In the early morning hours of Aug. 28, anonymous San Luis Obispo bike advocates secretly installed temporary barriers on three city bike lanes, in a demonstration designed to highlight the lack of protected bikeways in SLO.
Demonstrators placed dozens of plungers wrapped in reflective tape along busy stretches of South Higuera Street, Johnson Avenue, and Chorro Street to delineate car and bike lanes.
- Courtesy Photo
- TOPPLED Demonstrators' temporary bike lane barriers lie in a pile on Aug. 28. After SLO bike advocates installed plungers as lane delineators on three busy streets, cars hit and destroyed many of them, according to participants.
The purpose of the "guerrilla" demonstration—done on the two-year anniversary of the death of Kennedy Love, a Cal Poly student killed on his bike by a drunk driver—was to pressure city leaders to make more rapid improvements to SLO's bike facilities, one organizer said.
"As the infrastructure is currently laid out, many people don't feel safe getting on their bikes to do a simple commute or run an errand," said the organizer, who asked to be anonymous because the demonstration was not city-sanctioned.
Within an hour of the barriers going up on Aug. 28, cars had "decimated" many of the plungers, which were taped to the street, he said.
"We did not think these plungers would stand a chance against a car, just as we do not think paint on the ground will protect a cyclist," he said. "Without the city installing some significant protections, it is only a matter of time before we see a cyclist crippled on the ground like these plungers."
In response to the demonstration, SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon told New Times she supported the protest as long as it didn't jeopardize safety. She said she's in favor of improving the city's bike infrastructure, but that barriers include high costs and neighborhood opposition.
"I am 100 percent on board with their vision for what they want to see in SLO," Harmon said. "I would encourage them to keep it up."
SLO's recent efforts at developing protected bike lanes have proven costly and time consuming. In 2018, after multiple years of discussion, the city approved plans for a protected bikeway that will connect downtown with Foothill Boulevard. It faced intense opposition from neighborhoods and will cost $2 million.
Bike advocates say protecting the city's bike lanes doesn't have to be so difficult.
"We don't always have to do the gold standard," the organizer said. "We just want the city to quickly protect cyclists through temporary and cheap materials, as many other cities have done successfully." Δ