Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Comments For The Bergamot Transit Center Village EIR

(Cross posted from Bay City Urbanist. The following are my comments concerning the Bergamot Transit Center Village for the draft environmental impact report (EIR). Before the end of today's business day is the last chance to submit comments for the draft EIR. Messages should be directed to jing.yeo@smgov.net & Council@smgov.net)

Concerning the Bergamot Transit Village, I have some serious  reservations about the project as currently proposed. I'll preface by  saying I am not opposed to development, I am not opposed to increased  density, and I am not opposed to the building height, I in fact welcome  those things. I believe we need more housing for people, and that mixed  use is a better way to build for a number of reasons, such as more  walkable environments. I work near this site, and to be honest I might  even want to live there someday considering it would put me within a  block and a half walking distance of work, and with convenient access to  the train and art galleries.

However what we don't need is so much more housing for cars. As proposed  this project introduces more parking capacity than the Santa Monica  Place mall, an invitation for a prolific increase in vehicle trips in an  area already high in traffic volume. With other major developments in  the area in the works, this problem will be compounded. Is this really  transit oriented development, or simply transit adjacent development? I  don't believe it is necessary to introduce 1,900 car spaces at the site  of what will be a major public transit center and dedicated bike path.

There  is a disturbing trend of development at transit centers along light  rail across the country, where luxury accommodations and high parking  capacity attract a demographic less likely to be regular transit users.  One of the reasons for this, is that high parking capacity is expensive  to produce, especially underground parking. While going with underground  parking reduces the land use of the parking, a good thing,  it also substantially  increases the cost per space to build. If parking is not unbundled from  living costs, these costs significantly drive up the cost of living,  pricing out many who would be the most likely to use transit. Using  figures quoted by Donald Shoup, author of the book The High Cost of Free  Parking, which state that underground parking spaces typically cost at  least $50,000 per parking space, this project proposes to build over $95  million dollars worth of parking. That is just on construction, not  including the monthly costs of maintaining such garages. This should  give a clearer picture of the cost burden of parking.

So if we  are to create truly affordable housing, we must consider scaling back  the parking, and or decoupling the cost of parking from the cost of  units. Residents who wish to live car free should not be subsidizing the  cost burdens of those who wish to drive, especially at a site so ideal  for alternatives. To fit within the goals of the LUCE, of generating no  new car trips at peak times, it is imperative we both scale back  parking, and ensure the cost of what parking is offered, is recovered by  user fees from drivers, and not all tenets. This will create a much  stronger economic incentive for those willing to give up owning a car,  to make their trips instead by foot, by bike, by train and bus. Car  sharing should also be considered, such as that offered by LAX Car Share  in Santa Monica, a company that would certainly want to set up  locations at or near this site as they have done near other major  transit centers in Los Angeles.

As a regular cyclist, I also urge that bike parking be well thought  out, well designed, safe and secure, for both residents and guests. I  also urge that a sufficient quantity of bike parking be provided, not  only for current ridership rates, but in anticipation of the continuing  growth of bike commuting in Santa Monica. With this development  positioned so close to what will become a dedicated bike path along the  Expo Line right of way, and with convenient connections to the rest of  Santa Monica's bike route network, this site demands better facilities  for bicycling.

I think many residents are rightfully concerned  about this project becoming a traffic nightmare, generating thousands of  new daily trips, but it doesn't have to be that way. This can be an  opportunity to show how transit oriented development can grow a city  without growing it's automobile traffic, that is if it is done right.  Santa Monica, a city where sustainability is an issue of near universal  concern among residents, and with a long term plan which calls for  principles of smart growth, is an ideal place to demonstrate sustainable  urban development. However I don't believe this project currently meets  those ideals yet with the sheer volume of parking proposed. Let's build it, but let's build it right.

-Gary Kavanagh

Thanks To Those Who Came Out For Santa Monica Bike Action Plan Update

Santa Monica Bicycle Action Plan Meeting, Dec 13 2010
(The room was packed, and 3 rows of seats were added behind me after it became apparent they under estimated the head count)
I've been really busy lately, so I haven't been able to finish my complete review as quickly as I would like. However while I put together my more complete thoughts on how the meeting transpired, I wanted to say thanks to all who turned out. It was a great showing, and a lot of input given. I saw some of the regular folks that show up to these things, but also a lot of unfamiliar faces, and at least one person who approached me as a reader of this blog I had not met before. I also won a copy of Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne, as part of a raffle all cyclists who parked in the bike valet were entered into. Actually Kent Strumpell, a well known figure in cycling advocacy, won it first, but declined since he owned a copy already.

To all who came, thanks again, and I hope you can make it to the next opportunity for input on the plan as well. I'll keep you posted as dates come up.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reminder: Tonight Is A Public Workshop Meeting For Santa Monica Bicycle Action Plan

From city release:

Bicycle Action Plan Community Meeting

Please join us for an open house meeting to discuss bicycling in Santa Monica and shape priorities for bicycling improvements. Your input, along with a public survey, will inform the Bicycle Action Plan coming out next year.

Monday, December 13, 2010
6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
East Wing, 1855 Main Street

The Civic Center is accessible by Big Blue Bus lines 1,2,3,4,7, Rapid 7 and 8. There will be additional bike parking for the event.  Please contact
Michelle Glickert for special arrangements or questions at 310.458.2204.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Santa Monica News Site, Santa Monica Patch Launches. I'm A Contributor.

Update: The site was up briefly this morning when I posted, and this post was a tad early, official launch is tomorrow morning. Sleep deprivation made me forget what day of the week it was..

Patch is a fairly new service hosted by AOL focusing on hyper local news in smaller communities, cities and neighborhoods, with local contributors. A few areas in the Los Angeles region already had Patch sites, such as Venice. The Santa Monica Patch just launched with local resident Kurt Orzeck as the editor. He heard me speak at the City Council meeting a few weeks ago that discussed changing the ordinance concerning sidewalk riding to make it citable as an infraction rather than a mandatory misdemeanor. Inquiring further he found my blog, thought it was interesting, and asked me to put together something exclusive for the launch of the site.

I tried to capture some of where the state of cycling is at in Santa Monica, and plug the coming bike plan process to get more people interested in it. Unlike this blog where I know most people are regular followers and clued into cycling generally, I tried to make the article for Patch a little more approachable for a general audience. You can check out the article here.

This would mark my first time being paid to write. I started blogging just to get ideas and thoughts out into the world, and never pursued advertising. It's nothing to quit my day job over just yet, but it's nice. Kurt seems interested in me possibly continuing to contribute to the site, so we'll see where it goes.

A Particular Odd Interaction With A Driver. Sometimes The Illogical Behavior On Our Road Hurts My Brain.

Downtown StreetsI'm quite used to drivers honking at me even though I am doing nothing wrong, simply moving slower than they are sometimes. Usually they eventually just pass and go around just fine. I make a point of traveling on streets with 2 lanes of traffic each way when I can so drivers have a convenient passing lane. I'd like to preface the following story by saying the majority of drivers get along just fine, it's a minority of drivers, but a minority large enough to be encountered far too often, that won't play nice.

Sometimes a driver feels they must take things further, and use their car as a threatening weapon, presumably to "teach me a lesson". Tuesday on Colorado Ave., an SUV driver with a Jack Skeleton Nightmare Before Christmas icon attached to his trailer hitch, honked, honked, honked again, then buzzed me, passing with less than a foot clearance at high speed, even though there was a completely open lane he could have used to pass safely and easily. I compare this behavior to being like a big bully walking around with a metal baseball bat, swinging it around, generally with no real intent to actually hit anyone, but to threaten others he perceives to be in his way. Behavior we would never tolerate in society except when an automobile is the weapon.

Of course as is often the case when these impatient drivers want to speed around, he had to stop at the end of the block for the red light. Some drivers don't seem to understand traffic signal timing dictates their progress  in the city far more than anything like having to pass a slower moving vehicle, and I often pull right up to the same light pedaling along at 15 mph. So I pulled up behind the driver, my heart rate elevated from his nearly swiping me with his mirror. I did not want to deal with a verbal altercation with this person, so I did not filter up, and remained behind the vehicle.

