Tag Archive for League of American Bicyclists

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…

This WTF moment, courtesy of Santa Monica and the League of American Bicyclists

Don’t get me wrong.

I like riding in Santa Monica. It’s a genuine pleasure to ride in a city that has actual cycling infrastructure, let alone where bike routes actually connect with something and you can plot out a route to just about anywhere you want to go.

Coming from traffic-heavy Los Angeles, it’s a breath of fresh air. Literally.

Still, I was surprised when the League of American Bicyclists named SaMo a bicycle-friendly city. Even if it was just a bronze.

I know the state of cycling pretty well sucks in this country. But either they didn’t consult local riders before they made their award, or the bar is set so low we’ll have to be careful not to trip on it.

Because it takes more than just infrastructure and good intentions to truly be bicycle friendly. Even for a city of less than 90,000 people that offers 16 miles of bike lanes, 19 miles of bike routes and a 3 mile beachfront bikeway.

It takes a genuine commitment to work with cyclists to encourage riding. Not government officials who refuse to meet with them to work out a compromise that would allow Critical Mass to take place without a heavy-handed police crackdown, complete with bogus — and possibly illegal — tickets.

It takes a city where infrastructure doesn’t just exist, but was smartly planned to protect the safety of riders while preserving traffic flow. It also means a commitment to enforcing restrictions on that infrastructure — or to put it another way, keeping cars the hell out of the bike lane.

In fact, Santa Monica could balance their entire city budget by placing a couple of officers on northbound Ocean Avenue. Then just ticket the drivers who blithely cruise down the bike lane for nearly a full city block between Arizona and Wilshire. I usually see at least couple such idiots every time I ride through there — even though I’m the only one using it for its intended purpose.

And don’t get me started on the way the city allows movie crews to place cones blocking the bike lanes, for no other purpose than to keep cyclists from coming within three feet of their precious trucks.

Yeah, that’s worth risking a life for.

Then there’s the city’s crown jewel, which was mentioned prominently in their press release touting the LAB award — three miles of beach-front bikeway, part of the larger Marvin Braude Bike Path.

As the Times’ Steve Lopez pointed out recently, it’s nearly impossible to ride at times due to the sheer number of pedestrians, dogs, skaters and other assorted non-two-wheeled flotsam. A bikeway on which people are often surprised to encounter cyclists, despite the “Bikes Only” and “No Pedestrians” markings every few feet. And despite the presence of a parallel pedestrian walkway mere feet — or in some cases, inches — away.

Because just like with drivers on the street, if the city won’t enforce bikeway restrictions — let alone state laws that prohibit the blocking of any Class 1 bikeway — other users will take it over and claim it as their own.

Of course, it’s not just a problem in Santa Monica. L.A.’s segment of the bikeway along Venice Beach isn’t any better. And evidently, Long Beach — another recent bronze winner — has issues of its own.

Maybe the LAB thinks things like that are acceptable for a bike-friendly city. Or maybe they’re trying to encourage cities that have made a modest start to keep improving until bike-friendliness permeates the entire city culture.

Or maybe they just didn’t ask those of us who know those city streets best.

I’ll leave the last word to Gary Se7en, in a comment he made on LAist:

I live and work in Santa Monica, live car free and ride a bike every day. It’s not that bad here. It’s not that great either, although it beats most anywhere else in Los Angeles. Maybe SM should get a copper rating instead of bronze. Also bike routes should not count for anything. Lincoln Blvd. is a bike route, Lincoln is also one of the worst streets to ride a bike on in L.A. county.


LAist covers today’s press conference about AB 766, the Safe Streets Bill. The Orange Line Bike Path finally gets a much-needed makeover, while talk of sharrows surfaces yet again in L.A.; the LACBC asks you to beg our mayor to move forward. C.I.C.L.E. promotes Bike Week in Pasadena. Connecticut considers a bill that would set aside 1% of all state and federal transportation funds to improve bike and pedestrian access. A bike-hating deputy sheriff from hell assaults two cyclists in Ohio, and a bike riding cop from Florida explains why you should stop anyway. A writer in western Colorado asks why drivers can’t give cyclists as much space as they would a horse or cow. Finally, from across the pond, a new campaign says there’s safety in numbers, while the leader of the Conservatives in Parliament has his bike stolen. Again.

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