, unfortunately, the short palm trees growing into the sidewalk area from the brilliant planting cutouts along the wall, along with tall weeds and grasses, whack you on the leg as you pass.
At Island View, the sidewalk picks up again, and continues on the right side to La Coronilla (with curb cuts this time). On the left, at Kenwood, the brand new ‘Improvement Project’ stands out with its lovely little trees and grasses, and ribbon of new concrete with perfect curb cuts. Watch out for those three large holes along the edge of the new sidewalk, however, without any safety cones to designate the danger.
Continuing on our tour, at Miramonte the sidewalk on the right ends, then starts again at Del Pueblo- though just for fun, there’s a buckle in the sidewalk on the left high enough for a skateboarder to catch some serious air, say nothing of a wheelchair. Then , screech…both the left and right sidewalk suddenly end at Chino; but start again at Figueroa, down to San Andreas, but with questionable curb cuts and in serious need of repair.
There are a myriad of MTD stops, though few if any, have bump-outs to allow the buses to pull clear of those wonderful bicycle lanes. Once you’re off the bus, you’d better stay on your side of the street, because at no place along this traverse of patchwork sidewalks is there a single marked crosswalk for pedestrians or MTD riders.
Actually, that may be a good thing, because to make this trek even more exciting, the grade on Carrillo is sufficient enough (8-10%) for the Transportation department to place yellow warning signs indicating entry into a slalom of downhill turns and nosebleed elevations. I just dare a pedestrian to attempt to get from one side of the aborted sidewalk to the other without being popped like a bowling pin.
So, this completes our tour of the current ‘gateway access’ to downtown, and rates in my book as museum quality. Our new tourist destination would be nicely situated atop the Carrillo peak; white stucco walls with red tile roof, of course, and a horizontal blue line around its exterior as a reminder of a previous little governmental goof. Guests could amuse themselves on the decks by watching bicyclists avoid buses, pedestrians zig-zag across the busy roadway, runners stroke out on the slope, and wheelchairs struggle not to flip over as one segment ends and another begins.
But we already have such a museum at De La Guerra Plaza.


Greg Knowles said...

Thanks for this trip down Carrillo. Now going back up I'm truly puzzled why they didn't widen the bike path at Mountain. Are cyclists supposed to use the new sidewalk and bother the pedestrians. That section is so tight for a bike rider if a car is coming up the hill and someone is turning left coming down the hill. Any way thanks for the update!

sdp said...

I live on Mountain, and I love the new sidewalk to nowhere because it completes my circle walking route up, over and around the Mesa with the baby stroller. If the sidewalk went all the way down to Lazy Acres it would be great, but I have to cross the road halfway down. Drivers do not slow down for pedestrians at all along here. They drive it like they do on the 154!

Anonymous said...

It's a work in progress lady. What's your beef with the City? Could you not pass the civil service test? Smells like sour grapes to me...