After several scheduling shifts and cramming in last-minute tweaks, the Santa Monica Bike Action Plan is nearing adoption. On Tuesday, the will review the plan, a full draft of which is finally available to the public. After giving their input, the plan goes through one final (hopefully) round to various city commissions, after which adoption by the council will be decided at a following meeting.
It’s been quite a process getting to this point, but it’s really exciting to finally see things moving into place and momentum build, and see how my own involvement in advocating for bikes recent years, and those of others I know, has directly shaped the plan. My very was writing about the first public meeting soliciting input to shape the document.
There was a long time where I felt the city government just didn’t get it. Digging through the 300-or-so-page planning document this week, I can now confidently say the city gets it. The projects in the five-year implementation portion of the plan would put us on a path to make bicycling transportation viable and comfortable for many more Santa Monicans (63 percent of whom already own bikes), as well as the many visitors to our city.
The five-year implementation vision for the plan calls for a mix of new routes, and improving upon and filling gaps in existing routes. Creating better connections between the beach path and the rest of the city is a high priority. Some streets, like Broadway, which already has a bike lane and some of the highest ridership in the city, is slated to have more space allocated to give more of a buffer between cyclists and the hazard of opening car doors and vehicles pulling out of parking spaces and driveways. Sharrow markings will be added to Broadway in the downtown.
There are also a number of programs that go beyond the infrastructure, like emphasizing the need for improved bike education among all road users. Some neighborhood streets, like Michigan, which connects to the high school, will become what are called "neighborhood greenways," where traffic-calming will slow vehicle speeds, reduce cut through traffic and become more inviting and safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
Perhaps the best indication that Santa Monica is on the right track starts just by glancing at the cover. It’s being called an "action" plan. That is a key word, because ambitious bicycle plans penned all over the country have had a bad track record of being more like shelf plans. Plans that sounded like nice things to do, but were shelved at the slightest difficulty and never fully implemented.
The will to actually spend money implementing well-planned intentions is often a limiting factor. In Santa Monica, the allocation of budgeting that has already been approved, and a number of grants already secured, means this plan truly is ready for action and can hit the ground running.
Adopting the plan truly is only the start of the process, though. I’m sure there will be some challenges. They may be budget concerns for the more ambitious improvements, like segments of fully separated paths known as cycle tracks; or restoring the freeway bridge to the high school, a major capital project called for in the long-term, 20-year plan.
Some projects may experience pushback by some stakeholders opposed to street changes. What ever the hurdles, ensuring this plan really moves from paper to the street will require public outreach by the staff, continued involvement of political leaders on the council and various commissions, and support from members of the community who believe in this vision.
While there are many important aspects to the LUCE general plan, it is my belief that fulfilling the bike plan component will be one of the most important and transformative, for several reasons. There are things like cutting congestion, boosting the local economy, improved health, cleaner air, etc., but first and foremost is public safety. While contentious to some at first, the reconfiguration of part of Ocean Park Boulevard.
In 2008, something called a road diet—taking a two-lanes-each-way road and dropping it to one each way, with a center turn lane and bike lanes—reduced collisions of all kinds, not just those involving bicyclists, by half. At the same time, bicycle ridership from road count comparisons between 2007 and '10 showed a 95 percent increase, and some intersections like Ocean Park and 17th saw a 215 percent increase in riders. Travel times for cars were little impacted despite the reduction in general use lanes.
There is still time to give some input, and there are minor things here and there I’d like propose addressing as well, but this is a solid plan that I cannot wait to see enacted. The full Santa Monica Bike Action Plan can be viewed here (be aware it is a hefty PDF document). Feedback is being collected by the group Santa Monica Spoke (I’m a steering committee member of Spoke) to consider in prioritizing advocacy efforts. E-mail BikePlan@SMSpoke.org or send messages directly to the city of Santa Monica at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the hundreds and sometimes thousands of bikes parked for events in the city where bike valet is offered, and the half of students at Samohi riding on Bike It Day, are any indication, Santa Monicans are ready. So let's get this plan passed, get out the buckets of paint and start painting the town bike-friendly.