Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Santa Monica And It's Schizophrenic Support Of Cycling

Bicycle Cookie
(Bike lane destroyed without warning, here have a cookie.)

I'm back from France, and my head is bursting with lessons learned from our European cousins, but I'll save that for a more detailed post later. For now, let's get back to my homeland of sunny Santa Monica. The city has always had a mixed time of supporting cycling, with some good words and intentions at times, more infrastructure support than other parts of LA County, although quickly being left in the dust by Long Beach. However positive efforts have been dampened with poor support of law enforcement, outdated and poor bikeway design, lack of signal detection, lack of education, and little coordination across departments.

One of the things lacking in Santa Monica, is any effort to inform or redirect cyclists during times of construction or other projects that completely interfere with bike routes. Broadway is the go to East/West bike route in Santa Monica for my self, my co-workers, friends, and many other cyclists in this town. However when Broadway is missing in action, as it is now with the asphalt of many blocks completely ripped to shreds, there was no effort to inform cyclists either ahead of time, or directly with signage on the street. No detour or alternative route suggestions, or even a warning that you are about to hit a sudden dip into a ripped up bumpy surface full of gravel.

The street is not currently closed to traffic, and cars can relatively safely travel across with their 4 wide tires and shocks, but for a cyclist, especially one on a road bike and not a mountain bike, such conditions are terrible and likely to result in falls or punctured tires, especially for an inexperienced cyclist. I could see this being most problematic for a cyclist turning onto Broadway where the construction begins, as they would not have the same forward warning something different was up ahead, and in a turn, loose gravel is more likely to cause a spill. While this construction is a more extreme example, it also not uncommon for all manner of vehicles or cones or other things to be blocking parts of the bike lane on Broadway on a regular basis. Oh and those little 3 wheeled go-carts that parking attendants drive and park in the bike lanes handing out traffic tickets. I question the legality of that practice, but it is certainly the standard protocol in Santa Monica.

If Santa Monica actually cared about cyclists in any truly meaningful way such actions without warning would be unacceptable. I'm also willing to bet a fairly large sum of money that the things inadequate in Broadway's bike lane design, like being stuck too far into the door zone or non-existent at intersections, will be painted right back down just as they were when this is done. If Santa Monica wants to live up to the promise of being a "cycling friendly" city, it has to have every department of the city on board and talking to each other. Supporting the growth of cycling, and the safety of cycling, is not just a traffic demand management issue, or a road engineering issue, or a law enforcement issue, or an education issue, it is all of the above and more, and it all has to all be working together in tandem and in a coordinated fashion. Santa Monica is doing some truly wonderful things for cycling, bike valet at big events being one of the more innovative, but at other times it is borderline criminally negligent in it's consideration for cyclists. It's time to erase the Mr. Hyde from this equation and for Santa Monica to be considerate of cyclists all the time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Few Thoughts On LUCE And Then Off To France

Santa Monica Public LUCE Workshop

I attended the Santa Monica LUCE workshop tonight, that was mentioned in the previous post. I don't have a lot of time, but a more in depth report will follow in a few weeks. I will say that the LUCE plan has some good ideas, and a lot of great things in fact. However it is also lacking I think the serious ambition that a truly forward thinking document on a 20 year scale should have, especially for a city so progressive as Santa Monica. I'll go more into detail on that in the follow up post. The ideas and heart are sort of in the right place, and there are a lot of bike improvements in there, but the goals, like no new car trips at the PM rush hour, set the bar a little low. Your couldn't possibly fit that many more car trips into Santa Monica during the PM rush hour if you tried. Though these public meetings are a great, perhaps not perfect, attempt to really hear the communities input on these matters, and this is where you see the real nuts and bolts of democracy happening.

I did get a chance to speak briefly, and with a bigger audience, and one more representative of the community, than any public speaking I've done in the past. I've historically been a pretty shy sort of person, but I think these public speaking opportunities are a great way to reach an audience that may never read this blog, and connect in a different way. Several people approached me after the meeting was adjourned to talk more about my points, either because they were skeptical, or to say they were supportive.

I was glad to see some fellow cyclists, and some fellow members of SM Spoke, I think our presence helps even if it's just as simple as showing up, showing one more bike, and making a little comment on the post it notes and sticking it on a board. Every bit adds up, and we need as much momentum as possible to keep things moving in the right direction.

I'll write more about all this later, but for now au revoir, I'm off to France for a while for my honeymoon with Meghan. Yes I didn't blog about it, but I am married man now, it's crazy, but great! When I get the photos back from my talented friend and photographer Richie, I'll share the ones of us riding a tandem around in our wedding attire, which was a blast to shoot. I'll also report back on the cool transportation infrastructure in Paris, and that whole VĂ©lib' bike sharing business I keep hearing so much about.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Draft LUCE (Land Use and Circulation Element) Presentation Tommorow Night

After a long and drawn out process, the LUCE, several years late, which will set the priorities for city planning for Santa Monica for decades to come, is nearing completion and is expected to be voted on and passed this summer. If you want to get caught up on what this whole thing is about, a public presentation and workshop is being held tomorrow night. It will have far reaching repercussions for everyone in the city, and includes a lot of transportation policy changes that will effect cycling. I think with any of these public gatherings that discuss transportation and land use policy, it's beneficial to have a strong contingent of cyclists present to make it clear we are a constituency that is paying attention. Since this process also started long before I was really getting into local politics, I'd also like to get caught up with everything.

