The voices of Santa Monicans asking for alternatives to city traffic congestion, environmental advocates wanting to reduce Santa Monica’s carbon footprint, residents wishing to incorporate more exercise into daily life, are joining their voices to those of long time cyclists working to create a bicycle friendly city.
City Hall has heard them, loud and clear, and the 2011 draft Bike Action Plan lays out strong goals and an ambitious implementation plan to make Santa Monica a bike friendly city.
The Bike Action Plan is self-described as both bold and practical. And it is. Bold in that it states strong goals of making bike riding efficient, attractive, and fun for people of all ages and abilities “to use a bike to get everywhere in the city and to meet all the needs of daily life.” Practical, in that it lists a detailed five-year implementation plan creating infrastructure and programs to achieve immediate goals and a twenty-year vision for making Santa Monica a true bicycle city.
Santa Monica Police Chief Tim Jackman said, “What I am most impressed with is that as we develop future plans for a more bike and pedestrian friendly City, a key component of planning for the changes will be continuing education for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike on how to safety and cooperatively navigate the City’s streets. Public safety is always the first priority.”
The Plan outlines designs and timelines for achieving a “10% mode shift” to bikes and walking, among other transportation modes, to achieve the City goal of no net new trips in peak hours. Ideas in the Plan include using the existing city street grid to create “complete streets.” Streets, which through design and landscape provide safe and attractive places for people to walk, bike, and even to gather. As 25 percent of the City land use is devoted to streets, this could make a big impact.
Transportation choices are seen as central to quality of life ratings. Riding a bike promotes good health and reduces transportation costs. Being able to bike to stores is good for local employment and for residents shopping in their neighborhoods. Improving neighborhoods by providing higher quality residential streets, lower vehicle speeds, and improved connections within the city are other looked-for benefits.
There is great praise for the draft Plan. Santa Monica Council Member Kevin McKeown, himself a long-time cyclist said, “This is a plan that bike activists embrace, and that we have the funding to implement. We set aside $2.5 million already in this year’s City budget. When this comes back to Council for final approval just before Thanksgiving, we need to focus on the ‘action’ part of this action plan.”
Phil Brock, Recreation and Parks Commission Chair, has more recently become an avid cyclist. He said, “This catapults our city into the forefront of American bike friendly cities. Combined with bike sharing and safer streets this plan, when executed, makes Santa Monica a more livable community.”
Richard McKinnon, a long-time cyclist and a member of the Recreation and Parks Commission said, “Riding a bike is now a huge idea. You see it everywhere you travel. This bike plan threads bikes and bike facilities onto Santa Monica streets, and into our way of doing things. It’s the blueprint to making bikes safe and easy to use for everyone who lives in Santa Monica.”
What’s next? According to City Manager Rod Gould, “After more commission input, we will return to the Council for final adoption, along with a work schedule for the projects, programs, and activities contained in the plan. Cyclist safety is a major challenge in a city as densely populated as Santa Monica in the most car-centric region in the country. To improve in this area will require bike safety engineering, education, and enforcement. The Council is very focused on improving in this area, and we feel that as we implement the plan, more bicyclists will feel comfortable in town given changes to the streets and driver attitudes towards them.”
In addition to what is in the Plan, shouldn’t we, as part of our Sustainable City goals, add the goal of having all infrastructure improvements, such as landscape design and paving materials used, meet the goals of sustainability? All trees planted will provide better air quality as well as shade for pedestrians and cyclists. They should also be designed to improve water quality by reducing urban run off and infiltrating storm water. Paving materials should be chosen for sustainability and safety. Each decision has to be specific to the design and the use of a particular infrastructure improvement, but each infrastructure improvement should be designed to meet sustainability criteria. The idea is probably already in everyone’s mind, but it would be good to state it as a principle of the Plan.
Finally, what can’t be in the plan is the most important change necessary for success, but outside the control of City Hall. We won’t become a bicycle friendly city until cyclists and car drivers agree to share the road with patience and courtesy. Patience and courtesy behind the wheel of a car or on a bike have to become part of the ethos of Santa Monica for the City to be a safe place to bike, and without that, the best designed infrastructure and programs will not be enough. So, let’s make it work.
I’ll see you around town. I’ll be riding my new, white bike!
What Say You?
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