Kevin Burton of the West Hollywood Bicycle Task Force (and co-organizer of the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition) has visions of a ‘Bikeway to the Sea.’ He sees Santa Monica Boulevard taking riders from Downtown to the ocean in safety without worrying about disappearing bike lanes and perilous passages under the 405. We need to join Kevin in reimagining the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor!
A regional bike route along the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor has long been on Los Angeles-area bike advocates’ wish list. It is included in the DIY ‘bicycle backbone’ plan, for example. It’s a key connector between UCLA and points east and is one of the two most heavily-traveled corridors through Beverly Hills.
Making this a bike route with on-street bike lanes receives top endorsements as a priority initiative from Westsiders. At a recent meeting of the Westside COG Bike Coordination Committee, it was the #1 most requested improvement, in fact.
So why not turn it into a ‘Bikeway to the Sea’? Today it’s positively choked with Westside-worthy congestion. Imagine if we could shift some of those motorists to bicycles and give them a pleasant destination too?
That’s where Kevin’s vision comes in. A ‘Bikeway to the Sea’ could be much more than a commuting corridor; it would thematically integrate everyday active-transportation into the natural environment, much the way that the Ballona Creek bike path (which is a Class I facility, mapped at right) does today.
A ‘Bikeway to the Sea’ would also tie together the many special events and institutions along the route. At either end are cultural capitals: Downtown Los Angeles with it’s civic center and museums to the east; and Santa Monica with its tourist attractions, museums, and cafes to the west.
The LA Marathon already makes great use of the corridor, but weekly farmers markets and occasional street celebrations could also use a tie-in to this stretch of Route 66 – ‘America’s Main Street.’
But we’ve got our work cut out for us. Today, the corridor is striped for bike lanes only in West Hollywood and Century City/West Los Angeles. Extending those lanes presents a challenge because:
- In City of Los Angeles, the state transportation agency, Caltrans, saw ‘America’s Main Street’ as little more than a truck route and saddled the corridor with the legacy of decades of poor stewardship;
- In Beverly Hills, transportation officials remain inexplicably opposed to proper Class II bike lanes and point to years-old community resistance to new traffic lanes as justification.
- In Santa Monica, officials are moving forward on mobility improvements but prefer to see an alternate alignment (perhaps on Broadway).
Except for Beverly Hills, Westside cities appear to be making progress. So we can look forward to incremental progress on knitting together a regional route that approximates the corridor, but with Beverly Hills likely remaining as the last gap to close.
The task is to bring West Hollywood, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and of course, Beverly Hills onto the same page regarding a regional route. Perhaps the best way to do that is to follow the Kevin’s vision of a ‘Bikeway to the Sea’?
West Hollywood has embraced the recommendations of the Bicycle Task Force, so we’re likely to see some movement, perhaps meeting existing Fountain Ave. sharrows laid down by Los Angeles with Class II bike lanes.
On Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood may work with Los Angeles to either provide a facility for cyclists, or else designate an alternative, likely Fountain, as the Bikeway route. Santa Monica too will decide how to continue the regional bike route to the sea.
The ‘Bikeway to the Sea’ presents an opportunity for the COG to step up as an umbrella organization to help coordinate support for the Santa Monica Blvd. corridor as a complement to the Ballona Creek bike path.
But what about Beverly Hills? Transportation officials appear to shirk their professional obligation to safeguard cyclist safety. That’s not only cowardly but untenable. In fact, last month’s meeting of the ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee showed how implacable is city resistance to seemingly any pro-bike facilities at all. Maybe Kevin’s vision will embarrass City of Beverly Hills officials into acknowleeging the obvious: the ‘Bikeway to the Sea’ is too good an idea to let pass by.