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.


  1. Russ Roca says:

    BikinginLA….Long Beach shares your WTF moment as well..

    The LBC was recently awarded Bronze (maybe Bronze is the new Copper)…I think we probably have less mileage of bike lanes than SM.

    I don’t know if you’ve been following my posts, but I recently got ticketed for doing NOTHING unlawful at all. I think it really shows holes in the LAB’s criteria or judging process when they name a city bicycle friendly.

    In this post, I argue that they should look at more than raw mileage of bike facilities but also road culture.

    Another big thing they should look at is how well law enforcement understands and executes laws governing bikes! What good are all the bike lanes if when you leave them, you’re suddenly a 2nd Class road user again. How bike friendly can a city be when your most basic and fundamental right to ride on the road is not respected?

    • bikinginla says:

      Actually, I have been following your saga since Streetsblog called attention to it the other day. And while I didn’t call it out, those three links on the line I wrote about Long Beach all lead back to your site.

      I haven’t belonged to LAB since the old days when they were known as the League of American Wheelmen — I still have the sticker on my old bike — before they realized that name excluded a large percentage of their membership. But I’m planning to contact them to see if local riders are included in the decision process, or if there’s some mechanism for feedback. I don’t want take away Santa Monica’s or Long Beach’s awards, but they should be strongly encouraged to make changes in order to keep them.

      And you’re right, educating law enforcement is a key step to maintaining our right to ride. I think we need to work with some group — possibly the LACBC — to put together a training program for law enforcement on exactly what is both safe and legal for riders.

  2. I’m not sure I have your current email. Send me an email – alexcthompson AT gmail D.O.T. com

    I’m sending a letter to the League asking for comment on this, and then I’m gonna get all angry on them.

  3. It really was a WTF moment. Hilariously, the Times announced this on their LA Now blog the day before Lopez’s column ran in the print edition. That’s a WTF on its own, journalism anyone?

    • bikinginla says:

      I know… as soon as I opened the front page and saw Lopez’ column, my wife had to ask me what was so funny, ’cause I was laughing so hard. Now if they would have just linked those two items together online…

  4. thatguy says:

    Just my .02, which I’m sure will not be popular..

    It’s important that police enforce these rules, or people will. I for one ride with my 15 clipped on my keychain, hanging off my belt loop; waiting to take out side mirrors of the ignorant and disrespectful. If the city won’t ticket them, a 75-150$ mirror replacement should help them to recognize the next time they are encroaching on personal space. Anyone beeping excessively, cursing, swerving towards or passing then cutting me off immediately after to turn is subject to enforcement.

    I let a lot of people slide too, for being mindless, so I’m not on a vendetta; even though those people likely need the wakup call the most there are more crucial targets out there with angry agendas.

    I realize this is not the optimal solution and only breeds more conflict. However, if those authorized to raise and support awareness aren’t doing such, I won’t leave my life and personal health in the hands of anyone else. And I’m certainly not getting off my bike.

  5. LisaNewton says:

    I don’t know what criteria is used for determining the status, but at least for me, I’ve seen some changes in Santa Monica is the last few weeks.

    Two weeks ago, I was riding the bike lane on Broadway with construction, and the construction guys had carved a bike path and a car path with the cones. Now, I’ll admit, this is only one incident, and maybe I’m looking at the situation with a positive slant, but it is getting at least a little better.

    On a side note, I rode a critical mass in Santa Monica, but with red lights being run, three separate groups, and basically little or no rules of the road being followed, the cyclists have some work to do themselves.

    I totally agree with the bike path issues. It’s very difficult to ride when walkers, dogs, strollers, and any other sort of non-bike traffic invades the BIKE path.

    Cars are an issue everywhere, but I have had a few “good” car drivers in Santa Monica.

    It’s not all roses, but it’s not all bad either. I agree with the LAist comment, cooper instead of bronze.

  6. […] This WTF moment, courtesy of Santa Monica and the League of American Bicyclists –BikinginLA. […]

  7. Jim says:

    Critical Mass rides have approximately the same outcome on policy and public perception as a rioting mob.

    Personally I think integrating bikes into the transportation infrastructure through wider right side lanes, no parking where there isn’t enough room, cyclist friendly signal loop detectors, and strict enforcement of traffic laws for all users is the way to go. I think Class I bikeways are about the most dangerous place to ride a bike. Class II bike lanes are slightly better but they reinforce drivers’ perception that bikes don’t belong on the street unless there is a special facility for them. Also if lightly used the motorists feel resentment.

    Reading about Russ’ ticket and the communication opened with the Chief, I am going to write a letter to the LB Police Chief committing to following the law when riding my bike and asking them to commit to treating cyclists as legitimate users of the roads.

    I’ve been trying- it’s hard to stop at all the stop signs in my neighborhood when I’m late for work and there’s not a car in sight.


  8. […] the award “superficial.”  Gary Rides Bikes nearly dies cycling to a rent a movie.  BikingInLA sez, WTF, “it takes more than just infrastructure and good intentions to truly be bicycle […]

  9. […] we talked, I felt compelled to tell him I’d been one of the loud, angry voices complaining about the bike league’s 2009 designation of Santa Monica as a bronze level […]

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