Saturday, June 25, 2011

Budget Victory For Bicyclists In Santa Monica

Santa Monica Bike@Work Bike For City Staff Shared Use
(A city staff bike share bike, which have become quite popular at City Hall)
In all the fuss over massive items like redevelopment plans for the Santa Monica Civic Center area, little local media attention was given to bicycling in the new Santa Monica budget. In earlier public meetings and workshops on budget priorities, myself and members of Santa Monica Spoke, and other local cyclists made a concerted effort to emphasize the need for funding to make desired bicycling improvements called for in the LUCE, a reality. In City Manager Rod Gould's Biennial budget proposal for 2011-2013, $2.5 million dollars were called for to carry out the pending Bicycle Action Plan. This plan was just voted on and adopted this week by the City Council.

In the grand scheme of Santa Monica's substantial budget for a city of it's size, $2.5 million out of the over $1 billion that will be spent in the next two years, is really just a nickle in the jar. However this is a substantial investment for bicycling, because bike improvements are substantially cheaper than other transportation investments. This money can also be used to leverage matching grant opportunities for many types of projects, especially things like safe routes to schools. To put this in perspective with a bike city that so many are fond of, $794,229 was budgeted for bikes in Portland Oregon from 2005 to 2010. Portland in the past year and going into the next year, has substantially increased it's bike budget, with $2.8 million allocated this year, and $3.4 million next year. However Portland is also substantially bigger in surface area and population size than Santa Monica.

What I'm getting at is that $2.5 million is a serious commitment to bicycling for Santa Monica, enough so that we really could take a rapid and significant leap forward in a short amount of time. During the drawn out process to update Santa Monica's long term general plan, the LUCE, bicycling improvements were proceeding quite slowly. I was concerned that if a serious commitment were not made soon, we would quickly fall behind other cities that have been stepping and leading on bike improvements. Hopefully when the pending Bicycle Action Plan is released, it will be a strong document we can all rally behind. Thanks to the City Manager's budget, and with approval from the Council, there will be serious money in the bank to hit the ground running and make big things happen. Exciting times!