The document has it's flaws however, such as weak goals. The often spoke of "No Net New Evening Peak Period Vehicle Trips", a goal called aggressive in the planning document, sounds nice on the surface, lets keep traffic from getting worse, but is it really ambitious? Anyone who's been in Santa Monica during peak traffic times knows you couldn't fit that many more car trips if you tried, that is unless you started turning neighborhood streets into mini-freeways. Santa Monica Blvd. and Lincoln Blvd., both designed for high capacity and faster travel speeds, at peak times are so packed with cars they move slower than someone out for a jog. The 10 freeway at rush hour isn't much faster than that, as Crimanimalz showed when cyclists, and even in-line skaters, were beating freeway traffic. The goal should be to reduce the number of car trips, anything less is weak, and essentially saying well maybe it won't get any worse. The New York DOT sets the bars high, higher than traffic engineers would like, and it is those lofty ambitions that have produced real results in changing the streetscape.

Santa Monica Parking Land Use
(Hopefully in 20 years Santa Monica will look different than this.)

Draft Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) Presentation:
April 7th at 6:30PM at Lincoln Middle School located at 1501 California Avenue

Friday, April 2, 2010

Food For Thought, Just How Many Tax Dollars Do We Spend On Automobile Parking Subsidies As A Nation

Keeping with my recent theme of parking issues, "...according to figures developed by University of California at Davis professor Mark Delucchi and updated by (Donald) Shoup to account for inflation and the number of motor vehicles owned in the United States, in 2002 the subsidy for off-street parking alone was between $127 billion and $374 billion. This figure is roughly the same amount as our nation’s Medicare or national defense budgets—without including subsidies for the free on-street parking that exists on most urban streets." [Next American City] [Emphasis Mine]

So there you have it, some of the cost of socialized automobile parking care. Something to think about when you hear excuses from government officials about there being no money for bike rack spaces that cost 40+ times less than a surface lot car space and 300+ times less than an auto garage space in a tiny fraction of the land use.

Empty LotParking LotEmpty LotParking GarageCar LotEmpty LotEmpty LotCar LotParking GarageEmpty LotEmpty LotEmpty LotParking GarageEmpty LotEmpty LotEmpty LotEmpty LotParking LotEmpty LotEmpty LotCar LotParking GarageEmpty LotEmpty LotEmpty LotEmpty LotParking LotCar LotEmpty LotEmpty LotEmpty LotEmpty Lot

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Critical Blow To Livible Streets Advocates, Third Street Promenade Will Be Converted To Car Use Along With Other Parking Expansion Plans

(These signs were put up today in an effort to shuffle humans out of the way to make room for new auto parking plans)

In a surprise move today, the Santa Monica City Council has unveiled ambitious plans to turn the 3rd. Promenade, currently a pedestrian only space, into a car roadway with side street parking and new underground parking, along with other far reaching parking expansion initiatives. Bob Holbrook announced to business leaders of the Santa Monica Downtown District, and pro-socialized auto parking care editorialists for the Santa Monica Daily Press, that the council has heard their calls for more parking and cheaper parking downtown, loud and clear. To a rapt crowd of drivers and cars he announced:
For many years now the Third Street Promenade has stood out as an unusual public street space in the L.A. region due to it's lack of cars. People came far and wide to watch the unusual patterns of social interaction that happen outside the confines of the car, but alas, as the population of automobiles in the L.A. region has grown faster than human reproduction. There simply is too much demand for parking spaces, and not enough streets to drive on. To meet this growing demand, Santa Monica will pave the way for a future of more parking. At the center of this plan will be transforming Third Street into a real Street, one for car travel again, complete with side street parking. Center medians will be replaced with ramps leading to brand new subterranean parking network.

But we can do more. Existing parking garages will be double stacked, and city owned properties in the downtown area will become the site of brand new parking towers. Fitting within zoned height restrictions of course. In a landmark first for any city in America, we are going to convert bike lanes, which nobody uses anyways, into space for on street double parking. For double your pleasure! As the terminus of Route 66, and the I-10, it is only appropriate that Santa Monica become the car parking capitol of America, so even more automobiles can enjoy our wonderful beaches.


Most of the crowd at the press conference was ecstatic, particularly the cars in attendance, that they would have so many new places to park. A few skeptics in the crowd asked how this plan would be paid for. Subterranean parking construction can cost between $50,000 and $80,000 per parking space after all. However these questions remained unanswered as they were drowned out by the booing of the crowd that was disappointed anyone would dare question the value of more parking spaces.

(This diagram was shown to illustrate how much land is being wasted on non-parking uses)

Obviously this is dire news for those of us advocating for more livable and human oriented street spaces. It is quite a blow to see Santa Monica, a city that had been making some strides in human oriented city planning, give up and revert fully to it's automobile oriented ways. However we must not give up hope. It is quite likely in the near future peak oil production (or rather undulating plateau, Washington speak to make it sound less scary) will be upon us. Non OPEC-oil production has not exceeded the levels in 2004 in the years since. How deep the OPEC oil reserves goes is not entirely sure as it is widely believed they overstate their numbers. Automobile reproduction could be sent into a spiraling decline in the years ahead, and humans will rise once again to be the focus of city planning.