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…

One comment

  1. […] Cyclists Rolling Their Eyes at National Biking Award to SM (Westside BikeSIDE, Biking In LA) […]

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