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.

1 comment:

Evan said...

I went to the Main Library tonight, and discovered that they installed 18 new bike racks in what used to be two parking spots in the outside parking lot. Granted, there is already a lot of bike parking at the library, but sometimes it can be hard to find a spot, and this is a great move. A bike corral at busy spot in Downtown Santa Monica--let's hope we see more.