Tag Archive for Bike Friendly City

An open letter to the Santa Monica City Council on bike licensing

Santa Monica has made great strides recently in its effort to become one of Southern California’s leading bike-friendly cities. Something that has been recognized by a bronze level award from the League of American Bicyclists.

But for every step you take forward, your city seems to take an equal step back.

While the city experiments with sharrows, it continues to list Lincoln Blvd as a Class III bike route, enticing cyclists to ride a dangerous street far beyond the ability of most riders. And one that even most skilled riders usually prefer to avoid.

Santa Monica offers one of the nation’s most popular bike paths along the beach, yet fails to provide adequate signage or enforce restrictions on bike-only sections, rendering it virtually unridable much of the year.

You ban riding on sidewalks, going so far as to ticket school students who choose the sidewalk over cycling on busy streets they — and their parents — consider too dangerous to ride. Yet you fail to adequately inform cyclists of that ban in most parts of the city, turning much of Santa Monica into the cycling equivalent of a speed trap as less-informed cyclists and out-of-town visitors are subject to a law they don’t even know exists.

Yes, ignorance of the law is no excuse. But there also needs to be an adequate effort to inform the public so it’s possible to obey the law.

That also applies to bike licensing.

As you have recently become aware, Santa Monica has long violated state law by imposing a penalty for failure to license that goes far beyond the maximum $10 fine allowed by law.

While the expressed purpose of bike registration is to create a database to facilitate the identification and return of stolen bikes, it has more often been used as a bludgeon to penalize cyclists when police are unable to find other violations — just as it has been in Long Beach and Los Angeles, until L.A. wisely repealed its licensing requirement.

It is also ineffective, in part because the law is difficult to enforce and many, if not most, cyclists are unaware of its existence. In addition, an isolated, citywide registration is meaningless in today’s modern age, when thieves can sell bikes online or simply cross city limits to a different jurisdiction where the Santa Monica licensing law does not apply.

If the program is effective, the SMPD should be able to provide detailed statistics on the number of lost and stolen bikes recovered through the city’s registration database. If they can’t, it should be considered prima facie evidence of its ineffectiveness.

There are also better and more effective alternatives. Both Bike Revolution and the National Bike Registry offer cyclists the ability to register their bikes for free, while offering non-removable registration tags at an affordable price. They also offer the advantage of a database that goes far beyond city limits to identify a stolen bike anywhere it might be found or sold.

I’m sure either would be more than happy to work with your city to establish a more effective, voluntary registration program at little or no cost to the city — and could even bring money into the city coffers through the sale of registration stickers. Or better yet, you could work with the City and County of Los Angeles and other cities within the area to establish a regional program that would protect any bike stolen within the greater L.A. metro area.

Finally, the existing licensing requirement gives cyclists a reason to avoid your city, as many riders are familiar with anecdotal reports of cyclists simply passing through being ticketed for failure to license their bikes in Santa Monica, even though state law expressly prohibits ticketing cyclists from other jurisdictions. More than a few cyclists have been known to carry a copy of the state law with them when they ride through the city in case they get stopped by a police officer for whatever reason.

I therefore urge you to immediately repeal the unfair and ineffective bike licensing program, and demonstrate that you are serious about reaching the next level of bike-friendliness.

Or simply being deserving of the one you already have.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
BikingInLA.com

The licensing requirement is schedule to be discussed at today’s Santa Monica City Council meeting at Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main Street. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 pm, item 7B on the agenda. Learn more at Gary Rides Bikes, Bikeside LA, Santa Monica Spoke and the Scandal in Santa Monica Facebook page.

Today’s ride, in which bike friendly Santa Monica actually was

I confess.

I’ve been known to criticize Santa Monica’s bike-friendly city status once or twice. No, really.

Hard to believe, I know.

But to be fair, I also feel I have an obligation to point out when they do something right.

And today, they did.

One of my biggest complaints about the beachside city — aside from the perpetually tourist and pedestrian clogged Marvin Braude Bike Path — is the frequency with which the bike lanes that helped Santa Monica gain its bike-friendly status from the League of American Bicyclists are blocked for some ridiculously needless reason or another.

Like movie crews who put orange cones in the bike lane to keep anyone from getting close to their trucks, even though they don’t extend far enough out to pose a risk to anyone. Or the utility crews who block bike lanes even though their work area is several feet away.

Which means that cyclists are regularly forced out into the traffic lane, where too often, drivers aren’t willing to concede an inch of their precious roadway.

So today, I was pleasantly surprised as I was riding back up the bike lane on San Vicente Blvd, headed inland from the coast, and saw this:

Amazingly, all the signs have been carefully placed outside the bike lane.

Instead of blocking the bike lane, as most road crews inevitably seem to do — regardless of necessity — this particular crew had clearly taken great pains to keep their signs out of the bikeway. And kept the lane clear for riders working their way uphill.

So, Mr. or Ms. Road Crew Sign Placement Guy or Girl, thank you.

Your efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

And they were appreciated.

Not one sign even partially blocking the bikeway. Seriously.

……….

In L.A., even homeless people hate bikes. Danceralamode, a frequent commenter on this site, offers up some lucid and insightful observations in response to the Times’ brief article about the hit-and-run death of Ovidio Morales. Bikerowave is throwing itself a third birthday party this weekend; also this weekend is C.I.C.L.E.’s Creek Freak Bike Tour. The Times takes note of Pasadena’s new bike plan. Streetsblog is now accepting donations to provide more complete coverage of L.A. transportation. A call for shared bus/bike lanes in L.A. A San Francisco writer asks if cycling is really getting more dangerous. Braess’ Paradox says that closing streets can reduce traffic congestion. Biking to work with Seattle’s bicycling mayor. The three-foot passing law passes in another state, as Maryland becomes the latest to give riders an enforceable cushion. It’s the Year of the Bike in Riverside; no, the one in Illinois.  London begins work on two cycling superhighways. A Kiwi rugby legend prepares to join the English charity ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats — sort of like riding from Key West to Seattle, but much shorter. Speaking of Kiwis, a New Zealand man asks the High Court to allow naked bicycling on public roads. Prepare to step through the looking glass, because in Budapest, right-wing politicians actually support cycling. Finally, in what could spell the death of Critical Mass, a New York judge rules that large group rides must get a parade permit; a ruling that may migrate to the Left Coast.