I did want to make my displeasure known in some manner however. So I did want I generally do to rude or careless drivers when I'm a pedestrian, I give the cold deep stare, to remind them they are facing a real human being. I rolled very close to the back of their vehicle and just stared into their rear view mirror. I could tell this made him a little uncomfortable, but that was the point, snap him out of his soulless automaton mode of driver, and remind him human beings are on our streets.

This is where it got really odd. I have observed numerous incarnations of road raging behavior, illogical driver behavior, careless behavior, but that day I saw something new. Presumably to "teach me a lesson", he proceeded to drive at incredibly slow speed when the light went green, and by slow I mean, really really slow. 4-5 mph slow, a few times almost a dead stop, the kind of slow that is hard to even accomplish on a bicycle unless you have good balance. I did not want to pass, because the much faster moving traffic in the next lane would have made it hard to merge safely, and I did not want to put my self in a position where this driver really could cause physical harm to me, so I just stayed behind and rolled slow, calling his bluff.

I don't know what he thought he was going to accomplish, I obviously had more patience and was in a less of a hurry to get where I was going, mainly since I had not very far to go. Within a few moments, he started to lose interest in his little stunt and drove off going full speed again. Presumably he was in a hurry to get where he was going, since he felt it necessary to honk at me for being slower, and swerved around screeching up the road earlier. However by deliberately driving so pitifully slow "to teach me a lesson" when the light turned green at the next block, he actually slowed his own progress far more than my presence had. This act placed him numerous car positions back before the road was to merge to one lane. Can anyone explain to me the logic of such behavior, because it sure as hell makes no sense to me?

Another point this odd interaction revealed, a notion I've already known, but which this story reinforces, is that when the driver held up traffic by driving even slower than a bicyclist, no one honked in retaliation at him. Drivers are far more tolerant and forgiving of being held up by other drivers than they are of cyclists. One of many signs of a clear mode bias.  When a driver is going slow, traffic is backed up, or a large construction vehicle is going slow, sometimes impatient drivers act out, but nearly always with more patience than for a cyclist. It's become clear to me that no matter our legal rights, to be a cyclist is to become a second class road user in practice.

Cultural acceptance of cyclists as legitimate road users is I think the biggest hurdle keeping many people from trying riding. In theory things like bike lanes wouldn't even be necessary if drivers simply behaved with some basic level of civility toward cyclists. This is an issue that goes beyond infrastructure, and while changing the road striping may reduce conflict in some areas, not every street will get a bike lane, and we need everyone to know cyclists have a right to ride on any street. I think there is tendency in our planning to think of some streets as streets where we might have people riding a bike, and other streets prioritize for driving. In reality even some of the streets that are terrible environments to ride a bike, still have many cyclists, such as Lincoln Blvd, due to it's direct routing and even grade, and connection to local business.

While we may want to prioritize some streets for bike routes, we have to start with the assumption that since cyclists have a right to every street, and every street is a street cyclists will ride. Some drivers operate on the understanding that cyclists only have a right to ride where there are bike lanes. I've been shouted at to get in the bike lane on streets that don't even have a bike lane. Having bike lanes on some streets does nothing to clarify the legal right for cyclists to use all streets. There is an education gap, that starts with parents, continues through school, perpetuated by inadequate DMV requirements and materials, and onward. It is a significant challenge now with so many people already on the road who do not understand the rules of the road, but something has to be done.

I was glad to see Santa Monica included some info on bicycling in the recent Seascape (page 2) newsletter sent to residents. Concerning driving behavior however, I don't really think it's the resident drivers that are biggest problem, but rather everyone driving into Santa Monica. That will be a tougher nut to crack.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Santa Monica City Council To Disscuss Approving Contract For Bike Station Facilities Downtown

(Cross posted at Bay City Urbanist)

LB Bike Station Repair Shop InteriorOn tonight's meeting agenda the council is being asked by staff to approve a contract for the construction of two Bike Station style facilities to be part of parking garages 7 and 8. This project is grant funded, and does not come out of the City's general operating budget. For those unfamiliar with these types of facilities, they provide indoor secure bike parking with an attendant for free or a nominal fee.

The Bike Station in Long Beach provides free bike parking during business hours, and paying members can secure their bikes overnight. Usually basic bike maintenance and other services are available. They're most ideal for those looking for safe long term parking, say making a whole day of shopping, or going to the movies, since the longer you leave a bike unattended at an outdoor rack the greater your chance of attracting a thief. The Long Beach facility functions synergisticly with the light rail line, and gives people looking to take a bike for the first leg of their journey a secure place to leave their bike so that their wheels and components arent' striped when they return. I imagine these facilities will get a lot of use in Santa Monica given just how many people are biking here already, and I imagine once the expo line comes to Santa Monica, they will be even more popular.

While I am excited these facilities are coming to Santa Monica, they do not replace the need for convenient bike racks spread around the city for short term parking trips, directly near places of business. New bike racks have been going in around town, and apparently more are sitting waiting to be installed, so hopefully we will see some real progress soon in permanent bike parking offerings. The Santa Monica bike valet program at special events is great, but for the day to day bike commuter, we also need secure bike parking everyday, and everywhere in the city.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Quick Update On Planning Commission Meeting

Santa Monica City Council Meeting
At last nights planning commission meeting, city staff presented an update on the status and process for the pending Santa Monica bike action plan. I wish I had time to go in greater detail on specific comments, but I have to say the Santa Monica planning commission is definitely an ally of bicyclists and I was very encouraged by their support and the questions and concerns they raised.

The bulk of the bike plan discussion was a presentation by staff on the process for the bike plan, and some progress that has already been happening in the city, such as the success of the bike valet program. Followed by the commission discussing it's role in this process.

Richard McKinnon, Michael Cahn, Eric Weinstein my wife Meghan, and my self were members of the public, associated with the Santa Monica Spoke advocacy group, who spoke during public comment. When I was done with my comments during the bike plan item, I was asked to stay at the mic and was then asked a number of questions by several commissioners on bike route treatments and what I might consider ideal designs and a location for such an ideal bike route.

The big takeaways to me were, the planning commission seemed fully behind us, a number of them bike around town them self, and commission chair Jim Ries called for having a presentation in Santa Monica by visionary bike planner Charlie Gandy, currently with the title of mobility director in Long Beach. To see the lessons learned in the progress happening there, and Ries alluded to precedents from similar presentations made by guest speakers during past major planning processes. Ted Winterer expressed frustration about Long Beach having more ambitious plans and more real progress being made than Santa Monica, and that even Fresno is ambitiously moving forward with it's new bike plan. There was a also motion to explore creating a sub-committee of the planning commission, as well as some talk of looking at creating an officially sanctioned public task force on cycling issues, as West Hollywood has done.

I think it's also worth noting the previous item on the renovation of parking structure 6, which would include some bike parking and which cyclists also commented on, became a topic of discussion amongst the commissioners on how we successfully integrate bike parking into our parking plans. Many commissioners expressed concern that the sheer scale and number of cars spaces in the plan was out of character with Santa Monica and it's new priorities under LUCE.

I found the comments of commisiner Pugh particularly entertaining as he referred to the cities parking placement priorities as "ass backward", at one point in his comments. He expressed his desire to see priority for quantity of car parking closer to the freeway, such as our currently under utilized Civic Center garage, and use higher parking rates at lots in the downtown core to fund a shuttle service for the parking further away to encourage better parking distribution and make it easier for those willing to park further away to get into the downtown core without a car. This would reduce automotive circulation in the downtown, where the pedestrian experience should be the priority, and keep congestion closer to the freeway instead of our street grid.


I'll try to keep up with news of future meetings, and encourage people to attend if they can, constant presence at these public input opportunities is an important component of changing the gears of city government and while there is not much paint on the street to show for it yet, I feel we are having an impact that is already changing the political culture in the city. Now almost every development project and plan in the city has some talk about how it effects cyclists or how improvements for cyclists can be incorporated, and that was not really the case a year ago, or really even 6 months ago.


There are some specific aspects of the bike plan process that has been presented that I also want to comment on and will write a separate post on that in the next few days. Also be sure to come out for the public open house for the bike plan on Dec 13th, it will be a great opportunity to give direct feed-back on what you want to see out of our new bike plan and show support for cycling in Santa Monica.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bike Plan Update & Other Issues To Be Discussed At Tonight's Santa Monica Planning Commision Meeting

(Cross posted from my new blog Bay City Urbanist. For the moment, until readership builds up on the other blog, I will continue to cross post some material over here, but in time will transition more content to being exclusively on the other blog.)

Pier Parking Lot And Bike PathIf you haven't noticed the trend, bikes are a discussion topic in Santa Monica right now. At City Hall Wednesday night at 7pm, the planning commission will be discussing 3 topics relevant to bicycling, most notably the discussion of the pending bicycle plan update, item 9-B. If your interested in attending or commenting on the bike plan portion, you may not want to show up early, I've heard word the meeting may go late, and 9-B is last item. Regarding the bike plan, the commission will be discussing "Status, implementation plan, key milestones, priority, funding status, challenges, and planning commission role."

Just before it, 9-A, will be a discussion of the demolition and rebuilding of parking garage 6, which includes plans for additional bike parking capacity in addition to significantly more car parking spaces. The idea of adding a lot more car parking while the claimed goal is no new net car trips in LUCE, is entirely contradictory to me, but that is a whole other can of worms.

About the parking garage and concerning bikes, I am most concerned with how bike parking is designed or integrated into the building. Currently most parking garage bicycle parking is underutilized because no one knows it exists and parking garages are never inviting spaces for someone on a bike, both in inhuman aesthetic design and the hazard of drivers pulling in and out and searching for spots. Bike theft is also a significant concern in this city, and bike parking must be designed with visibility and security in mind. In regards to pedestrian issues, I am most concerned with sight lines and lead up space at entrance and exits for cars, since existing parking garages downtown are often difficult to cross on the sidewalk without someone nearly bumping into you in their car, and drivers frequently block the entire sidewalk while waiting to merge with backed up traffic.

Early in the evening is 8-A, a recommendation to the planning commission to remove the formally proposed roundabout from the plans for Main St. at the future Civic Center Drive that would connect between 4th and Main just south of the Court House. Being a fan of roundabouts, both for the significant public safety benefits in reduced severe intersection traffic crashes, reduced speeding, and the aesthetic qualities, I'm somewhat disappointing that this is the recommendation. Although apparently prior meetings showed a lack of support for the idea. I do think there are intersections that might be better served by one, such as one block North once Olympic Drive connects across to Ocean Ave, and I hope that removing the circle here doesn't indicate an unwillingness to try them again in other places.

Something I find missing in the staff report concerning the roundabout is while there is much talk of the aesthetic qualities of the proposed circle,  apart from the ambiguous description of traffic calming, almost no mention is made of the significant public safety benefits of roundabouts compared to other intersection treatments like stop signs. For a primer on the oft misunderstood roundabout, I recommend Tom Vanderbilt's, author of "Traffic", article in Slate, "Don't Be So Square, Why American drivers should learn to love the roundabout."
    

Monday, November 29, 2010

Santa Monica Bike Action Plan, Public Open House Meeting, December 13th

(Document presented at environmental task force meeting reveals the plan for the process of the plan)
Santa Monica is updating it's bicycle master plan in the coming year, along with many cities that are either updating or drafting plans where one did not exist before. Santa Monica's previous bike plan, from 1995, has been long over due for an update. The new long term plan for all land use in Santa Monica, the LUCE, includes a number of elements pertaining to bicycling as a desired mode of transportation to reduce car trips, and includes a map of routes. The LUCE is a broad vision for a future Santa Monica, but the bike plan update, now being dubbed the bike action plan, will lay out more specifics, and set time-lines for improvements.

Monday December 13th at 6:30 PM, at the Civic Center, will be a big community open house forum to gather input for the plan. It's important we have as many cyclists as possible get involved. Both to show support for an ambitious bike plan, and provide detailed input on where improvements are most needed and what we would like to see. Having numbers will also help counter any nay-sayers with a wind shield perspective that show up and argue their personal convenience as a driver is more valuable than our rights and personal safety as bicyclists. So save the date, December 13th.


The full release from the city is below:



Bicycling is a critical issue in the City of Santa Monica right now because it helps us achieve goals in many critical areas: sustainable living, greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements, active living, open space/recreation, traffic & parking solutions and accommodating arts, cultural, commercial and civic activities without choking the City on cars. It is the fastest growing transportation mode for our largest employers, the City’s own pool bicycle fleet is now larger than its auto fleet and interest is growing in cycling not only in Santa Monica, but in the region and the country.

LUCE, the recently adopted Land Use and Circulation Element, includes a future bicycle network with goals, policies, and actions for bicycling. The Planning and Community Development Department is currently preparing a Bicycle Action Plan, which will set forth an implementation strategy for realizing the LUCE vision for bicycling. We need your help in prioritizing and identifying programs like bike education, safe routes to school as well local and citywide bicycle improvements that need to be made so that we can create a place where everyone wants to ride and feels comfortable doing it.

Please join us from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday December 13, 2010 at the Civic Center Auditorium east wing for an open house style meeting to discuss bicycling and provide feedback on issues and priorities for the Bicycle Action Plan. Feedback from this meeting, as well as a public survey, will be incorporated in the Bicycle Action Plan which will be issued next year. The Civic Center is accessible by Big Blue Bus lines 1,2,3,4, 7, Rapid 7, and 8. There will be additional bike parking for the event. Please contact Michelle Glickert for special arrangements or questions 310.458.2204.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Update On This Week's Council Meeting

The proposal to make certain violations, including sidewalk cycling, be classified so that they may be an infraction or misdemeanor was non-controversial with the council. This was a first reading so it has not been ratified as a change just yet. During my speaking time I also brought up other concerns about sidewalk cycling, the need for safer streets, and alternative enforcement and education possibilities.

I also brought up the bicycle registration ordinance, and after public comments the city attorney acknowledged Santa Monica is indeed not in compliance with state law on this. A change is being drafted, to be discussed as it's own agenda item in a future meeting. Kevin McKeown made a few comments about the need for a broader look at bicycling safety concern and sidewalk riding, and city manager Rod Gould indicating a cross departmental team would be looking at tackling bicycling issues, and that the police department would be involved in this. Having been critical of what always appeared to be a silo approach of every department treating bicycling concerns or problems in their own way, I was glad to hear the city manager emphasize the need for cross departmental collaboration.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tonight, City Council To Look At Amending Sidewalk Riding Ordinance To Become Infraction Rather Than Misdemeanor At Officer Discretion

Santa Monica Critical Mass December As I have discussed before, it is absurd that some local cycling violations, such as sidewalk riding. are classified misdemeanors, requiring a court appearance, and making them far more serious than typical traffic violations, usually given as infractions. I don't think the courts are too keen on Santa Monica's handing out a bunch of dumb misdemeanors either. The cyclist, Dan Beam, that I have been communicating with recently, who was cited for both sidewalk cycling and failure to show a bicycle license, both laws he was unaware existed, and was given a misdemeanor for both, finally went to court. He explained the situation and the judge promptly tossed out both charges. Just a big waste of time for all parties involved and a waste of tax dollars.

So we may finally see this absurdity become a little more reasonable soon. A first reading of an ordinance change is on the City Council agenda tonight, and will allow officers discretion in giving out an infraction or a misdemeanor for several local ordinances, including the sidewalk riding ordinance, and a few which are not related to cycling. I could foresee very few instances where sidewalk riding should ever be given as a misdemeanor, so imagine it would after this change always be given as an infraction unless a cyclist was being an especially serious hazard to pedestrians or caused harm to someone else.

However I do not see anything in the item report about Santa Monica's bike license requirement, currently also a misdemeanor. This also needs to change, to at least be in compliance with state law. However I think it should be canned all together or made entirely opt-in rather than a requirement. Giving out misdemeanors for not having a sticker most people have never heard of, or if they have heard of it, likely do not know is mandatory, is ridiculous and appears to violate the California Vehicle Code.

I'm going to go to the meeting tonight and use my 2 minutes to insist that the bike license program be canned or at least be changed to reduce the penalties in addition to the other changes proposed on the agenda. I'd also like to pitch again an idea I've been talking a lot about lately, which is to create a program for cyclists cited for moving violations to take a certified bike education class, which would do so much more to benefit public safety than going to court or just paying off a ticket. Austin and Portland are cities that are already doing this.

The meeting tonight starts at 5:30 pm, but the ordinance changes in question are deep into the agenda, item 7-B, immediately following further discussion on taxicab changes in the city, which has been a contentious topic. So if your interested in speaking up on this topic, don't come right away or you'll be there a while. I'll be posting twitter updates, and will try to give a heads up when it becomes clearer what time it may come on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Santa Monica Budget Process For 2011-2012 Is Starting, Pico Neighborhood Meeting Tonight, More To Follow

(cross posted on Bay City Urbanist)

The Santa Monica budget for the next fiscal year is in it's preliminary stages, and local bicycling activists are working to ensure we get bicycling dedicated funding in the next budget. The more people we can get voicing support for this the better. City Manager Rod Gould has been hosting neighborhood meetings  to get residents initial thoughts on their spending priorities, and to present the issues with the city's budget management in light of the financial downturn and reduced state funding.

Two of these neighborhood meetings have already been hosted, and 3 more remain. The one for the Pico Neighborhood, which is where I live, is tonight, and I'll be attending. I encourage Santa Monica residents who come out for some of these and speak up. Particularly for bicyclists, having our bike plan go through an update (public input for a new bike plan will begin soon) doesn't do us much good if we still get the crumbs of table scraps in spending priority as we have had in the past.

Particularly regarding the Pico Neighborhood, Pico is often short changed, and when it comes to bike improvements and basic accommodation, is the least served neighborhood from my observation, even though there are probably more people living car free or car light around Pico. Particularly because of the community college and many students who rent apartments together in the area, including the building I live in.

None of the businesses along Pico accommodate cycling ( the very few exceptions all provide terribly designed, poorly placed or entirely non-functional bike racks), and the city makes no effort to provide for the need using public resources. I like to sum up the state of bicycling in the Pico Neighborhood with the following photograph of two bikes haphazardly locked to a shopping cart at the 99 cent store, for lack of anything much better to attach to.

The schedule and information for tonight's meeting and the following two neighborhood budget meetings are below. The web page with further information on budgeting is here, and there is also a form for making online submission of comments. This is a critical time to start getting involved, we don't get bike improvements unless we get dollars to pay for them, and in the big picture, the amount of money cyclists are asking for is peanut shells compared to what we shovel into subsidizing driving every year.

November 17, 7 p.m.
Cosponsored by Pico Neighborhood Association
Virginia Avenue Park Thelma Terry Community Room, 2200 Virginia Avenue

November 30, 7 p.m.
Cosponsored by Friends of Sunset Park
Grant Elementary School Auditorium, 2368 Pearl Street

December 2, 7 p.m.
Cosponsored by North of Montana Association
Montana Branch Library, 1704 Montana Avenue

Friday, November 12, 2010

Follow Up On Recs & Parks Bike Commitee Meeting

Bike It Day - 10-13-10 - SamohiOn the whole I think it was a good and productive meeting, raising a number of issues seldom discussed in the depth they deserve, and advocates presented a number of potential solutions. I passed around a document I prepared on my thoughts about sidewalk riding as a symptom of dangerous streets and approaches to reducing sidewalk riding. This was partly in response to complaints from seniors about sidewalk riders and the subsequent ticketing of riders by SMPD with overly punitive misdemeanor charges. I was glad at the very least the police acknowledged a misdemeanor was far too harsh and were lobbying to have the ordinance changed to the level of infraction, as most traffic violations are.

I also pitched the idea of programs in Austin and Portland were ticketed cyclists can opt to instead of pay the fine, pay for a certified street cycling course that teaches safe practices and local laws on cycling. I think that's far more productive then sending people to the LAX court house. There were high and low points, like one of the officers suggesting that accidents and bad driving were "inevitable". We really have a long ways to go in fostering a culture of safe streets in Santa Monica.

I can't entirely pin this all on the SMPD though. They are overwhelmed by an entire system that is failing, in engineering, education, other components of the legal system, and the failings of the state level. Improving traffic safety is complex, cross-departmental, influenced by culture, by media and every level of government. There is also the interplay of connected municipalities such as Santa Monica receiving much of it's traffic from the City of Los Angeles.

A complex problem requires multifaceted solutions, but if Santa Monica really makes it a priority to improve traffic safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, and as a consequence it would improve safety for everyone, even drivers, I believe a lot can be accomplished fairly quickly. We need to come together and tackle what is the biggest threat to life in this community.

I have become a firm believer in setting as the goal post, vision zero, an ethical standard that no death should be tolerated on our streets and that we reduce the body count to zero. If you think about our current system and culture, it is based on the premise that the high rate of people dieing in traffic is an unfortunate but accepted collateral damage for moving cars quickly, with the notion that we must all have cars and must move cars fast, to create economic prosperity. This collateral damage costs more American lives than our military engagements, and unlike other health risks, victims often have little or no control over their demise, such as when reckless drivers unpredictably strike or lose control of their vehicle. We are in need of a culture shock.

For a more complete synopsis of the bike committee meeting this week, check out the Santa Monica Mirror, which had a reporter at the meeting and covered the evening's discussion.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission Bike Committee To Discuss Bike And Ped Collision Statistics Tonight @ 6:00pm

Bike Lane Icon

The Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission Bike Committee is having a public meeting tonight at 6:00pm at the Ken Edwards Center to discuss bike and pedestrian safety information in Santa Monica. The recent and sobering statistics cited in the latest city Sustainability Report Card and in the California Office of Traffic Safety Rankings are topics that will be discussed. In addition to the committee members, representatives from the police department and city staff will be on hand to discuss the issues.

I've also heard there are some senior residents who are planning to come and express their frustration with sidewalk bicycling. I plan to come prepared to discuss why sidewalk cycling is a symptom of poor infrastructure design, poor education, and aggressive and often illegal bullying behavior from motorists. The problem of dangerous drivers trickles down to effecting everyone, and represents the biggest threat to all road users.

Crosswalk


Really cyclists and pedestrians should be allies with a common enemy in the automobile. In 2008, 110 cyclists and 105 pedestrians in Santa Monica were seriously injured or killed in traffic collisions, and it's certainly not because of cyclists and pedestrians occasionally bumping into each other. Which is not to say there is not an issue with sidewalk cycling, it certainly presents a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists alike. It reinforces the false, but widely held notion that cyclists don't belong on the road and encroaches on the rights and space of pedestrians, and does represent a potential for collision resulting in injury.

We need to keep the situation in context.  Some people on foot may be afraid of cycling on the sidewalk, but there is little to suggest it is all that dangerous to the pedestrian. There are some freak incidents in the U.S. were a cyclist has struck a pedestrian and the victim fell in such a manner as to die from their injury, but such incidents are incredibly rare, while drivers killing pedestrians is very common place, happening every day. Transportation for America has put out a report that compares pedestrians struck and killed by cars while crossing the street to being the equivalent of a jumbo jet crashing and killing all passengers every month.

Causalities involving cyclists struck by cars out numbers pedestrians being seriously hit or killed in Santa Monica, despite representing a smaller margin of the populace. Until we make the streets feel safe to ride a bike, no matter what the laws governing sidewalks are, how many tickets are handed out, no matter what cycling advocates say in encouraging street cycling, I think we will find some cyclists on the sidewalk. This is not to suggest bicycling is exceedingly dangerous as an activity, but many of the ways in which a cyclist can significantly reduce their risk of being hit are not being practiced by many riders, either because the cyclist doesn't know what safe riding practices are, are unaware of their legal rights, or are afraid to fully exercise their rights because of intimidation by motorists who either do know their rights, or do not respect them.

It's easy to lose sight of the bloody reality of transportation because the news media filters out most traffic casualties. Serious injury and death from traffic collisions are so common it's generally not considered that "news worthy". I think some people are surprised to discover the most common traffic death of them all is the single vehicle automobile crash, with a driver hitting a stationary object or going off the road. That's not considered interesting to news media unless the driver was famous or the car was very expensive.

We should not resign ourselves to accept traffic fatalities as fate however. Traffic, and traffic deaths are not weather conditions, they are not an act of God, it is a problem of our own doing, and one we can undo as well. There are cities that have made enormous strides toward improved traffic safety with concerted campaigns, enforcement and engineering. The life expectancy of New Yorkers has been going up by notable margins recently (1 year and 7 months increase) in part because of reductions to traffic deaths from their recent re-engineering efforts. Researcher and public health consultant Peter Jacobsen has made a call for a Vision Zero, a goal that we dramatically reduce traffic fatalities until there are none at all. America, with it's 30,000 - 40,000 traffic deaths a year has a long way to go to get there, but it won't change if we don't try.

Hopefully tonight's meeting can kick off a constructive dialogue in Santa Monica on improving the safety of our streets, for the good and livelihood of us all, regardless of what mode or means of getting around our city.

I'm Starting A New Blog To Focus On Urban Planning Issues and Livable Streets Movement In Santa Monica

The Park Is Open, The Parking Spaces In Front Of Swingers Never Looked So Good
(Santa Monica Spoke's Park[ing] Day Space At Swingers Diner)

First off I'd like to thank all of you, my readers, who have stuck with me during the development of this blog. From the days when I barely knew what I was doing but knew I was excited about bikes, to sporadic periods without much posting due to overtime work commitments. Slowly and gradually Gary Rides Bikes has grown in readership and influence. Even Los Angeles Mayor Villarigosa has checked out the blog.

As I've been consuming as much information as I could over the past few years on cycling, I increasingly saw the connections and importance of all aspects of transportation and land use planning in shaping how we get around in the city. I've been wanting to broaden my focus, and create more bridges between advocacy for bicycling, pedestrian, and public transit, inspired by Streetsblog and the L.A. Street Summit.

I'm not an urban planner by academic education or trade, I went to art school and now I make video games for a living. Though in my off time I've been building this second education for my self and developed an interest in shaping more than just a virtual reality. Besides bicycling specific books like "Bicycling and the Law", and "Pedaling Revolution", I've been going through the works of Jane Jacobs, who I was first exposed to from borrowing off of a friend's reading list in college. Reading "The Death And Life of Great American Cities" forever changed the way I looked at the built environment. Digging into the psychology and history of our driving culture, I've been reading books like "Republic of Drivers", and Tom Vanderbilt's "Traffic". I've also been stuffing every local and significant national blog on bicycling and transportation issues I could find into my Google Reader.

logo500px

Now I want to take some of that insight, built over the course of creating and writing this blog, and my desire to incite positive change, and apply it to covering various urban planning issues in Santa Monica. I'm calling the new blog Bay City Urbanist. If you're wondering how I arrived at calling it that, you can check out the about page. It will feature discussions on pedestrian issues, cycling, traffic, land use, public spaces, local transit, among other things, all with a Santa Monica focus.

I'm also interested and seeking potential co-authors or guest writers for Bay City Urbanist, so I can tap into people with more expertise on issues with which I am not yet as familiar as I am with cycling, or who have another interesting perspective to offer. As well as to maintain a higher frequency of content than I have time for on my own. If you'd be interested in contributing, or know someone who would be, who is knowledgeable on the topics, please let me know. Preferably a resident of Santa Monica, or at least someone who does or has spent time here frequently enough to have a local understanding.

As for what will happen to this blog, I have no intention to abandon Gary Rides Bikes, though the post frequency here may lower when I focus further on other projects. I would like to build a readership with the new blog which includes, but is not exclusively those interested in cycling. I'm hoping an offshoot of doing this will be bringing ideas from bicycling advocacy to an audience that may be less familiar with those issues, and cross pollinate energy.

When I feel like writing material that is really intended for an audience already both knowable and passionate about bikes, or material more related to the bike culture and my personal adventures within, such content will mostly still be published through Gary Rides Bikes. Since Bay City Urbanist will be very Santa Monica centric, when I feel like getting specific about bicycling issues outside of Santa Monica, or are less relevant to a Santa Monica discussion, those things will mostly be posted here at Gary Rides Bikes.

I also know that some people really like my occasional long ranting posts, some of them are my most read pages. However they can also be a little off putting for a broader audience, so that sort of stuff will most likely stay here. From time to time I may also cross post some things to both blogs when relevant or link between them.
 
So I hope you will check out the new blog, but stay tuned here, I'll keep updating Gary Rides Bikes, though likely not quite as often. Now it's time for the next evolution in my thought process, though bicycling will always be my first love when it comes to urban planning issues.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Update On L.A. Bike Plan & Planning Commission Meeting, A Victory For Cyclists

 09 Los Angeles City Hall (E)
At the L.A. planning commission meeting yesterday, cycling activists from all over the spectrum united in calling for the plan to have some key revisions made before being declared final. The meeting lasted forever, and I had to bail early for work, but Joe Linton has a run down of the whole day over at Streetsblog. Cyclists had a victory yesterday, with the plan being put off until the next planning commission meeting, with a sub-committee formed to iron out some of the final concerns with aspects of the plan. Items such as strengthening the definition of a "bike friendly street", shifting some of the priorities for the 5 year implementation plan, and defining a minimum car lane width as 10 feet instead of 11, bringing more bike lane projects into the realm of "feasible".

My thanks to everyone who actually sat through the whole thing and gave their speaking time, the perseverance has paid off.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

City of L.A. Bike Plan Goes To Planning Commission Tomorrow, Cyclists Encouraged To Show Numbers At City Hall & Voice Concerns

Little Kid On Little Tall Bike
( Some are saying the bike plan comes up a little short. )

For those who have not been following from other sources, the City of L.A. planning commission will be reviewing the bike plan update. Once approved by the planning commission, modifications will be more difficult to make. Cycling activists and organizations are all highly encouraging cyclists to show up to make our presence felt to the planning commission, whether that be in support or against aspects of the plan. Though many activists take issue with a number of aspects of the plan. While LACBC had initially encouraged cyclists to come support the plan and listed some positive aspects, they have also since joined the voices of activists like Joe Linton, Alex Thompson, Stephen Box and Josef Bray-Ali in calling for aspects where the plan is lacking or even weaker than the 1996 plan to be fixed before approval.

I have admittedly been more out of the loop on the L.A. bike plan developments than I would like, having been very busy and locally Santa Monica focused lately, so I apologize for the lack updates on my blog. I am going to try and make it out to the meeting tomorrow to add to the chorus and write in comments on the bike plan website. Whether you live in City of L.A. or not, if your in any of the municipalities connected to it, what the City of L.A. does effects everyone in the region. If you want to get up to speed on where the bike plan is at, and where it has been, Joe Linton's recent post for Streetsblog is highly informative and I recommend you check it out.

The meeting is tomorrow Thursday November 4th 2010 at 8:30am in the City Council Chambers on the 3rd floor of City Hall, at 200 North Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles 90012. If you can't make it out, but want your voice heard, I encourage you to write in a comment, they are looking at everything that comes in and gauging how people feel about the plan. The planning commission e-mail Planning@lacity.org

The Dark Side Of Bicycle Registration Rears It's Ugly Head Again

 Santa Monica Critical Mass December
(Photo from my first Santa Monica Critical Mass, ticket was written for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign)

Over in Long Beach the police decided to crack down on a critical mass ride within minutes of it starting last week. As we saw in Santa Monica police crack-downs on critical mass in the past, back when it attracted much bigger turnout, tickets were written in mass, some for legitimate violations, others less clear, and some down right nit picky. The really overreaching and draconian part of this fiasco though, was the LBPD seized peoples bikes, which for some riders was their only or primary means of transportation.

