December 6, 2011
County supervisors today slammed bicyclists for carving out an us vs. them narrative when it comes to a Blanco Road bike lane connecting Marina to Salinas, after the farmers and riders who formed a working group aimed at reaching a compromise failed to come to consensus.
Regardless of stakeholders' standing disagreement, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to proceed with the $200,000 project, which involves widening white stripes along shoulders from 4 to 6 inches and posting signage.
Supervisor Lou Calcagno cast the dissenting vote, and said in part he was driven by public testimony of cyclists who blamed farmers for dangerous road conditions like debris and mud, and even threatened to sue farmers for cleanup. "If I had any intention of supporting it, this makes me reconsider," Calcagno said. "To hear those kinds of accusations, I wasn’t happy."
Cyclists met with growers who farm property adjacent to Blanco Road, and worry that a bike lane could encourage more cyclists, and hence more litigation, if bikers skid onto their property, get sick and blame pesticide drift, or are injured by wide ag vehicles.
The group, convened by Public Works at the Supes' direction, couldn't come to consensus even with a proposal to consider Blanco as a temporary solution while the county works toward improving Reservation Road over the next few years.
Public Works can now proceed with a $200,000 CalTrans grant—which the county would've had to return if it weren't applied toward this project. Calcagno argued the project won't accomplish as much as a bigger, more expensive project could. "Let’s invest some money and really make it right, not just Mickey Mouse it," Calcagno said. "We’re not really making it safer for you, or anyone...For $200,000, you’re really not getting much for your money."
Supervisor Dave Potter said his vote was simply in favor of improving safety: “I prefer a safer roadway,” he said.
Calcagno also criticized the bike lane plan for deviating from a long-held commitment to landowners and farmers to avoid changes to arteries ag vehicles depend on. The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the project in 2009, when it appeared on the consent agenda; the item was not pulled for public discussion.