Big Bike Plans for Santa Monica

Friday, 12 Aug 2011, 2:08:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Pedestrians and Bicyclists mingle on the bike path along Santa Monica Beach.
Photo by Parimal Rohit
Pedestrians and Bicyclists mingle on the bike path along Santa Monica Beach.

Santa Monica is en route to challenge nearby Long Beach, Calif., as one of the most bike-friendly cities in Southern California, in light of a Bike Action Plan that is working its way up to city council for eventual adoption.

One of those stops along the way to potential council adoption took place on Aug. 10, when the Bike Action Plan, developed in the context of the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), was taken up by the Santa Monica Planning Commission during its special meeting in Council Chambers.

A working document of sorts, the Bike Action Plan includes several ambitious benchmarks and goals as part of its grand design. Through it all, as it navigates a tedious process of being presented at official City meetings and community workshops, the Bike Action Plan aims to build a world-class bicycling community within Santa Monica, with elements arriving as early as five years from now. (Some elements may take as long as 20 years to develop).

Ultimately, the Bike Action Plan, through joint execution with the LUCE, will help integrate bicycling into the City’s core infrastructure and, ideally, reduce the number of car trips made within Santa Monica. Indeed, City officials have contended that the Bike Action Plan is a significant component of the LUCE’s vision of having “no new net trips” despite new development and a growing population.

“The draft Bike Action Plan provides a foundation with the goal of increasing bicycling to 10 (to) 25 percent of all trips by 2030 as envisioned by LUCE,” wrote a group of City planners, including Lucy Dyke, Michelle Glickert, and Francie Stefan, in a staff report presented to planning commissioners on Aug. 10.

Through it all, the plan calls for more than 50 miles of new bikeway lane mileage by 2030, increasing the amount of roadway available for bike use from 37 miles in 2010 to 88.7 miles. By 2015, the plan hopes to have 69 miles of bikeway lane mileage in place and operational.

The plan, which also calls for an additional 2,500 new public bicycle parking spaces, aims to “coordinate implementation of bicycle programs and the LUCE bicycle network, and encourage residents, employees, and visitors to make bicycling their transportation of choice,” the three staff members added in their staff report.

Within the next five years, the Bike Action Plan has several key initiatives and benchmarks it hopes to achieve, including proposed improvements on five percent of the LUCE bicycle network and various programs to promote increased bike use, including events, awareness, information, education, encouragement, enforcement, supporting facilities, the development of a “bicycle wayfinding system,” and bicycle parking improvements.

According to the plan, the five-year implementation plan also includes the “installation of shared lane markings and buffered bike lanes on streets with adequate space for striping without realigning a street’s centerline, moving curbs, or removing parking or travel lanes” and will also feature “bikeway development that will involve more change to curbs, parking, or roadway configuration.”

The City also intends to use the plan to obtain grant funding from the state. According to City staff, the current draft of the plan should meet State Bicycle Transportation Account requirements, making Santa Monica eligible to apply for state funding.

According to the plan, bicycle-themed programs and facilities in Santa Monica are already covered by about $5.2 million in existing grants. However, the plan estimates about $5.8 million would be required to realize the five-year build-out of the planned bikeway network; the 20-year build-out would cost an additional $23.6 million.

Earlier this month, a drafted copy of the Bike Action Plan was made available for the public to review. Besides the planning commission, other public agencies that will have an opportunity to review the plan throughout the remainder of summer and into autumn include the task force on the environment, the Recreation and Parks Commission, the commission for the senior community and, ultimately, the city council.

The planning commission seemed pleased with the plan overall. The agency’s chair Jim Reis suggested commissioners review the plan in more detail in the next month or so to determine what tweaks, if any, should be made before making a recommendation to the council.

Yet, Recreation and Parks Commissioner Richard McKinnon said that while the Bike Action Plan is a welcome document and a worthy roadmap for Santa Monica, he also expressed some concern about the plan’s vision.

“The thing that is lacking in this document is some sense of where we want to be in five years, or 10, or 15,” McKinnon said. “The ‘No New Net Trips’ goal is illusory unless biking comes a long way. What the plan doesn’t tell us is, are we aiming for Portland’s 16 percent of everyone cycling, or will we be Irvine, where there are hundreds of miles of bike paths but no one using them.”

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