• Home
  • News
  • Santa Barbara's Mr. Bicycle has passed away: Ralph Fertig Memorial

Santa Barbara's Mr. Bicycle has passed away: Ralph Fertig Memorial

July 19, 2014 9:52 AM | Anonymous

A Memorial: Ralph Fertig

On Friday, July 18 our community lost longtime bicycle advocate and SB Bike’s President Emeritus Ralph Fertig when he passed away due to complications from his battle with cancer.

Below is an excerpt from the Santa Barbara Independent’s July 21 article by Nick Welsh. Complete article HERE

Ralph Fertig, a longtime bicycle advocate in Santa Barbara of such consistency,
durability, and selflessness that his presence had achieved an almost geologic aspect.

Quiet, unassuming, and absolutely dogged, Fertig made it his mission for more than 20 years to attend any and every transportation planning meeting undefined no matter how arcane and obscure undefined to bear witness to the need for more space on the roads for bicycles.

Respectful in style, there was nothing flashy or confrontational about Fertig; he was decidedly not the counter-cultural road warrior. The chances of finding Fertig pedaling along in a Critical Mass ride, shutting down traffic in an act of civil disobedience, hovered between none and nil. With Fertig, the ego was sublimated entirely to the cause, to the work. This undefined coupled with the intellectual honesty with which he made his case undefined made it impossible for decision makers to dismiss him out of hand even when it would been exceedingly convenient for them to have done so.

To an uncommon extent, Fertig understood the complicated anatomy of transportation pork; he knew where the money was hidden, what it had been set aside for, and far better than most, he understood the rules and regulations guiding the expenditure of such funds. As undramatic as he may have been, Fertig became the human crowbar, constantly prying money and considerations undefined even if it was only a seat at the table undefined out of generations of public works directors and transportation bureaucrats for whom cycling was a recreational pastime and at best an intrusive afterthought

Services, Rides and Tributes Honoring Ralph

• The memorial service for Ralph is Friday, July 25th at 2pm in the McDermott-Crockett mortuary chapel at 2020 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara.

• August 2, 9:30 am – Memorial Ride for Ralph (normally Newcomers Ride led

by Doris Phinney, President of the Goleta Cycling Club). Meet at Goleta Beach for an easy paced ride around Goleta. Please come with a memory of Ralph you would like to share.

Remembering Ralph

Very sad news. For many years, Ralph was a lynch-pin of bicycle activism in the Santa Barbara and statewide. He raised the profile of bicycling in Santa Barbara and was responsible for bringing the 1998 ProBike conference to Santa Barbara. Ralph also served as the Regional Director of CABO for the Central Coast for many years and graciously hosted the CABO Board and members when we met in Santa Barbara. –Al Farkosh

​Very sad. I probably first met Ralph at the first ProBike I attended –1990 in Wash., DC. Great guy. He was always a go-to guy with a wealth of info and experience. He was probably at every bike conf. I attended and was a great contributor to advocacy for bicyclists. -David Takemoto-Weerts (Bicycle Program Coordinator at UC Davis)

We cyclists owe so much to Ralph for all of his many years of continuing devotion to improving the cycling environment for all of us. –Doris Phinney (President, Goleta Valley Cycling Club)

I'm so sorry to hear of Ralph's passing. I met Ralph fifteen years ago or more, and since then I always looked to him as the kind of advocate to aspire to be. He always impressed me by how knowledgeable he was: laws, regulations, statistics, groups, government procedures, current events, he just seemed to know everything. He was an excellent communicator, both as a speaker and with his writing and visual presentations. Just look at any of the Bicycle Coalition newsletters he published---they're effective and beautiful. He was absolutely tireless! Did he ever stop working for the bicycling cause? And through it all he was invariably smiling and friendly. He never came across as strident, but rather, as simply enthusiastic about cycling. Which,of course, he was, as he amply demonstrated with the way he lived his life. Thanks,Ralph. –Greg Janee (COAST board member)

I remember riding up Harris Grade with Ralph on a People Powered Ride ... first time I had ever spoken to him. A very nice guy and a great inspiration, sad to hear he's gone.

–Jim Balter

Others have spoken very eloquently on Ralph’s respectful and consistent advocacy, grasp of government planning, statistical adeptness, and remarkable communication skills. I'd like to add that his long and committed tenure at the Bicycle Coalition set the framework for the explosive growth we've seen at the Coalition and with bicycling in Santa Barbara County.

It is very bittersweet to note that Ralph passed on closing day of our escrow for the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition headquarters. We miss and honor Ralph and his dedication to the Coalition. I'm sure he is smiling knowing that the Coalition now has secured our future with our own building and ever expanding advocacy efforts and programs. –Michael Chiacos (SB Bike Board President)

I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a teenager – but I knew Ralph as an activist on
behalf of bicyclists, pedestrians, and all who want a more sustainable way of life. We will miss him greatly. -Mickey Flacks (

Ralph had a big heart and tirelessly represented the interests of people who believe you should be able to get around town without a car. I shall miss him! –Das Williams  (California State Assembly member)

The last time Ralph and I had a long conversation was at Cottage Hospital in between his chemotherapy treatments. It was on a sunny day and he was feeling up for a visit out on the deck looking up to the mountains so we bundled him up and out we went. It was a quiet time to talk about life, his travels, family. Through the painful side effects of his treatments, he still warmly smiled and had a positive outlook. That's what I will always remember about our Ralph. -Deborah Schwartz (City of Santa Barbara Planning Commission)

I am still in shock that our gentle bicycle godfather Ralph has passed. Somehow I felt like he would always be with us to fight the good fight with grace. I feel a big absence and heartache knowing that I won't see his genuine smiling face across the table at meetings. I am hoping he truly knew just how appreciated and loved he was by our community.