The state of cycling in semi-bike friendly Santa Monica

I wouldn’t want to be a traffic planner these days.

Following the recent controversy over LADOT’s super-secret plan to remove the existing bike lanes from Reseda Boulevard — so secret, even they didn’t know about it — comes two perspectives on the fight for a share of asphalt in Santa Monica.

First, fellow bike blogger J. Haygood — whose always entertaining output has been limited lately due to a couple little somethings coming soon to a screen near you — addresses coverage of that city’s attempt at traffic calming on Ocean Park Boulevard.

As part of a pilot project, a portion of the street was narrowed from four lanes to two, with a center turn lane and bike lanes on either side. And as he notes, local motorists responded with all the road-sharing equanimity you might expect.

In other words, they hated it. And demanded a return of their God-given right to zoom down the street and run off the road any unfortunate riders who might happen to be in their way.

Though I did appreciate the person who suggested that pedestrians and cyclists move to Bermuda; as soon as I receive my voucher from the city, I’m out of here.

I just hope my non-cycling wife can join me someday.

And as if that’s not enough to drive a traffic planner over the edge, now those darn cyclists want to revoke Santa Monica’s Bike Friendly Bronze Award.

Alex Thompson — one of the area’s most respected bike activists and proud possessor of a recently minted PhD — takes both that city and the League of American Bicyclists to task for an award many cyclists, including yours truly, consider something less than deserved.

It’s not that Santa Monica isn’t one SoCal’s more pleasant places to ride. Which, unfortunately, isn’t saying much.

I do a lot of my own riding in and through the city. And it’s a breath of fresh air — sometimes literally — after slogging my way through L.A. traffic.

And it’s not that we don’t appreciate their efforts. It’s just that they have a long way to go, as Dr. Alex explains:

Santa Monica has 19 miles of bike routes, but many of those bike routes are placed on some of the nastiest roads in the West LA Metro area.  Lincoln Blvd is a notorious road, and yet three miles of it count towards Santa Monica’s 19 miles of bike route.  Having ridden the 10 and 405 freeways, I can assure you that they are preferable.  In general, a sign denoting “bike route” in the LA Metro Area is most often a sign you should take another street.

Santa Monica has 16 miles of bike lanes, but nearly all of those miles of bike lane are directly in the door zone of oblivious motorists.  The beach bike path is not in the door zone but, as LA Times transit blogger Steve Lopez wrote the day before the award was issued, for utilitarian cycling the path is rendered useless by throngs of tourists walking, rollerblading, skateboarding, and Segways.  The Main St bike lane is probably the world’s foremost producer of right hooks, crammed with streetside parking and motorists turning down side streets.  If you haven’t nearly died on Main St, you probably haven’t ridden it.

The award cites Santa Monica’s efforts to encourage, including a bike valet service and a Bike to Work Day.  However, it fails to note the efforts of the department of discouragement, also known as the Santa Monica Police Department.  Apart for its $3000 monthly outlays to police Critical Mass, which may please the VC community, SMPD has been specifically citing cyclists riding brakeless fixies, despite their compliance with California Vehicle Code.  SMPD is generally loved for their response to emergency calls, but they are nearly universally loathed for their handling of accidents between cyclists and cars, and have recently failed atrociously at dispatching with bike thieves when provided detailed and specific evidence.

Personally, I haven’t ridden the 10 and 405 freeways, or Lincoln Boulevard. But having driven all three, I have to agree that I would much rather ride the freeways if forced to choose.

I can also testify that the beachfront bike path that should be the crown jewel of Santa Monica cycling is virtually impassible in the summer months, due to a complete lack if enforcement of bike only restrictions. And despite the promises made to Robert Downey Jr., uh, I mean Steve Lopez of the Times — I get them confused now — nothing has been done to improve the situation.

So if the award is based on nothing more than the amount of cycling infrastructure in the city, I can understand it. But if they factor in the actual safety and usability of those bike lanes, paths and routes — let alone the other factors Alex mentioned — they clearly have a long way to go.

And I agree that the LAB should figure out a way to make their Bike Friendly City program a more inclusive process, and get feedback from the local cycling community before presenting any award.

Maybe they should come up with a “Nice Effort, But…” award.

I’d be the first to nominate those long-suffering Santa Monica traffic planners.

………

Next month, an evening of bikes with ex-Talking Head David Byrne. Will Campbell plans an upcoming Westside presidential ride. A cool cycling video wins first place on YouthNoise Play City. Ex-Long Beacher Russ Roca and Laura Crawford discuss gear for long tours like theirs. A review of riding rules in Tehachapi. A Santa Cruz company unveils a bike light drivers might actually notice. A horrific collision in Tucson as an apparently distracted driver takes out eight cyclists before stopping. Spend the fall cycling through a few Mountain West national parks. A comparison of cycling in Canadian cities. More on the outrage over the vehicular homicide of a Toronto cyclist. The British bicycling Baronet gets a promotion. An Arab Gulf perspective on the recent Bicycle Film Festival. Finally, Bicycle Fixation meets with the Mayor of West Hollywood; has any cyclist ever had lunch with the mayor of Los Angeles? I’m just asking…

%d bloggers like this: