San Luis Obispo was one of 190 cities in the country to receive the Bicycle Friendly status out of the nearly 500 that applied, said San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx. The award was earned in part because of San Luis Obispo’s commitment to healthy activities like bicycling, Marx said.
“It’s a community-held value to live a healthy lifestyle and promote alternative transportation of all kinds,” Marx said.
Cities that apply for the Bicycle Friendly Community status have a chance of receiving a Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze Level award, each designating a different level of bike accessibility.
Cities that receive Bicycle Friendly statuses can renew the award every four years.
San Luis Obispo was awarded Silver because of plans to create 31 new miles of bike paths, as well as planned renovations on city streets to improve bike lanes.
The new bike paths include the recently completed route from Cal Poly to California Avenue and Foothill Boulevard, which was specifically designed with Cal Poly students in mind, Marx said.
“The goal is for Cal Poly students to get from California to downtown without having to deal with car traffic,” Marx said.
The path will eventually reach downtown, and plans are in the works to build it all the way to Avila Beach, creating a city-to-the-sea bike route, Marx said.
The city is also working to improve bicycle safety on roads, such as the intersection at Johnson Avenue and San Luis Drive, which was redone over the summer.
The intersection was dangerous for both bicyclists and motorist, Marx said, because of a narrow underpass that forced cars to drive very close to bicycle traffic. The city repaved the road and adjusted the lanes to create more room for bicycles and the move has been an improvement, Marx said.
“This is an experiment and, so far, it’s working pretty well, but we’re watching it pretty close,” Marx said.
Marx said she hopes the Silver Level status will help San Luis Obispo to continue making positive changes for bike safety, she said. The award is both recognition of the city’s effort to improve bike friendliness, and a chance to draw more attention and funding for bike routes, Marx said.
“Any little bit of recognition helps the momentum toward becoming more and more bicycle friendly,” Marx said.
Cal Poly students who choose to bike instead of drive agree with the League of American bicyclists that San Luis Obispo is a bike-friendly town. Biking around the city is sometimes much better than driving, social sciences junior Taylor Romine said.
“It’s sometimes even more convenient to ride downtown than parking,” Romine said. “And you can avoid traffic.”
Romine said he rides his bike to school every day, and often rides downtown with friends to grab a bite to eat, as well as riding his bike the first Thursday of each month at Bike Night after Farmers’ Market.
Romine is not the only Cal Poly student who prefers bicycles to cars.
Business administration sophomore Nic Johnson said he rides his bike “every day to school, downtown, to get groceries, pretty much everywhere.”
Johnson doesn’t own a car, opting instead to get around town on his own steam. Bicycling has multiple benefits, Johnson said.
“You can either pay for gas for your car and get fat, or not pay for gas and get healthy,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he sometimes has trouble getting places because of roads that are too narrow for bicycle traffic, such as Johnson Avenue and other underpasses, but friendly drivers help keep the streets safe.
“For the most part, it’s not bad at all because every town has those skinny roads that you just can’t make wider,” Johnson said. “For the most part, it’s an awesome bike town.”