The precursor to the AS BIKES committee was the Bicycle Coalition at UCSB, founded in January 1998. It was started by countywide nonprofit Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition members Robert Bernstein, Alan Bergquist and Ralph Fertig who approached the University in Fall 1997. Their action was spurred by the University’s spending $100,000 on two trams for those who park cars in outlying lots. The questions in their minds were whether that money could be more-effectively spent elsewhere, and whether a stronger voice for the school’s 14,000 bicyclists was needed.
With help from the University’s Dennis Whelan, Melinda Norris, and the Associated Students organization, a room was procured for a meeting of Bicycle Coalition members and any interested UCSB faculty, staff and students.
That first meeting, held on January 22, 1998, was facilitated by the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition. It was publicized with flyers around campus, articles in the Nexus and Santa Barbara News-Press, and email messages. Forty-seven people showed up; there were 21 staff members, 18 students, 2 faculty, and 6 non-University people.
A statement from the Bicycle Coalition established the reasoning behind the meeting: “UCSB has the largest concentration of bicyclists in the County. The University, for all its prestige, has neglected to perceive the value of this healthy, sustainable, non-polluting means of travel. It has structured its transportation system so most encouragement and funding goes to motor vehicle users who pollute our air, squander our non-renewable resources, and occupy acres of paved land with their empty machines. We feel that time has come to rethink priorities and choose future-looking choices. This is up to us all to do.”
Meeting participants were enthusiastic. An acting president, graduate student Jim Dalton, was selected, along with David Lawson as secretary and faculty sponsor Bill Powell. A survey of bicyclist priorities at the first meeting showed that most important to participants was new and better maintained bikepaths. It was followed by better and more bike racks, promotion of bicycling, a campus bicycle coordinator position, bike lockers, and safer pedestrian crossings. The Bicycle Coalition at UCSB was registered with the Office of Student Life. During Spring 1998, committees were formed, an email list and web site were created, bicycle facility funding sources were identified, a Bike Day event was held at Storke Plaza, and their proposed student lock-in fee for improving bicycle facilities was approved.
An open letter that spring from the Coalition stated, “We, the members of the Bicycle Coalition at UCSB, hereby assert that the current UCSB bicycle system is seriously inadequate. There currently exist a number of hazards, inefficiencies, and problems with the UCSB bicycle system.” It went on to enumerate problem areas that include inadequate path maintenance, lack of bike parking in key areas, incomplete bikeway segments, insufficient commuter incentives, and unsafe crossings with pedestrian, cars, and other bicyclists.
Picture source: https://calbike.org/ralphfertig/