Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Apr 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Ruling The Streets

news2West Cliff Drive will become car-free for the first Santa Cruz Open Streets

In 2011, Santa Cruz resident Eleanor Mendoza crafted and sent an insightful, handwritten letter to the Santa Cruz City Council for a class assignment. In the letter, the then-9-year-old implored our elected officials to take a closer look at bicycle-related issues in town.

“I was the only one who wrote a letter to our mayor,” says Mendoza, mentioning her strong interest in working in governmental policy. 

Among her recommendations for pro-bicycling modifications, Mendoza suggested in her letter that the city consider occasionally closing West Cliff Drive to cars to allow for an area where cyclists and pedestrians could roam free from the dangers of vehicle traffic.

“Last year I lived in Mexico City,” she wrote in the letter, “where every Sunday the mayor shut down several miles of beautiful streets to traffic, and opened them up to bikes. If you would consider doing this on West Cliff Drive, I believe that it might encourage more people to ride bikes.”

Another Santa Cruz resident, Saskia Lucas, had been cooking up a similar idea when she caught wind of Mendoza’s letter. As a former staffer of Ecology Action’s Sustainable Transportation Division and the founder of Bike Smart! Youth Bicycle Safety Education Program, Lucas also happened to be a former neighbor of the Mendoza family. The two say they were thrilled to learn about one another’s interest in the project.

“I wasn’t sure what exactly it would take to close the road temporarily,” Lucas says, “but I think people want more places to recreate locally in a traffic-free environment.” When she surveyed West Cliff residents about their openness to the event, her intuition was validated. “Initially, city staff was really concerned about neighbor push-back,” she explains. “I ended up going door to door on West Cliff Drive with a volunteer from the local cycling club to poll residents on their support of the idea. Much to everyone's surprise, the people we spoke with were nearly all supportive.”

Through persistently seeking out local committees, officials, and community groups, she says she eventually gained approval for the event from city staff. The next step was pulling together individuals, organizations, and nonprofits that could help get it off the ground. Together with Mendoza’s dedication to helping with the project and a $10,000 grant from a private “angel” funder, Lucas says the first Santa Cruz Open Streets was born.

The event will take place on Sunday, Oct. 7, when West Cliff Drive will be closed to cars from Natural Bridges State Beach to Lighthouse Field from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For those few precious hours, community members will have free reign to walk, bike, and peruse booths provided by local merchants.

In creating SCOS, Lucas looked to a more proximate example than Mendoza did—Sunday Streets in San Francisco, in which routes throughout different areas of the city are opened up to cyclists once a month. “I decided to start this new event because I thought it would be a great thing for our town,” says Lucas. “I am inspired by the way cities can promote healthy and sustainable living by creating parks out of streets.”

But both Mendoza and Lucas say that various bicycle safety concerns will have to be addressed locally before people truly pick up the habit. In Mendoza’s letter to the city council, she wrote that the present situation for cyclists in Santa Cruz “proves very dangerous,” and that she is fearful that injuries or even deaths could result from unsafe bike routes across town. 

Lucas says that safety concerns are the No. 1 reason she hears from people as to why they don’t bike more. “For people to want to leave their cars at home, they need ways to bike that are safer, but many times that's also going to take some of the space that is currently used by cars,” she says.

The tension between bikes and cars isn’t anything new in Santa Cruz. Despite the popularity of bike transport in the area, several initiatives for improved bike safety and accessibility, like the city’s long time plan to create the Arana Gulch trail—a bike path connecting Broadway and Brommer Street—have yet to become a reality.

Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane says that the city will continue to contribute substantial amounts of their transportation budget to more bicycle infrastructure. “In general, promoting bike safety is important for two reasons: lots of our local cyclists are kids and we need to take good care of those kids,” says Lane. “And, more and more folks are using bikes as a primary mode of transportation. We need to ensure safety for cyclists to continue the growth in bike use.”

Following the recent installment of the San Lorenzo River bike and pedestrian bridge, Lane says the next project will be the completion of the paved multi-use trails in Arana Gulch, which were finally approved (with some conditions) by the Coastal Commission in December 2011. Construction is set to begin this coming spring.

The New York Times recently published an article titled “Commuters Pedal to Work on Their Very Own Superhighway,” in which they explore Copenhagen’s progress with greatly reducing carbon emissions in the city by providing safe cycling highways for its residents. Frommer’s travel guide has also dubbed Berlin, Paris, London, Rome, Munich, and Amsterdam as exceptional cities for biking. In 2009, Travel + Leisure Magazine reported that Portland, Ore. was one of the only cities in the United States that was up to a gold standard of bike-friendliness (taking a lead over Boulder, Colo. and Washington, D.C.).