This mass seizure of bikes was done under the guise of the bikes not being registered under the local bicycle registration ordinance and in some cases a lack of brakes.  Last time I checked when drivers fail to update their vehicle registration sticker it's a ticket, they don't impound the car. Also driving with dealer plates instead of valid license plates is so common it would be laughable if it were not such a serious issue of accountability with our abysmally high rate of hit and run crashes.

It should be noted concerning the bikes taken for lack of external brakes, that fixed gear bikes can be stopped under the definition of stopping in the CA bicycle equipment requirements when you lock your legs, and there is no clarification in the vehicle code of the definition of what a brake is. Though I think caliper brakes are a good idea for additional safety, if cities want to do away with fixed gear bikes not equipped with external braking power, there must be further clarification of what brakes are in the vehicle code. Cruiser bikes with internal coaster brake hubs are very common, especially in Southern California, and stop in a manner not all that dissimilar to a fixed gear bike. A judge in Oregon ruled that a fixed gear bike does not constitute having a brake, but it's hardly a matter that is settled, and there is still ambiguity in the law and it's interpretation. As Ted Rogers pointed out in comments, Long Beach judges have tossed out tickets given to fixed gear riders in the past concerning braking requirements.

As has been demonstrated several times now, bicycle registration as it exists, where it exists is so poorly implemented that most citizens have never heard of such requirements. Sometimes even cyclists trying to comply have a lot of trouble getting a sticker because the agencies in charge of distributing them are often unprepared to actually implement the registration. While bicycle theft recovery is the commonly stated purpose of such laws, in practice they can used to harass cyclists or add punitive punishments when police are reaching for extra penalties to stack when no other valid traffic violations can be found.

For more background on the critical mass situation in Long Beach, check out the stories on the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the LA Times,  and Ted Rogers of BikingInLA has a good round up of the points with links to pertinent ordinances, statements etc.  

The seizure of the bikes for something as petty as lack of a registration requirement that is so poorly implemented, is incredibly and excessively overreaching. I really hope the cyclists in Long Beach organize and sue the city.  I think as a group cyclists need to start drawing lines in the sand and explore options for law suits against governments which fail to provide for our safety through infrastructure, fail to educate the public on the rights and responsibility of all road users, abuse their police powers, and or them selves fail to comply with the law.

As many readers of mine are aware, I think that bicycle registration as implemented in Santa Monica is both sloppy and also unlawful according to the California Vehicle Code. I had tried to call attention to the issue a few times in the past, through e-mails and round-table discussion with city staff, after it was discovered the L.A. version of the law was being used to ticket cyclists who had violated no other traffic law, and widespread ignorance that the law even existed, both among citizens and public officials. The L.A. law was eventually put to rest after a period of back and forth on the issue while cyclists given tickets were in limbo.

In Santa Monica the law still stands however, but as written is still absurdly punitive and does not comply with state law. It fails to comply on two accounts, it can only be required of or enforced on residents, which the Santa Monica ordinance does not indicate, and it is currently a misdemeanor with maximum penalty of $1,000 with the possibility of jail time. However the C.A. C.V.C. specifies the penalties for such requirements is not to exceed $10. The Santa Monica law was also recently featured in a post by livable streets activist and L.A. city council candidate Stephen Box, on the topic of local governments, and government agencies, which have or have had laws or policies concerning bicycling, which are in fact in violation of state laws.

Previously had no luck finding anyone actually being cited for the violation in Santa Monica. That has changed. In the past week I've been exchanging messages with a cyclist that found me through a friend of his being a reader of my blog. He was cited for sidewalk riding, which he did not know was also an offense, and when he expressed that he had seen other cyclists use the sidewalk, something common in Santa Monica despite being prohibited, he was given a second violation, for failure to display a bicycle license, another ordinance the cyclist had no idea existed. Both cited offenses were listed as misdemeanors, more serious than most traffic violations, which are treated as infractions, and these citations have mandatory court dates, at the LAX court house.

While sidewalk riding is clearly not allowed in the Santa Monica municipal code, the city also does a pretty terrible job informing the public of that requirement as well. Should the penalty for this also be so serious as to require a mandatory court date? This seems particularly ridiculous given that Santa Monica shares sidewalk connections with the City of Los Angeles, which does not prohibit sidewalk riding. There are no signs indicating anywhere that sidewalk cycling is prohibited on city streets in Santa Monica. As I've said many times before, I am certainly no advocate for sidewalk riding, I am a vehicular cyclist all the way. However if Santa Monica is going to prohibit the practice of rolling on the sidewalk, it needs to do a better job educating the public that sidewalk riding is not allowed, and defending cyclist's right to use the roadway.

Seeing the disaster of police abuse in Long Beach, and finding a cyclist cited for lack of registration at home, has renewed my interest in having the law killed or reformed, as it is clearly apparent as written invites abuse of police power in addition to being unlawful. If it comes down to it, I may start consulting with a lawyer to make Santa Monica city comply with state laws whether it wants to be bothered with this issue or not. Hopefully this incident has motivated Long Beach cyclists to fight the law there as well.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gary Rides Bikes Endorsements For Santa Monica City Council

I think bicycling as an issue has been somewhat neglected in years past in Santa Monica. However with the LUCE finally passing, changing trends in transportation, and groups like Spoke making bicycling more present in the public sphere, bicycling is a topic that's become an election issue. The Santa Monica Daily Press got each candidate on the record on bikes, and all felt compelled to at least say something positive for bicycling development.

It's easy to just say something nice for a single question in the paper. This was partly why I decided to send out my own questionnaire to get some more perspective on where the candidates are coming from in regards to bike planning issues. I think it's a postive sign for cycling's growing acceptance as a constituency that everyone has agreed on some level of support, even candidates who otherwise disagreed on many other things. Santa Monica Spoke also hosted a candidate mixer and forum to speak with some of the candidates as well. It was a great way to bring community members and the candidates together to talk about our concerns, and made for a very productive evening.

After some careful consideration I've decided to endorse Kevin McKeown and Ted Winterer for the 4 year seat election, and Terry O'Day in the 2 year seat election. 

Santa Monica Spoke, City Council Mixer & Forum To Discuss Bicycling
(McKeown at Santa Monica Spoke Meet The Candidates Event)
McKeown, as he pointed out in his questionnaire, has been riding a bike for a while, the same bike since the 70's, and has consistently been a supporter for bicycling in his time in office. Though support wasn't always there in the rest of the council. As the Spoke group started to develop, McKeown was always approachable and responsive to our concerns and recently helped work out a compromise in the Agensys developer agreement that included some additional funds being added that will be used for seeding bike projects in the Bergamot district. He also helped get Richard McKinnon appointed to the Parks and Recs commission. McKinnon, who is also on the steering committee of Santa Monica Spoke, has been using his position on the parks commission to advocate for bicycling in every way possible, and has been heading the effort to bring a Ciclovia style event to Santa Monica.


Santa Monica Councilman Terry O'Day Stops By The Park For A Picknick With Family
(Terry At Santa Monica Spoke's Park[ing] Day Event with his mother and daughter)
Terry O'Day comes from a background as an environmentalist (he is currently an executive director of Environment Now), and from conversations I've had with Terry he really seems to get it. He met with Santa Monica Spoke at one of our very early public meetings, gave a great talk at Bikeside Speaks (which he rolled up to on his Specialized bike). He also recently came down to see our Park[ing] Day installation and enjoyed a picnic in our pop up park with his family.

There has been a push by some to say Terry is in the pocket of developers (the group SMCLC sent out an attack e-mail with some misleading accusations about O'Day) because of his opposition to the initiative Measure T. As some readers may recall, I was also strongly opposed to the measure for a few reasons, primarily because of the constraints it would have put on mixed use development, which is exactly the sort of development I think cities ought to be doing to create more vibrant and walkable communities. Terry is a smart guy with innovative ideas, and is passionate about the environment and affordable housing, and I believe deserves our support in the election.

