Monday, April 20, 2009

Bike Lane Warfare In Downtown Santa Monica


Recently a stretch of the parallel parking along Broadway in Santa Monica on the eastbound side before reaching Lincoln Blvd was red bagged for no parking. What happened because of this is that without the parked cars taking up space the bike lane suddenly was large enough to fit cars. Since automobiles in traffic dense areas fill any available space like a toxic gas, this meant drivers started using the bike only lane for through way traffic, which is illegal, as they inched and crawled in their gasping efforts to make it to Lincoln Blvd. Even though one block over at Santa Monica Blvd., which is designed for heavy through traffic, they could have got to Lincoln with considerably less congestion.

What this meant for cyclists is that they were forced to split lanes between congested cars with tight space, even though there is supposed to be a bike lane to ride in there separate from the cars. Not surprisingly many cyclists choose the ride on the sidewalk creating a different sort of conflict with pedestrians instead. This pissed me off like I hadn't been pissed in a while. When what little space we do get for dedicated bicycle travel get's violated, I take it personally.

First thing Sunday morning I called the Santa Monica traffic division to report the issue and they said they would send someone out. Later in the afternoon when Meghan and I were riding home from a day at the beach on our tandem, drivers were still abusing the bike lane space by driving right on top of it. As I maneuvered our land ship of a bicycle through the tight spaces and past all the cars, with my keen handling skills, Meghan speaking from the rear seat had a few words with the motorists driving in the bike lane, all floundering in the haphazard molasses of a Santa Monica beach day exodus.

One of the reasons more people don't ride bikes to get around is safety. It is always at the top of the list of reasons why people don't ride. How can we be promoting safe passage for cyclists when motorists drive right over our bike only lanes like it were their own? You don't see bikes taking over the car only lanes on the freeway... well not usually. If the next time I pass through downtown SM via Broadway this is still happening, I have some abandoned cones I've secured and I will begin taking traffic direction into my own hands. This means war.


LisaNewton said...

I also hate it when the cars take over the bike lane. The other day, I was riding the Metro bus on Santa Monica, expecting to see the bus take over the bike lane.

What I did see was the bus taking a little of the lane, but when he wanted to pull over at a stop, the bus waited for a bike to pass by before he did. I realized I was impressed, but upon further reflection, I shouldn't have been because he was just doing what he was suppose to be doing.

ScottBruin said...

Santa Monica was crazy busy on Saturday when I was down there in the early evening. Everyone's trying to get into a small block area in their cars and, like you said, will fill any available space to do it.

Lisa, you're lucky they let a biker in! Usually I get honked at or cut off in the bus lane in Santa Monica. I hate how the Broadway bike lane ends around 4th street where you could really use it.

Gary said...

Personally I am of the opinion that the only way to keep downtown Santa Monica moving with some semblance of order without having to stick a traffic director at every major intersection, something that is done on busy days, is to adopt at least some one way streets.

Downtown SM is the only high traffic downtown area I know of that doesn't use one way streets at all. With one way streets we can get rid of turning in one direction, so for example bus lanes could actually flow instead of being stuck behind turning cars that are stuck waiting for heavy pedestrian crossing.

Some SM downtown streets have empty space in the middle for a turn lane, that goes mostly unused, that is road space that could be better allocated and would not be necessary with one way streets.

I'm not sure why Santa Monica is apparently so opposed to them, but I think for any serious traffic planning, one way streets should be on the table.

Brinton said...

I've noticed this behavior a few times on Motor avenue next to Cheviot Hills park (right off Pico). People just use the bike lane as another lane for their cars and it's pretty aggravating and dangerous.

What generally gets me is the total lack of care that they are in the wrong space. I yell at them but I'm pretty sure they just think I'm being a dick and don't think of themselves as doing anything wrong.

One way streets would do wonders in downtown SM. It would help tons with the chaos the parking garages create with people trying to turn left as well.

Hal said...

Gary, Santa Monica used to have one-way streets in the downtown area. They got rid of them sometime in the mid-90's, I'd say. I was probably in fifth grade, so maybe 1994 or so. ALL the streets were one-way, fifth street went North, Colorado went West, Broadway went East, etc. Before I left LA a few months ago, they were taking about making pico and olympic one-way streets, but I haven't been following Santa Monica news for awhile. (only bike stuff)

I'd rather see them close more of the downtown area off to car travel entirely (like third street is), and replace those flat parking lots on the beach with a single multi-story structure and put useful stuff on those ugly lots so people don't idle while they wait for limited spaces and back PCH up for miles. But at this point, I'm just frustrated with the way LA does _everything_. I'll be back in LA next week and two of the most important places I have errands to run are just not accessible by bicycle from a practicality standpoint or at all by bus (one in the hills of beverly hills, and one in the industrial area of El Segundo later that day), so I'll have to rent a car or trade a ride for a sandwich just so I can get to this gig. No major city should have that limitation.