Bicycle riders could soon have an uninterrupted travel lane along Main Street between Santa Monica and Venice, one that will also keep them further away from motorists.
Currently, when riding in the dedicated Main Street bike lane in Santa Monica city limits, cyclists are forced to merge into a two-lane street southbound with no bike lane once they reach the Venice border. It can become a tight fit for cyclists sharing the travel lane with motorists, creating the potential for collisions with the moving vehicles or doors from parked vehicles.
“In a word, it’s uncomfortable,” Kent Strumpell, a member of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee for the 11th Council District, said of the travel route through Venice. “For someone who’s less experienced it can even be hazardous because you might be crowding over to the right.”
The heavily traveled corridor has also posed issues for motorists through Venice, with complaints of bottlenecks and possible rear-end collisions related to vehicles turning left.
To help improve access and safety issues for bicyclists, as well as enhance left-turn traffic flow for vehicles, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed a plan to reconfigure Main Street between the Santa Monica border and Windward Circle in Venice.
Known as the Main Street “road diet,” the plan would transform the street by removing one travel lane in both the north and south direction, create a central two-way left turn lane and add a bike lane in both directions. All on-street parking spaces would remain.
It would essentially extend the same configuration used through the Santa Monica corridor, allowing for more than an additional mile of continuous bike lane.
“It basically continues what Santa Monica has already done,” said Strumpell, who pushed the road diet plan to DOT.
The Venice Neighborhood Council voted Sept. 20 to support the DOT proposal, saying that it would make the street safer for all users and improve mobility for biking and walking in the community. The plan backed by the board configures Main Street with a 9-foot two way left-turn lane in the center, and in both directions, an 11-foot travel lane, 5 -foot bike lane and 7-foot parking space.
The original plan called for a 10-foot central left-turn lane and 5-foot bike lanes, which many cyclists argued was inadequate space to ensure safety, Strumpell said. DOT then reconfigured the design, cutting the left-turn lane by 1 foot and adding a half foot to the bike lanes on both sides of the street, an amendment supported by the Venice council.
“This will give cyclists a comfortable, inviting connection between Santa Monica and Venice,” said Strumpell, adding that it will encourage a more bikable community.
“It will give better access to all destinations along (Main Street) and provide more safety. It also acknowledges the high level of use that’s already there.”
Michelle Mowery, bicycle coordinator for DOT, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the plan.
The project was earlier supported unanimously by the Venice Neighborhood Council Environmental Committee. Barbara Lonsdale, committee co-chair, said although Main Street can be a “tight squeeze” for bike riders, she believes it’s one of the ideal routes to take, as Pacific Avenue is busy and the beach bike path is often too crowded. She too, believes the diet proposal will support alternative transportation.
“I’m hoping this will give people the incentive to jump on their bikes and maybe commute to work that way,” Lonsdale said. “I’m just hoping it will get more people out there and I’m all for it.”
Strumpell noted the high bicycle usage that Main Street in Venice tends to experience, pointing to a DOT count earlier this year that found 730 cyclists in a six-hour period.
“If that figure’s correct, then we need a bike path,” neighborhood council Vice President Carolyn Rios said, discussing her support.
Rios said she also chooses to ride Main Street if she needs to get somewhere because the beach path can be overly crowded, particularly on a weekend afternoon.
“Personally, I’m very, very much for it. To me, it’s almost like a no-brainer,” she said of the bike lane project.
The neighborhood council’s neighborhood committee, which Rios chairs, voted to reject the proposal after some members expressed concerns of increased congestion and potential cut-through traffic in neighborhoods due to the reduction from four lanes to two.
Rios said while there could be some traffic impacts during rush hour, she thinks they would be minimal and the plan is about providing a safe place for cyclists.
Lonsdale agreed, saying if anything, the plan will help free up traffic at left-turn pockets such as at Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
“I don’t think it will add to it because with the left-turn lane we will have more room for the cars turning,” she said.
Strumpell said an analysis by the city of Santa Monica on its diet plan route on Ocean Park Boulevard could not find a connection with cut-through traffic in the neighborhoods and found only minor traffic delays during peak hours.
Lucy Dyke, transportation planning manager for Santa Monica, could not be reached for comment on the diet plan study.