Santa Monica Spoke, City Council Mixer & Forum To Discuss Bicycling
(Ted Winterer on the right, candidate Jon Mann on the left, At Santa Monica Spoke Meet The Candidates Event)

Recently Ted Winterer was notably the strongest supporter on the planning commission for bicycling accommodation in the Agensys redevelopment project. He has also been very supportive and approachable in talking with local bicycling advocates. He was a co-author of Measure T, the contentious measure which as I mentioned, I was opposed to. However he seems open to input and different ideas and has a real community focus. I think he will be a strong advocate for making the plans in LUCE have real teeth and has adamantly said the LUCE "No new net auto trips" goal should be more than a feel good policy statement. We need more political leaders who are willing to take a stand in representing their constituents interests and I think Winterer is someone who will do that.

It was hard to narrow down these picks, as many candidates have expressed support for cycling, and some candidates who I disagreed with on many issues had some great ideas for making Santa Monica more bike friendly. One of the shockers for me was in the Santa Monica Daily Press Squirm Night. After listening to Terry O'Day and Republican Robert Kronovet disagree on nearly everything, when my question about bike safety came up, Kronovet was highly enthusiastic about making safer bike lanes, fully separated ones, and that Pico Blvd should have one (Kronovet is the chairman of the Pico Improvement Organization). Susan Hartley at the candidate mixer pitched a novel idea to turn Broadway into a mini-Ciclovia on weekends to create a dedicated safe route for residents and visitors to bike across town, to reach the Downtown area and Beach.

No matter who is elected, I think we will have some receptive ears to cycling concerns on the council, but it will be important for the cycling community to continue organizing and be involved in the process. Particularly the budgeting process, which Terry O'Day has pointed out starts in January. Councilmen like McKeown have always been a safe vote for bikes on the council, but turn out helps sway on the fence voters, and we won't get majorities sitting on the side lines.

Remember to get out there and bike the vote. It's a big election for California this year, with a lot at stake. I encourage everyone to read up on all the candidates and the ballot measures.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire: Susan Hartley (2 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Yes I do. A Rallye Mt. Peak men's bike. I had back surgery and am only now getting back into cycling. I plan on getting a better bike.



2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family?

I don't ride as frequently as I'd like. I used to do the bicycle path every Sunday with frequent excursions from where it ends in Redondo Beach to the northern end. I ride solo, with friends, and with family.



3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

I am a real advocate for closing off to autos a major east/west street every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. so that bicyclists can safely and freely travel from all over Santa Monica to the beach and the downtown area. I originally suggested Broadway for this, but Arizona might be better, given the fewer businesses there. It would be a great way to get families out on their bikes, encouraging bicycling throughout the community. I endorsed the re-striping of Ocean Park Blvd. with the clearly marked bike lanes, defending it still to my fellow Friends of Sunset Park board members who prefer re-installation of the 2 lanes of traffic in either direction instead. I see a real lack of continuity and even hypocrisy between the City calling for bike lanes and then not insisting on a bike lane through the Agensys redevelopment project. That was a big mistake by the incumbents. I'd like to see steps taken to utilize alleys for safer bike routes near busy/congested areas of Santa Monica.


4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

The money should be spent in participatory events. The Girl Scout program has a bicycle education program which even includes maintenance. (I was a Girl Scout leader for 12 years.) That type of program could be instituted city-wide, even monthly. In addition, programs/events could be planned for bicycle touring of neighborhoods, utilizing "safer/recommended" routes. People would be attracted by the strength in numbers, fellowship, and happening of it. Cooperation with Critical Mass would also help in educating. Police officers could stop traffic, facilitating the groups flow safely through the community, instead of trying to stop the bicyclists. These participatory events would be fun, draw crowds of residents, and be an excellent way to provide bicycling education.


5) Context: (Note: I had mentioned I was leaving provided context out of responses to save space, which I posted here at the beginning of the series, but since Susan made a response specifically to context in addition to question I've included here again.)


The recent sustainability report card noted that collisions between drivers and cyclists had increased 78% in the past 3 years, while bicycle ridership grew 11% last year. The California Office of Traffic Safety report from 2008 rates Santa Monica as having some of the highest, and in some cases the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities and injuries in traffic collisions for California cities of comparable size. 711 victims were injured or killed in all traffic collisions in Santa Monica in 2008 (212 of which were cyclist or pedestrian involved). Making traffic collisions clearly one of the biggest threats to public safety.

These are horrendous statistics. I'd like to see the report, analyses of the types of accidents and the locations of accidents, and the breakdown of fatalities and injuries.


Question:
How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

I'm for more bike lanes, clearly marked and even painted blue or green. The current re-striping of Ocean Park Blvd and the plans for that boulevard west of Lincoln are very exciting and very bicycle friendly. We need more streets like that in Santa Monica.

Santa Monica needs a clear and extensive bike lane network. My dedicated bike rider friends know which streets are safer and easier to ride from point A to point B. That info could be shared and publicized to encourage others to bike.

Sharrows scare me, both for the bicyclists and the auto drivers. I appreciate the concept but don't think that will help if somebody is killed or seriously injured.

I'm for enforcement of existing laws prohibiting bicyclists from riding on sidewalks as well as revisiting those laws, perhaps making the sidewalk on one side of the street a bicycle/pedestrian share lane. I've had a lot of seniors express to me their fear of being hit by a bicycle on a sidewalk. I know that is something to fear. I was hit by a bicyclist on the school playground when I was in 1st grade and seriously injured. I exercise residual caution to this day for fear of being hit again while I'm on a sidewalk.

Bicyclists should take it upon themselves to never run red lights. That's the law and it's so dangerous to disregard it. While I can understand the desire not to stop at a stop sign, it's hazardous not to. I guess if there is no car in sight, an exception could be made.

Enforcement of light requirements at night is essential. Frankly, I want to get through life without hitting/killing an animal, a pedestrian, and/or a bicyclist. It's scary to see a bicyclist seemingly appear out of nowhere, dressed in dark clothing and without any lighting whatsoever.

The police would have to be educated about bicycle laws and sensitized to the reality that bicyclists have a right to be on the road, that the bicycle population is increasing, and that our community wants to encourage, not discourage, bicycling. The police must get the message that our community demands a more cooperative and conducive environment for bicyclists.

With enforcement of the bicycle laws, there could be a warning ticket first and then a monetary penalty ticket. I think such enforcement would minimize the injuries and fatalities.


6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Absolutely. There needs to be more available bike parking areas and devices. Consideration should also be given to allowing bicyclists inside some buses, like I've seen on the Metro.



7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

The city, perhaps with your and other bicyclists' input, needs to inventory locations of available bike parking facilities. Then they can install more. I'm greatly disturbed by the number of forgotten/ignored areas of our town and the inequity of it. All city resources and services need to more equitably distributed. I've fought for social justice all my life and plan to make equal distribution of city resources and services a primary goal of my time on the council.

Re the 99 cent store on Pico Blvd., that is a prime example of how NOT to plan. It's the wrong store in the wrong place. There is inadequate parking for autos, ingress and egress for autos, and from what you say bicycles. It's always an accident waiting to happen.

I flyered that area north and south of the freeway this weekend and heard over and over, as well as saw, how the city neglects that area. That has to stop. Those people deserve equal access to taxpayers dollars.


8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

My answers above answer this question. We're in a transition stage now, but with more cycling and the education efforts I mention above, there will be not only more bicycling but more synchronization between bicyclists and drivers. People squawk about the re-striping of Ocean Park Blvd., but the stats show it's a safer street now, not only for the pedestrians and bicyclists, but for the drivers. We'll see more cooperation between bicyclists and drivers with cycling becoming more common and widespread. Also, there will be less hostility from drivers when bicyclists follow the law regarding stopping at lights and stop signs and using lights at night.



