Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Colorado Esplanade Design, With New Bike Route Proposals, Moves To Council Tonight

Several weeks ago I attended a community meeting soliciting public input on design proposals for the Colorado Esplanade, although I had not yet blogged on this specific project until this post. For those unfamiliar this project proposal, it is a project to reconfigure and re-envision the approach into Santa Monica heading West from the future Colorado and 4th Expo line station, which will be the end of the line. The full staff report with more details can be found here on the agenda, item 4-A. The City Council will be giving it's direction on the project tonight, Tuesday February 14th.

Currently the proposal is to broaden the sidewalk on the south side of Colorado substantially, which will be much needed with hundreds of pedestrians coming off every train, and add bike lanes to this stretch as well. In order to do this and still have room for automobile access, it is proposed to make this 4 block stretch one way Westbound for drivers, which has a secondary benefit of reducing the crazy intersection movements at Main and Colorado, and making Main and 2nd flow into each other more nicely. The traffic study concluded this would improve traffic flow on the connecting streets and thus would have minimal impact for motorists despite the loss of Eastbound traffic flow for the westernmost blocks of Colorado.

2 different configurations were shown for the bike lanes [PDF version here]. In one proposal a bike lane exists going each direction on opposite sides of the street, but with a concrete separator in-between car traffic and contra flow bicyclists going Eastbound. In the second proposal, which seemed to be the most popular at the meeting, both bike lanes where on the South side of the street, with 2 bike lanes of opposing direction adjacent to each other, but separated from traffic by infrastructure.

Ordinary I am not a big fan of cycle track concepts which put opposing bike traffic directions adjacent on one side of the street. I prefer bike lanes to be on opposite sides of the street so opposing traffic flow is never in close proximity, and thus reduces the risk of bicyclists colliding with one another. Our beach bike path places opposing bike traffic flow together, and that generally works alright, but it does have it's own mishaps and close calls. However in this particular context, I can see a big advantage to keeping the bike lanes together and on one side of the street, because it avoids the mall parking garage entrance on Colorado near Main.

New Bike Facilities 2nd StreetAs I pointed previously in the problems with the 2nd street bike lane heading Northbound from Colorado, bike lanes and mega-capacity auto parking garages with high turn over don't mix very smoothly. In the first configuration, Option A, the Westbound bike lane would in practice be broken constantly on busy days by drivers turning across and queuing up into the garage. If we are trying to create facilities anyone can feel comfortable using, and not just the ride anywhere anytime folks like myself, I do not think such a bike lane will be sufficient.

The second configuration with the cycle track all on one side of the street also presents it's own challenges as well that will need careful consideration. Primarily the challenge of movements into and out of this facility and provisions for safe turning at intersections. Special consideration will be most critical at the intersection of Colorado and 2nd, not only because that will be the junction of 2 significant bike routes, but the placement of the Santa Monica Bike Center at the corner opposite the side of the street with the 2 way cycle track. Planners should anticipate that many people will be riding to and from that bike center, and if the resulting facility is not well suited for this and self explanatory, they should not be surprised when bike riders make up their own creative ways of bridging that connection.

In conclusion, of the 2 alternatives presented, I support the 2nd configuration, option B in the diagram, but with the reservation that it will require more thought out intersection treatments than are presently accounted for in the initial diagrams shown. I could write a lot more about possible proposals for dealing with the intersection issues, and other related way-finding issues on other routes that would connect to this new facility, but for the moment I am constrained for time. On the whole I am very excited to see this all happen, and every time I see images of what the Expo Line will look like in Santa Monica, I want it to be done yesterday.


Joe B said...

Thanks for the post, Gary. I was unable to make the meeting, and of course the design was not posted to the web, so this is the first I've seen of it.

I'm very confused by the diagram you posted. I think the street names are mislabeled: what is now labeled "2nd street" should be labeled "Ocean", and what is now labeled "4th street" should be "2nd street".

Significant planning will need to be done for intersections, if option B is chosen. Cyclists should not have to dismount, stop and press a button, or make last-minute cross-street merges at intersections.

Gary said...

You're right, the street labels are incorrect, Main flows into 2nd, not 4th.

This version also cuts off the very beginning of route by the station, but this was the pdf I got when requesting graphic from staff. The printed diagram at the meeting was larger and I believe without the label error.

I do worry about those intersections, but for this particular stretch, I find it to be less problematic to find ways to deal with that than the parking garage entrance which should be thought of as it's own intersection, and one with fairly constant through put.

At the meeting I gave a few suggestions for possible turning movements into and out of the cycle track, such as pushing back cross walk to make room for dedicated bike box turn pocket.