One unexpected effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a surge in walking and biking. Bike shops are selling out of bikes locally and across the country, and more people are walking and biking in their neighborhoods than before. My daily walk has become a crucial way to unwind from the 9-5 workday spent at home, and bike rides on the weekends provide much-needed nature time and the joys of the outside world.
For some of us, this increased time spent outside leads to thoughts about what makes some places great for walking and biking and other places not so great. My neighbor, a new mom who walks daily during nap time, now knows all of the spots in our neighborhood where the sidewalk is broken, disappears, or is too narrow for a stroller. The paths in Arana Gulch are bustling, and so are the low car-traffic roadways in the Harbor. I also hear that the West Cliff Drive path and the East Cliff Esplanade are packed with people walking, biking, and enjoying the ocean views. There is a reason that people flock to these places. The experience of walking on a path separated from traffic is very different than walking along a busy street with a narrow sidewalk and no street trees. Biking on a path separated from traffic is very different from biking on a busy street with a bike lane, or even worse, a busy street with no bike lane.
All of this is to say that infrastructure matters. Our streets were designed primarily to move cars, and it has been a gradual shift to adapt that infrastructure to be more inclusive of other forms of travel. Over the past several decades, the County of Santa Cruz and local cities have taken steps to build sidewalks, stripe bike lanes, and construct shared-use paths like the East Cliff Esplanade that are getting so much use today.
Now, the County of Santa Cruz is looking ahead to the next set of projects to make walking and biking safer, easier, and more enjoyable. This fall, the County will start work on an Active Transportation Plan that will update the County’s 2011 Bicycle Plan and provide a roadmap for future improvements for walking and bicycling in unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County.
So, now is the time to share everything you’ve noticed on your daily walks and bike rides ̶ the good, the bad, and your ideas for the future. If you live, work, or play in Santa Cruz County,* click here please visit and use the interactive map to tell us about places that are great for walking and biking and places that could use improvement. Your input is critical to the Active Transportation planning process and can help us work toward more infrastructure that makes walking and biking a safe and comfortable way to get around our county.
*The Active Transportation Plan covers unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz County and does not include the cities of Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Capitola, or Watsonville. The Plan will focus on the more urbanized areas of the county, including Davenport, Live Oak, Aptos, Rio Del Mar, La Selva Beach, Amesti, and Interlaken.