Shoreline Park Expansion Project: Provision of Bicycle and Pedestrian Enhancements
Santa Barbara, California
Drusilla van Hengel, PhD, now with Nelson/Nygaard.
Four lanes separated by a median provided excess vehicle capacity. Space was needed for bicyclists and pedestrians.
A segment of Shoreline Drive, designed and constructed as a California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) facility, provided excess vehicle capacity that was atypical of a Santa Barbara street. Furthermore, the five-foot sidewalk was inadequate for the thousands of pedestrians using this coastal connection between residential neighborhoods, Leadbetter Beach Park, and the Santa Barbara Waterfront. Pedestrians commonly stepped into the street or onto the coastal bluff to avoid one another on the sidewalk. Finally, bicyclists riding the existing bike path which terminated to the east of the project were frequently observed riding on the sidewalk or riding the wrong way on the street.
This project's goals reflected goals from the Local Coastal Plan, the Shoreline Master Plan, and the Circulation Element of Santa Barbara's General Plan to reduce the speed on the roadway and improve the transition for pedestrians and bicyclists between Shoreline Park and Leadbetter Beach Park.
This roadway segment, with no intersections or driveways, carried an average of 8,600 vehicles per day (ADT). The existing two-lane portion of Shoreline Drive contiguous with the project area carried slightly less traffic (8,400 ADT) and operated at a Level of Service (LOS) B for motorized traffic during peak times with no roadway link delays, with the exception of the occasional left-turning vehicle. The project section of the roadway was expected to operate at the same LOS B or better because there were no left-turn opportunities in the project section of the roadway.
A road diet created an off-road space for bicyclists and pedestrians to connect to an ocean-front park with a marina and shopping district.
No changes were proposed to entering lane configurations at any intersections connected to the project. Therefore, the LOS at Shoreline Drive's intersections with Loma Alta Drive and La Marina Drive, which operated at LOS A and B respectively during the afternoon peak weekday hours and weekends, were not expected to change.
The new section of the roadway was anticipated to operate at slower speeds that were safer for all road users. At two lanes in each direction, the project section of the roadway had a maximum speed limit of 35 mi/h. However, 85th percentile speeds were 37 mi/h eastbound and 40 mi/h westbound. Because the roadway was wide and invited speeding, speed spiking occurred above 50 mi/h.
Two lanes on one side of the original median were converted to a two-way off-road bikeway and a sidewalk for pedestrians.
The primary objective of the project was to provide increased capacity for pedestrians and bicycles. Therefore, alternatives to the project also had to meet this objective. Because of public demands to retain the roadway's capacity while still improving the pedestrian facility, two alternatives were considered that would have allowed the existing four-lane roadway to remain: widening the existing sidewalk and constructing a Class I bike path to the south (toward the ocean); and constructing a new, wide sidewalk and Class I bike path on the north side of the existing roadway (toward the coastal bluff). In California, a Class I bicycle facility is completely separated from traffic.
The first alternative (sidewalk widening and a Class I bike path to the south) was determined to be infeasible because of coastal resource and environmental impacts. The existing sidewalk runs along a coastal bluff and cliff with drop-off varying from 15 to 45 feet. Below the cliff lies the beach and the Pacific Ocean. Staff of the California Coastal Commission stated that construction of retaining walls on the beach to widen the sidewalk and construct a Class I bike path would not receive staff support and most likely would be rejected by the Coastal Commission.
The second alternative was to construct a new sidewalk on the north side of Shoreline Drive. Although the cost would be significantly higher than the proposed project, an eight-foot sidewalk could be constructed in this location. However, there was inadequate width for a bike path without extensive retaining walls. A coastal bluff about 40 feet high lines the north side of Shoreline Drive, within the project area. Beyond the bluff are privately-owned residences and three condominium complexes. The city's experience with other sidewalks that are across the street from the beach is that they are less desirable to the public compared to beachside walkways. Therefore, the city did not pursue this alternative.
In spring 2004, the City of Santa Barbara modified and improved this half-mile, four-lane section of Shoreline Drive by providing pedestrian enhancements and bicycle facilities, as well as landscaping that allows pedestrians to enjoy the ocean while separated from motor vehicles. The excess road capacity on the ocean side of the existing median was converted to meet the demand placed on the segment by pedestrians and bicyclists. Both directions of mixed-flow motor vehicle traffic now travel on the north side of the existing median as a two-lane road with an uphill bike lane in the westbound direction. The existing eastbound travel lanes, with a tremendous ocean view, were converted to an 11-foot bikeway, a 15-foot buffer strip, and an expanded 10.5-foot pedestrian promenade. A midblock crosswalk connects to a small segment of sidewalk on the north side of Shoreline Drive.
Evaluation and Results
Two obvious safety benefits of the project are the elimination of wrong-way bicycle riding on the street and increased capacity for pedestrians. A worn path adjacent to the widened sidewalk on the new turf indicates that many pedestrians are using the grass for walking or jogging as well. Finally, since the project eliminated the opportunity to pass slower cars, motorists driving at excess speeds are forced to slow down when trailing other motorists driving at or below the speed limit, which results in lower overall traffic speeds.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Although early planning and engineering design efforts were difficult because of the lack of public support for change in the area, especially the lane reduction, overall public response to this project has been favorable since its opening. In addition to the increased capacity for bicyclists and pedestrians, the lane reduction lowered vehicle speeds, which may allow the city to reduce the speed limit in this area.
Costs and Funding
This project was funded through the Coastal Resources Enhancement Fund, the California Resources Agency, Federal surface transportation funds, and the City of Santa Barbara.
City of Santa Barbara, Public Works