Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction consultant Psomas acknowledges that Class II bicycle lanes reduce bike-involved collision injuries, yet lanes are not recommended for the corridor. Why not? Separated lanes get riders out of motor traffic; on that basis alone the Beverly Hills Blue-Ribbon Committee should support them because unimpeded traffic flow is the committee’s top priority. But there are many other reasons to put bicycle lanes on Santa Monica. Following up on our earlier baker’s dozen, we enumerate here a second dozen reasons with the hope that minds wiser than our transportation consultants will recognize that bicycle lanes are a necessary ‘enhancement’ for the corridor.
Our Second Dozen Reasons
- The public wants bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. Beyond the eighteen speakers who explicitly called for on-street bicycle lanes (outnumbering bike lane opponents by 3:1), written comments to the city totaled more than 150 with 90% of them in favor of bicycle lanes. And what did the committee say to such an outpouring of public support? Nothing! But several committee members did express some consternation that lanes have dominated the discussion of project options. That’s because people have spoken and they want bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard.
- Class II bicycle lane take riders out of the vehicular flow altogether. Which is better for rider safety and motorist convenience. Consider that state law guarantees riders the whole lane when not wide enough to share. Now a new law, AB 1371, specifies a minimum of three feet safe-passing distance when a motorist passes a rider. And the law also requires motorists to “slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent.” So the law complicates the committee’s cherished #1 priority: vehicular flow. One would think that the consultant’s response would be to recommend bicycle lanes. No dice: Psomas recommends a 16-foot right-hand lane wide enough that motorists needn’t be inconvenienced but without the bicycle lanes that make bike travel safer. Here’s a better solution: 11 foot travel lane with a 5-foot Class II bicycle lane.
- A separate bicycle lane will keep tourists and inexperienced riders who use bike share separate from motor traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard. Bike share is no pie-in-the-sky thing; Metro is taking the lead on it here in the Southland, and that promises more riders on major Westside thoroughfares. But if our city turns them loose on a boulevard like Santa Monica without a separate facility, we’ll be asking for a marketing disaster should a tourist get creamed by an angry motorist. For god’s sake let’s take this opportunity to create a place for less-experienced riders on one of our busiest corridors.
- We must honor respect the commitment of neighboring cities which have done their part to support regional connectivity. Santa Monica Boulevard bicycle lanes all but roll up to our city’s borders on the east and west. We should meet these cities halfway with our own bicycle lanes. But our SM Blvd. Blue-ribbon Committee members worry that we’ll be building a ‘bridge to nowhere’ if we stripe those lanes. In fact, we’re asking these cities to commit to extending their bicycle lanes without taking the step ourselves.It is Beverly Hills asking West Hollywood and Los Angeles to build a bridge to nowhere. Regardless, officials from neighboring cities have committed so now it’s time for us to do our part by building our lanes.
- It’s time we put our money where our mouth is where it comes to Beverly Hills pronouncements about multimodal mobility. Our earlier bakers’ dozen noted that our own city plans call for encouraging cycling. Which is fine to say, but to never follow through with implementation? Now our own councilmember Willie Brien has put his signature on a package of Beverly Hills ‘recommended transportation priorities’ (including bicycle infrastructure and facilities) for the Westside Cities Council of Governments. Time to follow through on the talk beginning with Class II lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard.
- We should integrate our existing Class II bicycle lanes into new lanes on our city’s key east-west corridor, Santa Monica Boulevard. Heck, we’ve already made a capital investment in bicycle lanes on North Crescent and Burton Way. Why let them languish without connection to a larger system? Let’s give these two segments a fighting chance by creating crosstown bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard (like it shows on our Bicycle Master Plan map) to link up with existing bicycle lanes.
- We should provide first responders with additional space for emergency vehicles on Santa Monica Boulevard. Since we hear from our fire department that many motorists simply don’t know how (or even care) to pull to the right for passing emergency vehicles, let’s let bike lanes do double duty as an emergency vehicle pass-by lane. An added benefit: the extra margin will allow vehicles to stop in front of churches and other adjacent businesses without completely obstructing a travel lane.
- Class II bicycle lanes will bring order for riders to two of our most problematic intersections. No rider looks forward to westbound North Santa Monica Boulevard travel through the Wilshire intersection. And only the heartiest among us braves the two-lane crossover from Century City bicycle lane to North Santa Monica where it forks off to the left. It’s as if these junctures were designed specifically to put riders in harm’s way. But re-engineering these intersections for safe access via bicycle lanes will force our traffic engineers to rethink how we plan for two-wheel road users.
- The western gateway at Santa Monica and Moreno provides an ideal pilot opportunity to try out dedicated bike signaling. Motorists, riders and bus drivers all have to navigate the uneasy transition from the West LA ‘freeway’ to North Santa Monica Boulevard. Cross traffic from South Santa Monica and Moreno complicate matters. Where better to introduce bike signals into the mix in order to give two-wheeled travelers priority transit across this complicated intersection? Imagine allowing 30 seconds lead time to cross without threat of collision. That’s why the state approved in December a slew of new bicycle traffic signals. Let’s take advantage of this new toolkit and add bike signals to bicycle lanes along Santa Monica Boulevard.
- Bicycle lanes will make for healthier, happier and more productive bike commuters. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that workplace exercise programs reduce health care costs and increase productivity. Following on that research, Kaiser Permanente, which knows something about the aggregate effects of health programs, supported protected bike lanes in Portland to encourage ‘active commuting.’ Let’s take Kaiser’s advice by creating a separate bicycle lane on Santa Monica to encourage bike commuting and make Westside workers feel healthier, happier, and be more productive too. (h/t streetsblog)
- The California Streets and Highways Code advises cities like Beverly Hills to incorporate bike-friendly measures on all public roads where people ride bicycles. Specifically the code advises local governments to “utilize all minimum safety design criteria and uniform specifications and symbols for signs, markers, and traffic control devices” on any road where bicycle travel is permitted. In Beverly Hills that constitutes 100% of our streets yet the city has taken no step to create a ‘complete street’ anywhere within city limits. Let’s heed the code’s advice and make our streets safe for cycling. Our health and welfare depend on it.
- Cycling is recognized by state law and planning organizations as a legitimate form of transportation so let’s plan for it. We take it as an article of faith that we can ride anywhere (except on roadways that expressly prohibit bicycles), but our right to ride has been hard-earned through more than a century of advocacy and court decisions too. Like many states, California law now codifies it: cycling is transportation. And now our regional transit agency Metro has formally gotten with that program by recognizing in agency policy that cycling is a formal mode of transportation. We can’t hope that cyclists simply go away; but we we can acknowledge the new reality by creating a bicycle lane on Santa Monica for those who choose to ride.
- We must plan for an increasing number of riders taking Santa Monica Boulevard. We expect that new blacktop will attract even more riders than use the corridor today. Now the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition provides data that support our expectation: bicycle use on North Santa Monica Boulevard is up 47% from only two years before (measured on a weekday afternoon) according to the fall 2013 bike count. More riders are coming so let’s plan for them with dedicated facilities like bicycle lanes. Duh!
dozen reasons baker’s dozen good reasons why the Santa Monica Boulevard Blue-Ribbon Committee shouldn’t dismiss Class II bicycle lanes out of hand. Indeed there are so many good reasons to include lanes (and not a single good reason to exclude them) that we’ve held over a couple of more reasons for later. So wait for that third baker’s dozen! Have any reasons of your own? Leave them in the comments!