So what will it take for Santa Cruz to measure up? After addressing bicycle safety, Lucas says days designated to bicycling—like Bike to Work and Bike to School Days on Thursday, Oct. 4, and SCOS on Oct. 7—are a step in the right direction.

“The overwhelming support and excitement that the event is generating—even as a first-time event—tells you that Santa Cruz is hungry for this,” says Lucas. 


For more information, visit http://www.scopenstreets.org  or http://www.openstreetsproject.org

Comments (7)Add Comment
...
written by Jennifer Astone, October 04, 2012
Hi Eleanor,
Congrats on your successful civic engagement and making Santa Cruz a more bike friendly place! I love that you took inspiration from Mexico, we have so much to learn from our neighbors in other countries.

I am sorry to miss this year's event but look forward to future events!!!
From an admiring SC Montessori family,
Jen Astone
...
written by Amy Geller, October 04, 2012
Eleanor, as a new family to both the Santa Cruz area and Santa Cruz Montessori, I am so inspired by your passion and accomplishment to see this wonderful event come to pass! I look forward to meeting you and having my daughter have such a fantastic role model at her new school! I hope Sunday is all you envisioned.
...
written by David Van Brink, October 04, 2012
I look forward to this Sunday, and I hope it is successful!
I'm a big fan of cars, and a big fan of places where there are no cars.
...
written by Angela Farley, October 03, 2012
Good work! I look forward to cycling with the family on West Cliff this weekend. Thank you Eleanor and Saskia!
...
written by GraceDaMoose, October 03, 2012
Hi. Hi. Hi.
See ya in Sunday.
Maybe.
Cha-ching!
...
written by Karen Jean Kefauver, October 03, 2012
Join Santa Cruz Open Streets on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SantaCruzOpenStreets
...
written by SharonNYC, October 03, 2012
What an eloquent young lady Ms. Mendoza is. Congrats on your accomplishment!!

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Panel Discussion

After 39 years in business, the owner of Santa Cruz’s Atlantis Fantasyworld looks back at how comics have evolved

 

Passion Week, Eclipse, Full Moon, Aries Festival, Passover and Easter

We have entered a most important week of multiple festivals. Three ages and religious festivals—stages for humanity’s development—are occurring simultaneously. Aries (Age of Laws), Pisces (Age of Faith), and Aquarian (Age of Science and Humanity); Jewish, Christian/Catholic and Esoteric teachings. The first of the three Spring Festivals occurs Saturday along with the full moon, a total lunar eclipse (something in form and matter has come to an end, its usefulness completed). It’s also Passover, celebrating the passage from the Taurus to the Aries Age, symbolized by the Hebrew people’s walk of 40 years from Egypt through the Sinai Desert to Canaan (land of milk and honey), culminating with Moses receiving the 10 Commandments—laws that directed humanity through the Aries Age. Passover celebrates their safe passage out of Egypt, “the Angel passing over the Jewish homes, safeguarding their first born.” The Aries Festival (first of three Spring Festivals—Aries, Taurus, Gemini) celebrates the love of God. Accompanying the Aries light (light of life itself) are the forces of restoration (restoring humanity’s hope) and the spirit of resurrection (uplifting humanity in need of new education, resources, direction and guidance). Guidance to be given by the New Group of World Servers. Saturday’s solar Aries festival (at the full moon lunar eclipse) is celebrated by the New Group of World Servers worldwide. Join us everyone. Sunday is Easter, celebrated by humanity worldwide. The three religious festivals arriving simultaneously signal that the coming new world religion is at hand, a synthesis and integration of all religions. We stand with our brothers and sisters everywhere in celebration. We see what is no longer needed—that which created separations between us—disappear. We stand forward together in the new light, with the spirit of resurrection directing us. Hosanna!

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Let’s Get Wrecked

Unsung ’60s musicians score in pop doc ‘The Wrecking Crew’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wheat Will Rock You

Companion Bakeshop scores again with Ryan Roseman’s harvest

 

What’s the best/worst April Fools’ Day prank you’ve ever heard?

This girl in my seventh grade class convinced our entire Christian school that she had cancer. Everybody started praying for her and stopped all the classes. At the end of the day she let everybody know it was an April Fools’ joke. Zach Scotton, Santa Cruz, Retail Manager

 

Odonata Wines

Easter is coming up this weekend, the perfect excuse to treat yourself and your loved ones to a little bit of bubbly with Easter brunch—and a special bubbly at that.

 

Ella’s at the Airport

Tiffany Ella King on her new fine dining restaurant in Watsonville