With all the problems facing our world, nation, state and city, transportation reform may not be high on policy-makers’ list of obstacles to tackle. But safe and sustainable modes of transportation are intricately tied to environmental and economic vitality.

The entire community will benefit if the city of Santa Cruz devotes time and resources into expanding bike and walking paths, increasing the number of bicycle-carrying commuter vehicles, and sustainably reforming the city’s transportation system.

Such a reform plan would encourage individuals to bike or walk to work and school. This would result in decreased traffic, reduced carbon emissions and increased city livability — which means safer and quieter roads.

In 2004, the City Council created a plan to improve alternative modes of transportation, focusing specifically on bike mobility.

The City of Santa Cruz Bicycle Transportation Plan 2004 laid out a series of requirements and recommendations to “develop a safe, convenient and effective bikeway system that promotes bicycle travel as a viable transportation mode and connects work, shopping, schools, residential and recreation areas.”

Five years later, the city has made good on some of the plan’s promises, but could do much more.

While bike lanes have been added to several arterial roadways, many major streets, such as King Street, still have no bike lane. In October of 2001, the City Council voted against a bikeway connection of Broadway and Brommer Avenues, dashing hopes of uniting the East Side and West Side for cyclists. The project hasn’t been revisited since.

Besides adding more bike lanes, the City Council might consider adopting a bike-sharing program. Many European cities, and a growing number in North America, have set up strategically placed bike racks with rentable bikes available 24 hours a day. Riders can return the bikes to any of the designated racks.

While these bike-sharing programs aren’t perfect, they have met success in improving local environments and making cities more livable. Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul launched “Freewheelin’” as a temporary bike-sharing program to highlight the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, respectively.

As UC Santa Cruz’s population has grown, TAPS has implemented many ways for students to be mobile without cars.

The E-Z Ride Program, Van Pool, and Bike Shuttle are all alternative modes of transportation that students, faculty and campus workers use to get to campus without taking the Metro bus or biking up Bay Street.

To better serve the needs of the campus community, UCSC and the city’s politicians should consider expanding these programs. Not only will they benefit campus commuters, they may be another source of jobs for campus employees and take more cars off the road.

Parking downtown and on campus often poses more than a hassle, preventing many students from getting where they need to be, which sometimes includes class. While buses run consistently, they do not reach all parts of the city. Bus bike racks fill up quickly, and boarding a bus can be impossible during peak travel hours.

Our car-centric society is finally waking up to the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels and extracting oil from the ground. As we enter an economic recession, drivers are looking for ways to cut costs, including not filling up their gas tanks.

The city of Santa Cruz should capitalize on the avant-garde spirit of the city by creating new ways to get around town. By being creative and conscientious, Santa Cruz can become a leader in sustainable transportation.