Why we support the Modoc Path
As mentioned above, the Modoc Multi-Use Path will serve as a critical and long-planned link in the Santa Barbara County cycling/pedestrian infrastructure by connecting two existing paths, the Obern and Modoc/Positas path, ultimately providing a safe, unbroken route by which to travel to downtown SB without a car from Goleta/UCSB.
The Modoc path project also provides funding for a signalized crosswalk near the eastern end of the Modoc Open Space. This would enable children living in the area to cross the traffic of Modoc Rd and to utilize the path (instead of the incomplete/nonexistent sidewalks) to access Vieja Valley Elementary School on the southwestern edge of the Modoc Open Space.
Creating an ADA-compliant path in the Modoc Open Space not only allows everyone greater access to the beautiful natural space but also increases community equability by enabling all ages and abilities (young children on their way to school, commuters on their way to work, the elderly, families with strollers, etc.), to make use of shared public infrastructure and appreciate nature while doing so.
Check out our video with George Chapman and Dav Badger to hear paraplegic cyclists' point of view on why the Modoc Path is a needed improvement to Santa Barbara's cycling infrastructure.
The Modoc Multi-Use Path will improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians by separating and protecting them from the 45+ mph traffic on Modoc Rd where there are currently unprotected bike lanes and incomplete sidewalks.
The safety gains to be had here are tremendous; data published by the National Traffic Safety Board shows that a collision between a pedestrian and a car at 40 mph is 80% likely to be fatal.
Left to make their way along the shoulder, cyclists are likewise at risk on Modoc Rd. There have been 10 crashes involving cars and bicyclists on Modoc Rd in the last 11 years. These are avoidable with a protected, separated bike path like the proposed Modoc Multi-Use Path.
Myriad case studies demonstrate the public safety advantages of separated bike lanes. For instance, following the installation of new protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania avenue in Washington DC, 90% of users say they feel safer. This makes sense, especially considering the research conducted by the American Federal Highway Administration in 2021, which found that separated bike lanes can reduce crashes up to 30% for total crashes on urban 2-lane undivided collectors and local roads. Similarly, In 2019 a 13-year study of a dozen cities found that protected bike lanes led to a drastic decline in fatalities for all users of the road. The researchers who conducted the study found that cities with protected and separated bike lanes had 44 percent fewer deaths and 50 percent fewer injuries than the average city.
The result of a collision between a car and a commuting bicyclist on Modoc Rd on November 9, 2022. The biker was turning left onto the Obern trail from the northern side of Modoc Rd and was struck by a car.
The funding provided for the Modoc Path includes the opportunity to perform native plant restoration and to remove non-native trees along the path, an explicit goal of the Modoc Preserve Conservation Easement. Likewise, according to the unanimously-approved Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) performed as a succinct environmental impact review for the project, if the preliminary planned path location were to be executed, removed coast live oak trees would be replanted in greater numbers. Opponents of the path have frequently stated that they are concerned about the loss of a greenbelt as a result of the Modoc Path's construction, but the mitigation performed during construction will in fact leave the Modoc Open Space with more trees and native plants than it started with.
Additionally, several of the eucalyptus trees identified for removal in the preliminary planned path location ("Alignment B") are actively afflicted with shelf fungus (see photos). Shelf fungi are a major wood rotting group. Once a tree is infected, the fungus cannot be killed and the tree is at risk of falling and spreading spores to nearby trees.
Further, since Eucalyptus trees grow so tall (far taller than Native California Oaks), they are often topped (see photos)- i.e. they're chopped shorter to avoid growing so tall that they could damage a nearby house in the event of a fall. Topping trees is not only bad for the health of the trees themselves, but also dangerous for passerby/neighbors.
Removing infected and/or topped trees during construction of the path therefore makes room for the Multi-Use Path while also achieving preventative maintenance.
In addition to the fire risks imposed by their high flammability, non-native trees like eucalyptus can use so much groundwater that they dry out wetlands, kill and crowd out other trees and plants, and require constant maintenance. Aging eucalyptus trees like those currently in the Modoc Open Space also pose dangers of falling. The oak trees that would replace removed trees during the path construction are comparatively quick-growing, and both native and fire resistant.
Short and simple: the Modoc Multi-Use Path would increase safe and equitable access to sustainable forms of transportation; walking, cycling, rollerblading, etc. Investing in non-car-based public infrastructure is critical if we are to reach Santa Barbara's Vision Zero goals.
In California, 40% of emissions come from transportation, and automobile dependency is a major factor in California’s climate goal shortcomings. Conversely, cyclists have 84% lower carbon emissions from all daily travel compared to non-cyclists, and studies find that swapping the car for walking, cycling and e-biking even just one day a week makes a significant impact on personal carbon emissions.
Other cities that have added safe, separated bike paths have demonstrably reduced car trips. For instance, in the city of Davis, which extended separated bike paths from its UC campus to the rest of the city, fully 20% of commutes are made by bike. Another example: 38% of people biking on Sherbourne Street in Toronto switched to biking after Sherbourne got a protected bike lane. Of those, 24% switched from driving. A third statistic for good measure: according to a study that analyzed protected bike lanes in five cities across the US, the average protected bike lane sees bike counts increase 75% in its first year alone.
Opponents of the Multi-Use Path have repeatedly cited the climate crisis as a reason that the Multi-Use Path shouldn't be built, claiming that that building a multi-use path in the Modoc Open Space would ruin the space for generations to come and somehow increase carbon emissions. At the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, we would like to point out that building the Modoc path would enable a far greater number of people to transport themselves throughout the county by means other than car, thereby offering the opportunity to decrease overall carbon emissions. Likewise, removal of any trees or greenspace will be counteracted by application of much-needed native habitat restoration.
The Modoc Path project can help to further the objectives of the existing Modoc Conservation Easement, including:
Providing equitable, controlled public access to the Modoc Easement Area for the greater community
With the Water Company’s initiative and the Land Trust’s assistance, completing a Succession/Master Plan for the Modoc Easement Area that dovetails the Modoc MultiUse Path with the current and projected needs of the Easement Area itself and its wide variety of users
Creating opportunities to enhance the Modoc Easement Area by installing interpretative stations, removing adjacent unsafe and diseased trees while expanding native plant restoration areas and improving stormwater filtration and infiltration
Read the original 1999 Conservation Easement HERE.
Read our letter to the three decision-making organizations about how the Modoc Path can fulfill the Easement goals HERE.