Bicycling in Santa Monica was given a substantial boost as a transportation mode when the City Council voted unanimously Nov. 22 to adopt the Bicycle Action Plan.
The comprehensive document focuses on ways to influence more people to travel by bicycle in Santa Monica and programs that promote the benefits of bike riding.
The plan is designed to help the city meet transportation goals of the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), including alternative transportation to cars and increasing bicycling to 14 to 35 percent of all trips by 2030. Among the various directives are to create improved bicycle access to important destinations such as schools and future light rail stations and enhanced support facilities for bike parking and sharing.
The document includes both a five-year implementation plan and a 20-year vision for the future of bicycling in the city.
“At a more basic level, the bike plan reflects what Santa Monicans want this community to be,” city transportation planning manager Lucy Dyke told the City Council. “The Bike Action Plan offers specific strategies and priorities that were developed with or refined by the Santa Monica community over the past year.”
City Council members pointed out the strong community support for implementing the initiative and how a number of the recommendations were put forth during the public process. The city Planning Commission unanimously endorsed the plan earlier last month.
“This process and the ultimate product is really a testament to the community,” Mayor Richard Bloom said. “It starts with a vision that came to us through the community and it’s really been heard loudly from the community.”
Bloom noted that the plan’s approval comes as some bicycle-friendly projects are already underway, including the recent opening of the $2 million Santa Monica Bike Center, considered the largest facility of its kind in the nation. The 5,300-square foot structure offers 360 secure bicycle parking spaces and other amenities.
The Bike Action Plan recommends a number of actions over the next five years including improved bikeways and lanes, expanding the existing network to fill gaps, providing bicycle training classes and installing bike wayfinding. In addition, the plan proposes education for motorists and cyclists on how to share the roads safely.
Among the goals are to create programs encouraging more community members to become bicyclists and to have the chance to enjoy the activity. Currently, about 3 percent of the city’s commuters ride bicycles, Dyke said. Approximately 63 percent of residents currently own bikes, 40 percent of whom ride a few times on average per week.
The council has approved $2.5 million in funding to be used to expedite certain projects in the next two years that the community has identified as high priorities. Over the next two years, $1.05 million will be allocated toward infrastructure improvements including creating “green” bikeways and lanes in the Main Street area, and faster implementation of the bikeshare program with the creation of an oversight committee.
While many residents and cyclists were in favor of the plan’s overall goals, some were eager to have parts of it implemented sooner.
“We’re very happy with how far the plan has come since the first version. While we are excited… we think that we need to have more concrete goals and deadlines for bike share,” said Gina Goodhill, policy associate for the group Global Green USA.
Goodhill told the council that the plan should aim to have the bikeshare program in place before 2016 and to increase the number of bike commuters from 3.4 percent to 10.2 percent in the next two years.
Her group was pleased to see the council approve a plan that will help reduce automobile congestion and develop greener transportation options.
“We applaud the council for their support on this issue and will work hand in hand with them to ensure that a viable alternative to driving a car is an option for all residents, workers and visitors in Santa Monica,” said Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Global Green.
Of the $2.5 million in funding, $250,000 will go toward awareness and safety campaigns for all road users, and $1.2 million will be allocated for grant match/project readiness for efforts such as neighborhood greenways and environmental studies.
Under the plan, the city’s bikeway system will be enhanced over the next two years with 14 miles of bike lanes and 17 miles of shared lane arrows or “sharrows.” Additionally, traffic signal improvements for cyclists will be made at 30 intersections.
Community members said they were gratified that the plan incorporated much of the public’s input and will encourage more people to choose transportation by two wheels.
“I believe there is no greater contribution Santa Monica could make to national and global security than to lead the way for Southern California to think beyond the freeway onramp and become a bikable metropolis anchored around public transportation,” said resident Gary Cavanaugh.
Planning commissioner Richard McKinnon called the plan “desperately needed” and noted the value of the strong endorsement of the cycling community.
“It’s an almost perfect present for Thanksgiving for our community and the people who ride bikes here,” McKinnon said.
Councilman Kevin McKeown, who also believed it was gratifying that the document received rave reviews, was one of those who was eager to have the action plan take effect.
“I want to see this happen fast; I’ve been riding a bike in this town for 36 years and this has been a longtime coming,” he said.
For Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis, one of the most exciting aspects of the initiative is shifting people away from their dependence on cars.
“What’s equally exciting…is we’re trying to change the culture of the way people get around the city and to encourage them to explore alternate means of transportation,” Davis said.