Dear Venice Neighborhood Council,
I am very much in support of the spirit of continuing the bike route of Main St. in Santa Monica through into Venice. It makes sense since many cyclists already use the entirety of Main St. to ride between destinations in Venice and Santa Monica. However I have some reservations about the proposal. As it appears in the diagrams I have seen, it looks to apply very much the same treatment in Santa Monica onward.
Currently in Santa Monica, the Main St. bike lane is one of the more stressful and collision prone bike routes in this city, and I believe that the primary reason for this is that the bike lane is very narrow, and the turn over of parked cars is very high. This means that cyclists frequently have to avoid opening car doors and cars pulling into and out of the bike lane. Due to the very narrow width of the bike lane, have little room to do so without swerving into oncoming traffic in the standard vehicle lane. This design of narrow bike lanes centered in the path of opening car doors contradicts the best practices for riding as taught by the League of American Bicyclists in their traffic safety classes for cyclists.
Santa Monica planners have acknowledged the problem of “door zone” bike lanes, and are exploring design configurations which may mitigate this issue for their pending bike plan update. I think that this Venice Main St. redesign represents not just an opportunity to extend the bike route, but to perhaps improve upon it or try something different.
I would prefer to see a configuration which widened the bike lane over what exists in Santa Monica, or would create a small buffer between the bike lane and the parked car doors, as some cities have done. This could be accomplished by narrowing the vehicle lanes, and recent studies indicate that on lower speed local roads, there is little difference in safety between 9, 10 and 11 ft. lanes.
Another possibility is using a sharrow treatment while keeping the road 2 lanes in each direction, but making it clear that cyclists may ride in the right lane and outside of the door zone. This along with other traffic calming measures has been successful in Hermosa Beach on Hermosa Ave, one of the first streets in Southern California to have sharrows. I find from my riding experience sharrows work best on 2 lane each way roads because they allow an easy lane for drivers to go around who do not wish to wait behind a cyclist, and that they reduce hostility compared to when sharrows are not present.
As a Santa Monica resident, I welcome the extension of bike routes into neighboring Venice, but I hope that this opportunity is taken to explore design possibilities beyond simply doing what has already been done in Santa Monica. I support the idea of bike lanes, but when their width is narrow and directly adjacent car parking, I find that their safety is compromised. If a bicycle lane as part of a road diet is the desired treatment, I would recommend exploring lane width alternatives that ensure the bike lane is a truly safe place to ride.
Santa Monica Resident