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Santa Monica Bicyclists Could See New Protection from Cars
By Niki Cervantes
July 13, 2017 -- Beset by a rise in complaints about the dangers motor vehicles pose, bicyclists on Santa Monica streets could one day see more physical barriers, like posts, added to help protect bike lanes, a key City official said.
Such barriers already exist on such prime locations as the new Colorado Esplanade, the renovated California Incline and the beach bike path.
The Expo bike path is also protected, as is the path on Michigan crossing Pico Boulevard to Bay Street -- part of the City’s Safe Route to School program for Santa Monica High School, officials said.
But such barriers are not commonly used elsewhere in the City, said Francie Stefan, who heads the City’s mobility division.
That could change in the wake of protests from both cyclists and pedestrians who say that trying to get around can be dangerous.
Cyclists believe they’ll have better odds of avoiding car collisions with special barriers on bike lanes, especially on roadways heavily traveled by motorists.
“We listen to our community,” Stefan said.
She said the City is analyzing the potential for more bike lanes with barriers as it amends the 2011 Bike Action Plan.
The City Council asked City planners to wade into the plan in May after news of a rise in reports of collisions between vehicles and bicyclists and pedestrians all jockeying for space on City streets.
A report compiled by the Santa Monica Police Department revealed pedestrians and bicyclists account for approximately two-thirds of all severe injuries and fatalities sustained in traffic accidents in the city ("The Statistics Behind Santa Monica's Pedestrian Deaths," May 11, 2017).
With bicyclists and pedestrians lined up at a public hearing to testify about the dangers they face, the council subsequently voted to step up safety improvements to streets and sought to hire a safe-streets “Czar” to guide the work ("Santa Monica City Council Calls for Safe Streets “Czar,” May 11, 2017)
Both populations are crucial to the City’s vision as a haven for people who use alternative means of getting around, or becoming “multimodal.”
So far, motoring is still the most common way of traveling for people in Santa Monica, despite an expensive promotional campaign and extensive funding for re-designing streets to cater to walkers and bicyclists, instead of mostly to vehicles.
But some cyclists said bike lanes without extra protection are not enough, especially in a city as congested with traffic as Santa Monica.
Bicycle-oriented cities like Portland, Oregon, have been using physical barriers for years -- from raised medians to planters, according to those in the larger cycling community.
Barriers that are used in other cities include “delineator posts” and “turtle bumps,” which supporters say provide bikes an extra foot and a half of space.
Space for parked cars between the bike path and roadway can provide about 11 feet of extra space.
Santa Monica needs more protected bike lanes, said Council Member Terry O’Day, a cyclist who has run into some dangerous situations while trying to ride with his children in tow.
“We need more protected lanes and better connections in areas with gaps,” he said.
As an example, he said that from Bay Street's bike lane, cyclists can turn right on Nielsen Way and connect to the green bike lane on Ocean.
But the short stretch on Nielsen is “harrowing,” he said.
Similarly, he said, the bike boulevard on Broadway “disappears in downtown, right when it is needed most to connect to the Colorado Esplanade or Third Street.”
Bike boxes –- or enlarged spots on streets akin to safety zones for bicyclists -- and using green paint help “eliminate ambiguity” and are keys to safety, he said.
“Clearly delineating space removes conflicts,” O’Day said.
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