Campus Beat Reporter
After years of increasing Isla Vista street traffic difficulties, University of California, Santa Barbara Associated Students Senators and community members discussed solutions to safety issues at Wednesday’s senate meeting in the University Center’s Flying A Room.
In an attempt to mitigate widespread unease among senators and the greater student body, Gina Fisher of Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann’s office, officials from the Santa Barbara County Office of Public Works, and officers from Isla Vista Foot Patrol and Santa Barbara County Highway Patrol outlined the detailed plan behind the proposed traffic stoplight at Pardall and Embarcadero Del Norte.
Officials are hopeful that the $300,000 stoplight, which will be funded equally by UCSB and Santa Barbara County, will better accommodate all modes of traffic. At the meeting, they reported that approximately 1,500 cyclists an hour pass through the intersection.
According to Public Works official Scott McGolpin, who began working with the Santa Barbara Office of Public Works in 1988, the stoplight is the culmination of decades of debate and was in many ways a last-resort decision.
“Bike traffic has been an issue with this intersection since they first installed the two way stop in 1974,” said McGolpin. “Our ultimate goal now is to try and get some gaps in the bicycle flow to allow vehicles and bicycles to make that movement. I think we’ve achieved it with the design that’s currently on the table.”
County officials and community members initially considered installing a four-way stop or roundabout to better control traffic flow, but both options proved problematic.
“Though it would have been the cheapest option, bikes don’t tend to stop for stop signs,” said a county traffic engineer at Wednesday’s meeting regarding the four-way stop. “And ultimately, we didn’t feel it would be the safest alternative.”
County officials deemed a roundabout similarly ineffective, as the already compact intersection would not be able to accommodate larger truck and vehicle traffic.
Senior Deputy James McKarrell from IVFP ensured students that bike traffic enforcement would follow a three-step process: education, warning, and citations.
“It’s important to remember that bicycles are also considered vehicles by California law,” said McKarrell, who admitted that officers were fairly lenient on bike violations throughout Isla Vista. According to him, officers will continue to educate students on proper bike safety laws and simultaneously issue warnings during the first weeks after the stoplight’s implementation. Citation enforcement, said McKarrell, is necessary to ensure the safety of all parties involved.
When several student senators expressed concern that a stoplight will increase congestion along Pardall, public works officials suggested that timing for peak traffic hours — early morning and ten minute passing periods between classes — can be tweaked accordingly to give privilege to university bound bike traffic.
Following Wednesday’s meeting, College of Letters and Science Senator Alex Giolito still felt unsatisfied with the answers given by all parties.
“Lots of questions asked, very little answers given,” said Giolito in a Facebook post on a dedicated Facebook page to stop construction of the stoplight. “I don’t think that the County understands how dangerous this stoplight has the potential to be.”
The history of traffic congestion at the Pardall and Embarcadero Del Norte intersection goes back as early as 1974 when the two-way stop signs were first introduced. In 1993, the owners of Freebirds noticed an increase in traffic, and put up funds to install the “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” signs for traffic on both sides of Embarcadero Del Norte.
In 1998 and again in 2001, the Isla Vista Foot Patrol advocated for the implementation of a four way stop but eventually opted against it. According to Joan Hartmann’s staff representative Gina Fisher, the community conversation and planning behind the stoplight has been ongoing for the past several years.
Students were encouraged to continue conversations at weekly district supervisor meetings held every Tuesday.