Monday, April 10, 2017
As a household rule, if the weather was above 10 degrees Fahrenheit, 13-year-old Frank Peters, the oldest of six kids, completed his paper route by bicycle. Five decades later, he can still recall those icy Massachusetts mornings, tossing copies of the Boston Globe onto the porches around the neighborhood and barely outpacing angry stray dogs. That he still carries a fondness for cycling is a testament to a personality that blends insight and intellect with a heavy dose of determination.
Peters continued to bike through his teens and early twenties. He attended UCLA graduate school, obtaining a master's degree in computer science “before websites were a thing.” Unfortunately, UCLA didn’t provide the same level of cycling innovation. The lack of safe routes in the area led him to put away his bike for what turned into a 35 year hiatus.
He spent the next several decades writing software for Wall Street, eventually founding his own company, putting in long hours, and hopping coast to coast until he sold the company in 1998.
After moving to Newport Beach, and with newfound free time, Peters got back on the bike and quickly developed a passion for cycling. “I was rediscovering everything about the bike. I became a zealot.”
But, he was once again discouraged by the lack of safe riding space and by negative interactions with drivers. “In all other aspects of my life I’m treated with respect, but you don’t know how you’ll be treated on a bike. When the mayor started the bike safety committee, I jumped on it.”
In addition to his work on the committee, he started a blog, and a bike podcast, which now has over 65 episodes. Still, progress was hard to come by. “It was really difficult to move the needle in Newport.”
When Peters and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon, he was impressed by how much support local cycling campaigns garnered. He was able to make substantial contributions to safety improvements. “Going to Portland was like getting an advanced degree in advocacy, they are so effective.” Seeing the possibilities helped solidify his goal, “My main mission in life now is to make roadways safer for cyclists.”
Having recently relocated to Santa Barbara, he hopes to use all of his past experience to contribute to the community. “I think Santa Barbara needs a bigger vision of how we might change our relationship with the automobile, and I hope to talk to people about that vision.”
He’s partnered with local officials and area businesses, creating CycleCalCoast.com to inspire greater bike tourism in the area. The website boasts beautiful photos and detailed ride descriptions. “The biggest message is that we are a worthy cycling destination. There are beautiful rides throughout the area, from the vineyards in Los Olivos to the beachfront rides in town.”
Peters also created SantaBarbaraCyclist.com, whose tagline reads, “A new vision of urban life where people matter more than motor vehicles.” He stresses that engineering is the key to restructuring our transportation to put people first, improve safety, and increase ridership.
There are several spots around town Peters would like to see changed. Topping the list is the Castillo underpass, which he has dubbed “the horror show,” due to its treacherous, uneven pavement, and standing water.
In addition to fixing the "hot spot" areas, he would love to see the creation of separated or protected bike lanes. “When we look at the research, the best practice is really to create a separation between cars and bikes.”
He thinks State Street would be an excellent place to start. “They’ve already removed parking on lower State, what’s stopping us from saying, ‘Hey, let’s send the cars down Anacapa or Chapala’? Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade is a great example of what can be done with a car-free space.”
Peters is continuing to expand the Cycle Cal Coast website, create new podcasts, and bike around town. There is much work to be done, but with political will, public support, and a lot of hard work, he is hoping Santa Barbara can become a premier cycling destination. With the help of determined advocates like him, the city has a very good chance.