A plan geared toward boosting bicycling as a transportation mode in Santa Monica has garnered enthusiasm from city leaders.
Santa Monica City Council members touted some of the objectives of the Draft Bicycle Action Plan during a study session at the Aug. 23 meeting. The comprehensive document, which has been released to the public for review, 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 encouraging alternative transportation to cars and increasing bicycling to 10 to 25 percent of all trips by 2030. The initiative calls for 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.
Developed with community input and emphasis of LUCE goals, the 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 action plan proposes education for motorists and cyclists on how to share the roads safely.
“The vision really is for a balanced and sustainable network, making sure that we have high quality facilities that connect where you want to go, and that we get more people on bikes,” Francie Stefan, community and strategic planning manager, told the council.
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, said Lucy Dyke, city transportation planning manager. Approximately 63 percent of residents currently own bicycles, 40 percent of whom ride a few times on average per week, she told the council.
The city’s current network of bikeways includes a variety of bike lanes and shared lane arrows or “sharrows,” but it is not well connected in many areas and there needs to be better access to key destinations like schools and future light rail stations, she said. The draft action plan is intended to create enhanced bikeways and programs to make cycling safer and more enjoyable, as well as to make residents less dependent on cars, Dyke said.
“Overall, we will end up with a network that is much more complete, more connected and more oriented toward the places that people want to go,” Dyke said.
Members of the public were encouraged by the action plan’s priorities for improved programs and facilities to encourage more travel on two wheels.
“I think it’s a sign that Santa Monica is still a progressive city and is still leading the way in sustainability,” said resident Megan Cavanaugh, adding that she believes the plan is consistent with the LUCE vision.
Some said they would like the lengthy document to go even further for cycling measures.
“The plan goes a long way to make the city safer, more livable and sustainable… but unfortunately it doesn’t go far enough. What is planned for five years is needed right now and what is planned in 20 years is necessary in five,” resident Michael Brodsky told the council.
Following the staff presentation and public testimony, council members were complimentary of the plan’s goals, including getting more people away from their cars in the future.
“The future, I think, is pretty clear: we can no longer depend on building our community on the premise that more vehicles are the way for people to have the freedom to get around,” said City Councilman Kevin McKeown, who noted that he’s been riding a bike in the city for over 35 years. “We have to make the city more walkable and bicyclable, and in this case I think we have not just a tool kit but an expression of a community buy-in that we haven’t had before.”
Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis said that as part of the plan, the city needs to address ways to educate motorists about how to respect bicyclists as users of the roads.
“I think this is an outgrowth of a true community commitment to moving us to a very real, tangible plan that will accomplish the goal of getting us out of cars and to other forms of transportation, including bikes,” Davis said.
Mayor Richard Bloom added, “We really are emerging as a bike-friendly community. It’s very clear that bicycling is just rocketing in terms of popularity and we need to be more proactive in addressing the issue in the city.”
McKeown said he was eager to see the action plan take effect.
Stefan noted that staff hope to bring the plan before the Planning Commission in early October and the measure could be ready for council consideration before Thanksgiving.
Copies of the plan are available at city libraries for review and check-out, at the City Hall Planning counter and online at www.bikesantamonica.org. Comments submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by the first week of September will be sent to the Planning Commission for its consideration.