By Ashley Archibald
August 10, 2011
DOWNTOWN — Members of bike activist group Santa Monica Spoke got the first peek at City Hall’s draft plan for bicycle facilities and improvements across the next two decades, and, for the most part, they seemed pleased.
“It was the best thing I read all summer!” said bicyclist Michael Feinstein, referring to the tome of a draft Bike Action Plan, a large document that spells out, in great detail, the vision city planners have created to improve access, education and supporting facilities to make bicycling easier, safer and more pleasant in Santa Monica.
Although much of the commentary was positive — many comments were prefaced by rounds of applause or generic accolades — bicyclists present did have commentary about which streets needed extra love to make cyclists comfortable, or where resources should be put to help out bikes the most.
That’s exactly what city planners Lucy Dyke, Francie Stefan, Michelle Glickert and Colleen Stoll were hoping to hear.
“We’re looking for different kinds of comments, be they corrections, ideas or other things of substance,” said Dyke, the deputy director of special projects.
Over the course of the next month, a variety of community groups and official boards and commissions will get to see and comment on the plan, which will eventually go to the City Council for adoption.
In the meantime, the document represents months of work assessing the needs of the Santa Monica bicycling community and creating priorities that will be put into practice over the course of the next five to 20 years.
The plan has been in the works since the council passed the Land Use and Circulation Element, or LUCE, in 2010, which included direction for bicycle improvements to be built into the overall fabric of the city’s development.
It’s part of City Hall’s overall effort to reduce the number of car trips that Santa Monicans take, the “no new net trips” philosophy that planners hope will help alleviate Downtown gridlock despite a larger population and increased development.
Planners can also use the final product to apply for money from the California Department of Transportation Bicycle Transportation Account, a $7.2 million per year block of funding used to make matching grants that requires applicant cities to have a five-year plan in place.
The plan envisions millions of dollars worth of investment in the first five years alone, which will expand the existing 37 miles of bicycle facilities to include additional parking, showers and other amenities as well as new and better-designated bike lanes and places where the roads are shared with cars, called “sharrows.”
By 2015, City Hall hopes to almost double the number of miles of designated bikeways to 69, and bring that to 88.7 miles by 2030, while at the same time increase the percentage of people biking to work from the current 3.4 percent to 25.
In those first five years of the plan, City Hall wants to make changes that will strengthen the overall core of the bicycle network in the city, including “easy” restriping and the more difficult — read “expensive” — road improvements.
The plan envisions major new shared lane markings in the bus lane along the Broadway bike path, as well as a green buffer zone to protect bicyclists from the peril of riding in what riders call the “door zone,” where they are in danger of being hit by drivers and passengers of parked cars who open their car doors into the bike lane.
It also spells out changes along Michigan Avenue which will be established as a “Neighborhood Greenway,” an area of lower traffic that will link bicyclists to critical destinations like Santa Monica College, Santa Monica High School and the ever popular beach bike path.
Ocean Park Boulevard, Pearl Street and a section connecting Barnard Way to Bundy Drive are also slated for improvements, as is Ocean Park Boulevard at the California Incline to cut down on conflict between cars and bicycles.
Many others set to be finished within the first five years are detailed further in the plan.
Infrastructure is also set to improve, with new bike facilities coming online by the end of the month, and funding already secured for 2,500 new bike parking spaces throughout the city.
While those changes can come online by 2015, the longer timeline includes things that residents “might not yet be ready for,” Dyke said.
That includes adding bicycle and pedestrian paths to San Vicente Boulevard, as well as inter-regional paths connecting Santa Monica to the surrounding cities that also are putting energy into improving their bicycle resources.
Santa Monica Spoke members seemed mostly happy with the document, but wanted to see more protected bikeways, called bicycle tracks, as well as specified streets that prioritize bicycles over cars to make it safer for new and experienced riders.
There were also calls for education, both for car drivers and bicyclists. Members requested additional wayfinding signs to give bicyclists a sense of where the lanes and paths would be available.
Overall, it got a thumbs up.
“If this group of people thinks it doesn’t go far enough, and the rest of Santa Monica thinks it goes too far, it’s probably right where it should be,” said Meghan Kavanagh, a licensed cycling instructor.
Full, street-by-street details are available at www01.smgov.net/planning/whats-new/index.html.
Those interested can send comments in to the Planning Department, Planning Commission or City Council. The draft plan will be presented to the Planning Commission today, and will go before the City Council on Aug. 23.