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Arana Path Would Connect More Than Streets

By Micah Posner

WITH bicycle commuters featured in both Sierra Magazine and The New York Times, if seems that we have finally come to a consensus that more bicycling is good for human health, for reducing traffic congestion and for the environment. The question is, how do to encourage people to use bikes more, especially for the short trips that comprise so much of our transportation? (More than a third of all car trips are under three miles.)

According to a variety of public surveys, the answer lies in providing opportunities to bike or walk without having to deal with the noise and potential danger of cars. While the city of Santa Cruz provides much opportunity for this kind of transportation, one wishing to ride between Santa Cruz and the rest of the county is faced with navigating one of two narrow bike lanes alongside busy thoroughfares—Soquel or Murray Streets. The city and county of Santa Cruz want to solve this impediment by providing a connection between two quiet suburban streets with bike lanes—Broadway and Brommer), through a pretty open space area owned by the city, known as the Arana Gulch. After at least 15 years of discussion, the last hurdle for approval of the project lies with the California Coastal Commission, which will approve the project (or not) at a morning meeting on Thursday, March 11, on the 5th Floor of the County Building, 809 Ocean St. The project has spawned a long and interesting discussion of priorities within the environmental movement. People Power contends that effecting a positive change in human culture is more important than an absolutist approach to land-preservation. Others, many of whom live next to the open space, have the opposite position.

As someone who has started visiting the open space in the last decade, I think that more people could enjoy Arana without ruining it. A local example of what it would look like is the bike path on the Great Meadow at UCSC. While the asphalt path is certainly not a positive for the meadow's ecology, it provides a medium for hundreds of people each day to interact with natural geography in a mostly harmless way. Would it be better to close the path and send those people driving (or riding if they were sufficiently determined) around the perimeter roads? What about the hard-to-quantify effect on human culture of hundreds of people each day learning to connect with gravity and wind as part of their commute?

Like people who don't want the path, I am sad about causing any more harm to a natural place. I am, however, willing to take responsibility for the damage as part of a larger responsibility for the world's climate and the culture that is endangering it. (Cars are the single biggest cause of global warming in both Santa Cruz and the state of California.) Bicycling and walking to Arana and everywhere else has helped me to maintain a sense of connection to nature that is challenging in our modern society. My hope is that more people will be able to experience this connection as part of their daily lives. The Arana Gulch path will connect Santa Cruz to Live Oak. It will also connect us to the planet we live on, and that's why it deserves your support.

Micah Posner is the director of People Power, which has been advocating for better bike lanes and paths, including the one between Broadway and Brommer, since 1989.

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