Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Bike To Work Day Surprise, A Small Tweak In The Road On Broadway Ave.

I'm a little late on my usual bike to work day/week/month news and commentary of years past, but Streetsblog LA is a better place to find that information. I had some hyper local small scale good news though this bike to work day. I just noticed a day and a half or so after my last blog post and e-mail to SM Transportation Management, there were new spray paint marks on Broadway this morning, with the old ones still visible. In addition to my complaint about the initial construction work and lack of warning signage for cyclists for the rough road condition, followed by incorrectly placed reflector flaps after repaving, I made the point that in that particular part of Broadway from 26th to Cloverfield, the former line markings for the street were problematic. I was concerned based on initial spray paint markings that rather than use the opportunity for new painting to tweak things a little nicer, the same problems would be painted right back down.

On the South side of the street the bikelane was too narrow, actually pretty standard for Broadway, but narrow when you consider the door zone. On The North side however, the bikelane was actually a bit wider than necessary, actually as wide as some car lanes. This particular block actually has more width from curb to curb to work with. While extra space is nice, when a bike lane is too wide, and not well marked, drivers will confusingly drive through it, or often you would see people taking advantage of the space for temporary double parking (This can also be found on 11th just North of Colorado). I encountered both of these issues on a regular basis riding to work every day. So I proposed if there is less than ideal space for bikes on one side, right in front of the popular Helen's bike shop, and more space than necessary on the other side, why not just shift the lines of the road over a little. Then at lunch the final paint had been done over the new markings and it looks like shifting the lines over a little is exactly what has been done. I have not confirmed for absolutely sure my comments led to this, but clearly the lines were marked one way and changed at the last minute exactly in the manner I described would be better.

Little details like this are easily overlooked, but they matter, and I'm really happy to see the change. Hopefully on my rides to work no more double parking and confused motorists using the bike lane as though it is for through way automobile traffic on the South side of this block, and a little more breathing room from the door zone on the North side. Additionally there is a second line more clearly delineating the bike lane from the car parking, and where extra space was available they even painted in a little buffer zone to account for the door zone hazard. This is not the most perfect bike lane routed block of street in the world, but it's a noticeable improvement over it's former self with minimal effort and zero impact to automobile traffic lanes. All it took was moving a little paint around slightly differently on a section of road that was being redone anyways.

In less cheerful news, the warm fuzzy feeling of seeing a bike lane improved was tempered by frustration with two near misses today. This morning an SUV driver making a left that was not paying attention and nearly ran me down while I was walking in the crosswalk after finishing up a jog. Anyone who knows me knows I jog almost never, as much as I say it would be a good idea to cross train for cycling. Yet this is the 2nd time on a morning jog an SUV driver making a left went flying through the intersection on green after an initial delayed reaction (indicative of the mindless driver type), with me in the middle of the crosswalk having to jump out of the way. Always followed by the screeching stop and blank look like what was I doing in the crosswalk. The last time this happened a few months ago the person driving actually screamed at me despite my clear right of way.

Then during my lunch break, a few blocks down after passing the newly repainted block, I was nearly merged into by a motorist stuck in traffic who started erratically swerving in that futile effort I see sometimes when a driver will try to shove their car into spaces they don't fit as though that can allow them to skip the long line of traffic ahead. I had a feeling they were about to do it, and was able to avoid it, but it's a good reminder that bike lanes are only a psychological barrier, and the occasional semi-psychotic driver, driven by traffic madness, will believe them self able to move through spaces they cannot fit. I will refer to this as 2 wheel envy, and when traffic is really bad, take caution as you pass the idling cars, sometimes drivers will despite all logical reasoning, try to fit their block into the circle hole so to speak.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Update On State Of Cycling In Santa Monica

Faded Bike Lane Text

I've not been keeping up with the blogging as well as I would like lately, but I wanted to get out a few important bits of info.

First off, Santa Monica Spoke had our second meeting earlier this month with assistant city manager Jennifer Phillips and staff from Transportation Demand Management, which oversees and plans for driving, cycling, transit and walking. This meeting was a lot more productive as both parties came in with more of a game plan of what we wanted out of the meeting, and things were a little less.. confrontational, than our first discussion. It was a positive vibe in the room, and we outlined some pretty ambitious goals for the city, with hardly a nay say to anything we discussed. Obviously it's only talk now, it's when and if action follows that it really matters.

