By Karen Kefauver
November 20, 2015
Link to Sentinel Article
The green markings on the road designate cycling lanes and were a factor in winning the gold award.Richard Masoner — Contributed
When I moved to Santa Cruz 22 years ago, an important factor in my decision was that I could easily ride my bike around the city and its outskirts. I was already a frequent bicycle commuter when I arrived, but my passion for cycling increased through the years thanks to Santa Cruz’s beautiful, well-maintained mountain bike trails and its safe streets with well-marked bike lanes.
My involvement with cycling deepened as I met people who chose careers in alternative transportation and community members who volunteered hundreds of hours on bicycle-related causes. I am happy to see their efforts acknowledged nationally with this week’s announcement that the City of Santa Cruz won the Bicycle Friendly Community Gold Award.
The team of Amelia Conlen, Rick Hyman, Grace Voss and Sonia Leclerc spearheaded the effort, along with other volunteers and city staff, that resulted in the City of Santa Cruz winning the Bicycle Friendly Community Gold Award from the League of American Bicyclists.Bike Santa Cruz County — Contributed
Presented by the League of American Bicyclists, a national advocacy group, the award recognizes the city’s commitment to cycling for both transportation and recreation. It’s the first time the city has reached the gold level; only 24 cities in the country received this award.
“I think the gold designation is exciting because it just keeps us on target,” said Santa Cruz mayor Don Lane, who is a frequent bicycle commuter. “We’ve been working consistently over many years to improve our bicycling facilities. This reminds us we are making progress and reminds us of the importance of making bicycling more appealing and safer.”
Lane believes the whole city, not just cyclists, can be proud of this award.
“It’s part of our work toward reducing our energy use and carbon footprint. And the more cyclists there are, the fewer cars there are to compete with. Everyone can celebrate that progress.”
Bike Santa Cruz County director Amelia Conlen agrees on the positive impact.
“It make parents feel safe to send their kids to school, to go to the grocery store or on a short trip to work. It takes cars off the road. As Santa Cruz continues to grow we need to invest in alternative options besides driving. This matters to everyone, not just cyclists.”
Conlen was amongst a team of five, including consultant Sonia Leclerc, Grace Voss of the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club, Rick Hyman, a long-time member of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission’s bicycle committee and Ariana Green, a transportation planner at the Transportation Agency for Monterey County.
The awards are based on the league’s “5 E’s.” Those are engineering: creating safe and convenient places to ride and park; education: giving people of all ages and abilities the skills and confidence to ride, encouragement: creating a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling; enforcement: ensuring safe roads for all users; and evaluation: planning safe bicycling.
The League awards ratings in bronze, silver, gold and platinum and this is the first time it has captured the gold. In 2008, the city earned a silver placing — each award designation lasts for four years.
“It’s amazing to set a goal and have it be accomplished,” Conlen said. “A combination of things helped us earn the gold: Arana Gulch, which was the culmination of many years of work, green bike lanes, which signify willingness to try new things, and the Rail Trail in the works, a premier example of a safe, separated bike lane. This feels like recognition of a lot of awesome things that have happened.
“Next up for Santa Cruz is the platinum award.”
If You Go
Gold Celebration Ride
What: City Council presentation, bike ride, reception
When: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Santa Cruz City Hall
Contact: Bike Santa Cruz County, 831-425-0665