Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Santa Monica And It's Schizophrenic Support Of Cycling

Bicycle Cookie
(Bike lane destroyed without warning, here have a cookie.)

I'm back from France, and my head is bursting with lessons learned from our European cousins, but I'll save that for a more detailed post later. For now, let's get back to my homeland of sunny Santa Monica. The city has always had a mixed time of supporting cycling, with some good words and intentions at times, more infrastructure support than other parts of LA County, although quickly being left in the dust by Long Beach. However positive efforts have been dampened with poor support of law enforcement, outdated and poor bikeway design, lack of signal detection, lack of education, and little coordination across departments.

One of the things lacking in Santa Monica, is any effort to inform or redirect cyclists during times of construction or other projects that completely interfere with bike routes. Broadway is the go to East/West bike route in Santa Monica for my self, my co-workers, friends, and many other cyclists in this town. However when Broadway is missing in action, as it is now with the asphalt of many blocks completely ripped to shreds, there was no effort to inform cyclists either ahead of time, or directly with signage on the street. No detour or alternative route suggestions, or even a warning that you are about to hit a sudden dip into a ripped up bumpy surface full of gravel.

The street is not currently closed to traffic, and cars can relatively safely travel across with their 4 wide tires and shocks, but for a cyclist, especially one on a road bike and not a mountain bike, such conditions are terrible and likely to result in falls or punctured tires, especially for an inexperienced cyclist. I could see this being most problematic for a cyclist turning onto Broadway where the construction begins, as they would not have the same forward warning something different was up ahead, and in a turn, loose gravel is more likely to cause a spill. While this construction is a more extreme example, it also not uncommon for all manner of vehicles or cones or other things to be blocking parts of the bike lane on Broadway on a regular basis. Oh and those little 3 wheeled go-carts that parking attendants drive and park in the bike lanes handing out traffic tickets. I question the legality of that practice, but it is certainly the standard protocol in Santa Monica.

If Santa Monica actually cared about cyclists in any truly meaningful way such actions without warning would be unacceptable. I'm also willing to bet a fairly large sum of money that the things inadequate in Broadway's bike lane design, like being stuck too far into the door zone or non-existent at intersections, will be painted right back down just as they were when this is done. If Santa Monica wants to live up to the promise of being a "cycling friendly" city, it has to have every department of the city on board and talking to each other. Supporting the growth of cycling, and the safety of cycling, is not just a traffic demand management issue, or a road engineering issue, or a law enforcement issue, or an education issue, it is all of the above and more, and it all has to all be working together in tandem and in a coordinated fashion. Santa Monica is doing some truly wonderful things for cycling, bike valet at big events being one of the more innovative, but at other times it is borderline criminally negligent in it's consideration for cyclists. It's time to erase the Mr. Hyde from this equation and for Santa Monica to be considerate of cyclists all the time.


Evan said...

Yeah, I was unpleasantly surprised to discover the state of Broadway when I went to Bay Cities earlier this week. Thankfully I found out when I was driving my car, and not riding my bike--I ride regularly on Broadway at night, and there were no warning signs about the state of the road. I really wouldn't have wanted to find out about this when riding my bike in the dark.

wiz_vanmeter said...

2 weeks ago a large asphalt protrusion appeared in the bike lane on Ocean just before Montana. It was dark and blended in with the surrounding pavement. Didn't even notice it until after witnessing a cyclist lose control and crash flying 30 feet. A week later the bump was still there but two warning signs were set up with blinking yellow lights. I'm pretty sure he complained to the city about the hazard so I guess the signs were set up in response to his (and possibly other people's) crash.

Nahid said...

Hi there, I just found your blog and I'm planning to start biking to work starting tomorrow. I'm looking for a route through Santa Monica (I live just south of the 10) to the mall in Century city, where I work. Is Broadway still getting fixed up? I have a hybrid bike but I'm not a very experienced cyclist. I'm thinking of trying Arizona or Pearl. I would really appreciate any tips/advice on routes! Thanks so much.

Gary said...

As of my ride into work today Broadway was fixed up, but there is some rocks in the bike lane on one block and one block without painted lines.

If you take Arizona, once out of Santa Monica it stops being a bike route, but you can swing down to Ohio. Ohio is a bike route, but the first leg of it is without a bike lane and actually kind of narrow, and a lot of people use it to try and avoid Santa Monica Blvd. traffic. Santa Monica Blvd. does have a bike lane, but only once you get past the 405.

Evan said...

Nice, Nahid! Broadway is repaved, but not restriped yet. But besides, Broadway turns into Ohio in the City of Los Angeles, and Ohio disappears into Santa Monica Blvd. before starting at Westgate again.

Santa Monica Blvd. has a bike lane going east starting at Sepulveda that runs all the way to Century City, but it's kind of treacherous in West LA heading to the 405. Olympic isn't all that great, either. There are a lot of east-west streets between Santa Monica Blvd. and Olympic that aren't heavily traveled by cars, but they won't get you across the 405.

CICLE has a list of user-submitted suggested routes (, but there isn't anything for Century City right now. I think getting on Santa Monica going east from Sepulveda would be your best bet, but it's going from your house to there that might be tricky, depending on your comfort level. I would suggest you try riding from your house to work on the weekend, and see what you're comfortable with for a weekday commute--just imagine more cars (though considering the area, auto traffic might be the same.)