Farewell Ralph. May your journey continue in a new form and your legacy inspire us to bring wisdom calm and persistence to our work on this planet. -Kent Epperson (Director of Traffic Solutions at SBCAG)

Ralph was class-act providing me with someone to emulate. Goodbye Ralph. –Jim Baross (Spokesperson at San Diego County Bicycle Coalition)

Ralph lives on in all the gifts he gave to our community. We will miss you Ralph. -Mary Byrd (Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District)

Ralph was respectful, positive and persistent. He was the first local bicycle advocate to consistently assess and provide public comment on the needs of the bicycling community. I had the pleasure of coordinating with him since the 80's while I was working on long range plans and programs as a County Planner, and later as we worked together as alternatives advocates for Caltrans proposals and the City' s Circulation Element. He educated the planners, the commissions, the elected officials and the community. His work institutionalized the role of bicycles in our plans, our vocabulary, and into the community lifestyle. –June Pujo (retired Planner for Santa Barbara County)

I am so grateful for the positive force Ralph was to our bicycling community. He will be missed. –Rebecca Waid (Project Director at COAST)

When Lee let us know of Ralph's passing, I thought how, in his calm, understated
way, this smart and thoughtful bicycle enthusiast had made a profound difference in our community. He was a role model as one who kept his sense of humor even as he was eminently prepared to take on half truths masquerading as the final word. Ralph will forever be part of a remarkable extended family joined by a passion for a healthy, sustainable, wholesome lifestyle - one worth fighting for. I will miss him dearly but he really has not gone anywhere. He's beside little kids as they pedal to school. He is present as the space where a car would have been had its owner not chosen to ride a bike to work that day. His civility and gentle spirit are present when a traffic light responds to you, all wrapped up in your arm warmers and helmet late on a chilly winter's eve when no cars are around. I see his smile and hear his compelling and reassuring voice encouraging us to carry on.

I am grateful for Ralph and the wonderful life he shared with us all! –Grant House
(former Santa Barbara City Council member)

Ralph was the SB Bicycle Coalition. He was the eyes and the ears for bicyclists for nearly twenty years in Santa Barbara county. Too many cyclists may not have been aware of his impact, but they have ridden on routes he successfully advocated for. Ralph- you contribution will always be valued, you will always be appreciated and the example you set will be strived for. Ed France, SBBIKE Executive Director.

All of us at SBBIKE will miss Ralph and his many contributions to Santa Barbara, cycling and the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition.


  • July 24, 2014 1:52 PM | Anonymous
    I met Ralph in the late 1970's when he took my class on home design. He was multi-talented and one of the most positive people I have ever known. I'll miss him and his annual personal newsletter!
    Link  •  Reply
  • July 25, 2014 5:35 PM | Anonymous
    Thoughts from Mark Gibson

    Santa Barbara Ralph

    Dear Ralph,

    I remember clearly the day I met you. After a long journey across the the United States I rolled into your place with my bike still hanging on the bike rack. It was a sign to you that I must not be all that bad of a guy to rent your place and thus began a seven year relationship.

    Your friendship and love has meant a lot to Laura and me. We have kept in touch over oceans and continents. You were our ambassador to Santa Barbara and made us feel at home like family. Maggie met you for the first time and she still kisses Jack from your Jack in the Box Christmas present.

    Santa Barbara has lost one of its biggest advocates. Shortly after I moved in Ralph you took me on a long bike ride to get me acquainted with my new town. Out to UCSB and along Mountain View Drive. Your enthusiasm and interest in all things great and small was immediately noticeable and contagious. You lent me your “Santa Barbara Day Hikes” book, SB bike route map, and my first copy of the Independence. All I needed to guide me through many enjoyable adventures in Santa Barbara.

    Ralph your smile and gentle demeanor is already missed - not just by the people who know you, but by anyone who had the pleasure to be in your presence. I fondly remember the pretty KLM girl on the bus to Schiphol who was engaged in your friendly, humble chit chat. I am sure she left us thinking, now only if all Americans were like that!

    We will miss your daily correspondents Ralph. Your emails read like a term paper with a proper introduction, body, and conclusion. Whether it be an update on your world tours, house renovations, or most recently your battle with cancer - we could always count on you for learning something new or to be humored by your play with words we call “Ralphisms”. We will feel the absence of your annual Christmas Newsletter but find warmth in the memories of many happy times we spent with you.

    Of course these are just antedates Ralph - moments in the day of a life that I was fortunate enough to be touched by. My life, Laura’s life, and our friends, Sara and Jame’s lives are better and richer because we knew you. We thank you for your kindness, generosity, love, (and being a Democrat)!

    Over and out to Santa Barbara Ralph.
    Link  •  Reply
Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, PO Box 92047, Santa Barbara, CA 93190
located at 506 E. Haley Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Phone: 805 845-8955

Bici Centro is located at 434 Olive Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Phone: 805 617-3255

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software