Santa Cruz bike share program meets opposition on city’s Westside



SANTA CRUZ >> As Santa Cruz puts the final touches on launching its partnership for a citywide bike share program, the pending addition of dozens of electric bicycles to the city’s coastline paths has raised concerns among Westside neighborhood residents.

On Tuesday, the Santa Cruz City Council approved a second round of permits for its partner agency, bike share vendor Social Bicycles, to install some 27 hub stations for 250 bikes under the JUMP brand by May. The pay-per-use bicycles, which will be a visible orange in color, are priced for short-term trips at $2 for 30 minutes, then 7 cents per hour, compared to day-long rentals available at typical brick and mortar bike rental businesses, city officials have said.

Reed Searle, describing himself as among those who are “so bloody old that they can’t get out of the way of a bicycle,” said he has been walking West Cliff Drive for the past 30 years. He was among several speakers and numerous letter writers who asked the council to defer or outright scrap plans to place some of the bike stations on or near West Cliff Drive. One of the more hotly contested proposed bike rack locations, at Woodrow Avenue and West Cliff Drive, was not a part of Tuesday’s vote, due to an appeal set to go before the city Planning Commission in coming weeks.

“I’m not a cyclist anymore. But the amount of pedestrian and motorbikes, all different kinds of users of West Cliff Drive has exploded,” Searle told the council. “I cannot emphasize that a lot of us who are getting a little older no longer feel at all comfortable walking on West Cliff Drive on weekends, and pretty soon it’s going to be that way seven days a week.”

San Jose City College bike safety instructor and Westside resident Phil Crawford said he, too, objects to any West Cliff-area bike stations.

“The other three stations are right on West Cliff that are going to put 60 bikes right into that walkway with pet owners, people pushing baby carriages, skateboarders, roller bladers, bicyclers, pedestrians, runners — they’re all just going to get along wonderfully with 60 electrified bicycles running up and down there. And, no helmets,” Crawford said.

The bicycles will be electric eight-speed pedal-assist models with no throttle, meaning users have to pedal, but the bike provides an additional “boost,” city transportation planner Claire Fliesler told the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday afternoon. Bicycling and alternative transportation advocates spoke in support of drawing visitors to Santa Cruz’s assets, saying similar bike share programs have been successful elsewhere.

City Transportation Coordinator Amelia Conlen said she is not expecting to see many of the program’s users reaching the maximum 20 mph speed.

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