9) How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

My idea detailed above about closing off a major east/west street to cars every Sunday for certain hours. Also, specifying already existing easy access routes to get to the bike path, such as Ocean Park Blvd., perhaps even painting them with a beach graphic like a wave. The topography north of the pier is a problem with walking and carrying seemingly the only answer now. With budget constraints on all fronts, it doesn't appear that funds for a bridge for bikes is feasible for that area. It should be considered.



Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

I look forward to riding with you during some of the above community events I've suggested. It's an exciting time for cycling. We're at a real turning point in cycling becoming a major mode of transportation for increasing numbers of people. We need to insist that the city not cave to developers like they did with Agensys. Wear ample lighting at night and please don't run stop lights and even signs. It's not good public relations. Stay safe. The cycling climate is only going to get better. I promise to work on that.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire: Terry O'Day (2 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Specialized road bike – it has narrower tires than mountain bikes, but wider than most racing bikes. There’s a detachable kid seat on the back. My next bike would have narrower tires (I thought commuting would require something more rugged, but I think that’s not true in SM), and fewer gears (currently 18), since they seem to provide more maintenance headaches than cycling efficiency. Not to mention I have a grudge with Shimano right now due to their efforts to kill our marine protected areas in California.

2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family? 

I ride less often these days, since my kids are in two different schools. I’m riding 1-2 days per week and I go to school drop-off, my office, and community meetings. When I have to go downtown SM, bike is most preferred because it’s easier for traffic and parking reasons.

3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

First, we need a bike action plan that shows the practical, immediate steps to quickly improve bikability and safety in SM. Second, we need city staff dedicated to bike issues and meeting with our bike community regularly. Third, we need to shift some resources in our budget that are currently dedicated to street improvements toward bike safety improvements. As a councilmember, I have begun this shift. I am pressing for the first item – the bike action plan. We are implementing the second – staffing at the city. I introduced the motion to dedicate city funds to bike education in our current budget.

4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

I would like to see the funding spent on a) a conference that attracts some of the best people in the country to share ideas about making SM bike-friendly, b) providing bike education classes for the community, and c) enhancing the highly successful Bike-It Day of our schools and expanding it to become a city-wide event with other agencies and employers.

5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

In addition to the bike education programs mentioned, and increasing the number of bikers on the road (both of which improve safety), in the short term, I want to see us immediately deploy ‘bike boxes’ which indicate to bikes and cars where to stop your bike at intersections. I want to immediately paint lanes on every street that presently has the width to accommodate a lane but no paint yet. Also, hosting a regular Cyclovia to attract attention to bikes. In the medium term, I want to connect our lanes to destinations and neighborhoods in a more rational way. I want to develop a ‘bike boulevard’ demonstration and a ‘Safe Route to School’. When Expo is developed, it needs to accommodate bikes in the first instance.

6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Yes to all!

7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

We are currently upgrading our parking meters and installing payment center – removing old meters. We should be converting those old posts to bike parking and massively increase deployment of safe bike parking. (Note from Gary; this is mostly in response to the context I provided in that some parts of the city have no bike parking at all.)

8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

I actually think this is the most difficult area of all the questions you pose because the city has the least amount of influence over behavior of drivers, many of whom live throughout the region. Proper signage, including street paint like sharrows will help. Safety in numbers will help too. By increasing the number of bikes on our streets, we change behavior of drivers. Police enforcement bears mentioning, but would never reach all behavior on the road.


9) How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

SM is in the midst of renovating the pier bridge and the california incline. Those projects may be able to create a better connection over our bluffs in the mid-to-north part of our city. In the South, we simply need better signage and dedicated crossings. These could provide a vibrant connection to Main Street businesses.

Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

Thanks, Gary, for being such a great activist. I encourage your readers to join the council during its complete budget process, which begins in January with priority setting and concludes in June with an adopted budget. Come tell us to put our money where our mouth is. Thanks!

Candidate Questionnaire: Pam O’Connor (4 year Santa Monica city council seat)

1) Do you ride a bike, and if so, describe it?

Don’t have a bike right now. I had bad knees for the past few years that limited me. Now have new knees, so…(See bonus questions for last time I rode a bike.)

2) If you ride, what kinds of trips do you make by bike, how often, and do you ever ride with friends or family? 
N/A


3) On the Council, what will you do to ensure the goals set by the LUCE plan for various bicycling improvements, are seen through to completion in a timely and accountable fashion as we move forward. Additionally for incumbents, what are any notable actions you’ve done on the council in the past to improve the environment for bicycling in Santa Monica?

LUCE provides the umbrella for developing a multi-modal transportation system. However, a more detailed Bicycle Master Plan needs to be created to lay out specific bicycle network elements. Some streets can become “complete streets” with roadway shared but others may not be easily made safe for bicycle travel because of the intensity of vehicles and parking. But Santa Monica has a strong street grid that will allow for “complete corridors”—i.e. dedicated bike lane on a parallel street (thus the corridor is “complete” with bike route on the safer street). Other residential streets with less traffic would be shared. On the Council and as a Metro Board member and as First VP of SCAG I have promoted multi-modalism (pedestrians, bikes, transit). Coming out of SCAG’s Integrated Planning Task Force (which I chaired) SCAG has just begun a “Wiki for bike and pedestrian planning (http://bikepedwiki.scag.ca.gov/) which is a participatory planning process for bicycle and pedestrian improvements throughout the region.


4) $20,000 was recently budgeted by the council specifically for bicycling education. How do you think that money would be best spent?

As a Councilmember I am a policy-maker, not the project manager…but I expect that city staff would first look at ways to leverage the funds to get the most out of them, look for best practices to implement, and identify other funding sources to enable ongoing bicycle education for everyone (drivers, pedestrians, bike riders, school children, seniors).

5) How would you work to improve the safety of our streets for all users?

See answer to Q3—need to identify appropriate streets for bicycle lanes (and some streets with heavy traffic, future dedicated bus lanes would not be appropriate for the bike lane). And Q4—need for ongoing safety education (there will always be a new rider, a new driver, etc).


6) In the interest of improving multi-modal connectivity, would you support upgrading Big Blue Bus racks to ones that can house 3 bikes? As some bus stops in the city are being upgraded, would you ensure bike parking considerations are made at important bus stops in addition to the coming expo-rail station stops?

Yes to 3-bikes rack and yes to better bike parking. But there is a capacity limit, as there will be with bike parking. I think we also need to investigate bike-sharing programs as another option (i.e., Paris, London, Minneapolis).

7) What will you do to ensure that resources for bicycling are distributed equitably through out the city?

That will be part of the Bicycle Master Planning—identifying all the elements needed for an effective bicycle netsork including bike parking.


8) What would you do to ensure it be common knowledge that bicycles belong on the street, and that everyone, including drivers, understand the various rights, rules and regulations as they pertain to cycling?

See Q4—the education program has to be ongoing (new drivers, new bicyclists). Also traffic enforcement is needed for drivers and bicyclists. In Paris with the introduction of the Velib bike-sharing program there were more bicyclists on the streets and they are allowed to use the dedicated bus lanes. This was only possible with proactive enforcement of traffic rules: drivers and cyclists each had to adhere to rules of the road.

9) How would you propose improving bicycling connectivity to the beach bike path, to promote more synergy with beach riders and local business, as well reduce driving trips to the beach by residents who live close enough to ride there?

Again, that is part of the Santa Monica bicycle Master Plan that must be developed and on a regional level, through planning such as SCAG’s bicycle wiki for planning. At Metro (I am on the Metro Board of Directors and Chair of Metro’s Sustainability Committee) the next “Call for Projects” will encourage funding to those projects that promote bicycle and pedestrian improvements. As the Sustainable Communities Strategy for Los Angeles County (part of SB 375 which requires reduction of GHG from light vehicles) is undertaken at SCAG (I am First Vice-President of SCAG) multi-modal travel support for bicycling will be an important way to improve travel options that reduce GHG thus focusing attention on the investments needed to support safe cycling.


Bonus) Finally, you can also include any comment you’d like to say to my readers, on any topic you’d like.

When my knees were still ok (about 4 years ago) I got to try out the bike sharing program in Lyon, France (which pre-dates Paris’ Velib). It was great!