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.