I'm not going to elaborate on everything discussed, but it was a big list and some lofty goals. One of our starting points for discussion was the Bronze awarded to Santa Monica by the League Of American cyclists (an award with some contentious gruffs within cycling circles) and how we bring Santa Monica out of the "Bronze Age", and on a path to platinum status, like bicycling mecca's such as Portland. There was hardly a flinch in the room as we were saying these things, which surprised me.

One specific issue that has been a gripe of mine as you know, the bicycle licensing issue, was something I was prepared to talk about in length. There was no resistance to what I was saying, and Phillips made it sound like a trivial matter that they would have a new ordinance written without the punitive language and legal obligation to license. After the roundabout discussions and fighting and stalling when this same issue was brought to the City of L.A. before it finally scrapped the law, I was prepared for a fight and holding a lot of specific material, but it was mostly not necessary. These round table talks are scheduled to continue on a month to month basis for now with a plan to move quarterly after most of our issues have been discussed. I'll follow up the status of the bicycle license ordinance in our next meeting at the begging of June, but for now it is still in it's bizarrely written and highly punitive state, so keep an eye out for anyone being written up for it. If Phillips is true to her word, this should hopefully be a non-issue moving forward and we can move on to more important matters.

I came out of meeting really optimistic, and I think good things will come out of this, but more poorly managed construction on Broadway Ave. has me disappointed again. As I mentioned in my previous post, ripping up a street with one of the mast used bike lanes in the city, with no warning, and no hazard signs for cyclists to indicate that torn up road and loose gravel ahead, is not acceptable. Since we had an audience of people who could actually do something about this issue, I brought up this very point in the meeting. Transportation Demand Management admitted it was a failure on their part. But it is a failure that is continuing to happen since it had been brought to their attention more than a week ago.

When I rode out for lunch last week, sure enough a different stretch of Broadway was in the process of being torn apart. I turned off Broadway and on to the next street over, Santa Monica Blvd. instead, never a pleasant place to ride but I didn't feel like deviating even further to get up to Arizona since I was on lunch break. No sooner than riding a block down Santa Monica Blvd., a driver either through inattention or carelessness tries to squeeze me out on a narrowing lane due to single lane construction ahead, and I had to punch the side of their car to get them to back off and keep them from clipping my handle bars. It's very unlike me, and I hate having to do that, but sometimes there is no choice but to punch someone's vehicle to snap them awake, to avoid being knocked over. My well being is of more value than someone's personal property, no matter what some drivers on the road may think. On the ride home, the trucks were gone, but the road torn apart and still open to traffic, but in a state obviously much more hazardous for those of us 2 wheels. Especially those on road bike tires. The torn up road remained and signage to indicate the hazard, something especially important at night, was nowhere to be seen.

For Santa Monica to truly deserve the title of being a bicycling friendly city, an awareness and consideration for the needs, wants and well being of cyclists has to run through every department, filter down to the street level, and the whole culture of city government. This is something Phillips acknowledged, and is one of the goals established by the bicycle round table. It's a goal that is obviously not the case yet, and sometimes government moves like molasses, but hopefully we start seeing these changes sooner than later. I'll be contacting Transportation Demand Management again about this construction issue and if you'd like to throw in a complaint about this mismanagement of construction effecting cyclists, or any other immediate cycling concerns, shoot an e-mail.

On the matter of LUCE, I don't agree with everything I have read in it, but the objectives outlined for improving cycling conditions and more connectivity in the bike route network are pretty solid. If the LUCE passes with the bicycling section in it's current form, that puts into motion an update to the long outdated bicycle master plan for the city, and that is where the nuts and bolts of how particular streets will be improved will be worked out, among a host of other things. This includes Bicycle Boulevards and other ambitious ideas that failed to pass in the SM Bicycle Master Plan of the 90's. Part of the reason the bicycle boulevard concept failed is that a group of home owners came out to the Council Meeting and made it sound like their streets would be overrun with crazy spandex people and trees would be taken out so really it's bad for the environment and other misleading claims. It's a different environment now than the 90's but we need to voice our support where and when ever possible to keep other interests from steam rolling us.

I feel like I have a million other things I want to mention and not enough time to write it all down. I really think Santa Monica has a lot of potential, and is just a tad short of getting the ball big enough to really start snowballing toward positive change.