After three years of fundraising, construction and waiting, San Luis Obispo bikers finally have their “missing link.”
Officially titled the Rotary Conner-Cletsoway Link of the Railroad Safety Trail, the 500-foot stretch of paved trail along California Boulevard now connects the bike trails of Cal Poly with those of San Luis Obispo.
“I love it,” local resident and bicyclist David Hunter said as he waited for the trail’s new, separate traffic light to display a green bicycle. “It’s got that new-trail feel, and it’s so much safer than riding in the street.”
The city hosted a ribbon-cutting event on Wednesday at the corner of Foothill and California boulevards.
Local residents and bikers attended the ceremony which included introductions from San Luis Obispo mayor Jan Marx, Public Works director Jay Walter and a representative of Union Pacific Railroad, whose tracks run alongside the trail, separated by a newly raised fence.
Although the trail has been finished and open for a few weeks, Marx said she wanted to wait until the Cal Poly students arrived to start the new school year for the official opening.
“We do everything we can to make this community as bike-friendly as possible,” Marx said. “We encourage both bicyclists and pedestrians.”
Even throughout the ribbon-cutting event, bicyclists and pedestrians passed through the ceremony, safely distanced from car traffic.
“When I asked around (in 2008), the number one goals were the bicycle community, the student community and the environmental groups,” Marx said. “Again and again, it came back to linking the two sections with this trail.”
Plans began in 2008 when the San Luis Obispo Rotary Club made the “missing link” its yearly project.
The Rotary Club raised $50,000 during the next two years, but more was needed. Marx and the city reached out to the neighborhood for donations, sending remittance envelopes and flyers to all residences within a half-mile of the trail.
Those residents donated an astonishing $35,000 in support of the trail.
Marx continued to call for support for the trail, even writing an article in The Tribune asking for donations.
Other sponsors of the trail included the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club, San Luis Obispo County Regional RideShare and Sierra Vista Regional Hospital, which employs a substantial amount of bike commuters.
With funding finally covered, ground broke in 2009.
The trail, open to bikes, skateboarders and pedestrians, is an improvement in safety thanks to its separation from car traffic.
The intersection where the ceremony was held was a priority for Marx, who noted that it was “the most dangerous corner in terms of bicycle-automobile contact in the entire city.”
“We had to make this intersection safer,” Marx said.
A couple of Cal Poly’s own, civil engineering senior Blake Caricato and communication studies sophomore Lydia Borowski, helped with the project as interns with the city of San Luis Obispo.
“We followed the engineers, and I loved watching the project come together,” Borowski said.
The students were tasked with notifying the media as well as covering some of the logistics.
“The bicycling community is very important to San Luis Obispo,” Caricato said. “The city is trying to reach out to them more and more, especially with (this trail) linking the city and Cal Poly together.”
The city hopes that the trail will encourage more people to travel by bike rather than car, which would reduce the carbon footprint of San Luis Obispo.
“We knew it was going to take community energy and community funding to get this done — and it did,” Marx said. “And we did get it done.”