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Bikes, Peds Get Major Boost from Santa Monica City Council

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 13, 2014 -- The City Council approved two plans Tuesday that will make it easier to get around Santa Monica’s Pico Neighborhood on foot or on bike.

Both the Michigan Avenue Greenway (MANGo) and the Santa Monica High School (Samohi) Safe Routes to School project, which the City Council approved unanimously, would add bike lanes, crosswalks, traffic-calming measures and pedestrian amenities to a stretch of road that connects the high school to the Bergamot Area.

“The benefits of both projects are on multiple levels,” said Mayor Pam O’Connor, adding that projects would make the streets safer for pedestrians, bikes and motorists.

“If you have a safe route that’s safe for the various modes, that helps everybody in the community,” she said.

About two dozen people -- mostly high school students -- turned out Tuesday to testify in favor of the Samohi Safe Routes to School project.

The project, staff hopes, will improve traffic flow and safety at key points where thousands of students arrive -- by bike, foot, car or bus -- to school daily.

“We need to do something,” said Catherine Baxter, dean of students at Samohi. “And we think this is the best thing we can do at this time with this grant.”

Partially funded by an $800,000 grant, the project would add, among other things, a protected green bike lane along the center of Pico Boulevard between 6th and 7th streets.

It will mean wider sidewalks, more bike parking and more crosswalks. To address parents making U-turns after dropping students off at the Michigan Avenue/7th Street gate, that segment of road would become one-way.

That segment would connect with the other project approved by the Council Tuesday: MANGo.

A resident of the Pico Neighborhood who lives near the proposed project, Councilmember Terry O’Day recused himself for discussion, but the remaining six council members supported the plans to build Santa Monica’s first “Greenway.”

The 2.5 mile stretch of road, which planners hope to redesign to be shared safely by bikes, pedestrians and cars, would connect Bergamot Station to the beach by way of Michigan Avenue and Samohi.

While most of the speakers supported the project Tuesday night, some were concerned about the possibility of including a traffic diverter at 11th Street that would prevent cut-through traffic by preventing turns onto Michigan Avenue. (“Survey Results Show Dueling Visions for Santa Monica's Michigan Avenue Greenway,” December 23, 2013)

Proponents argued that diverters, or at least signs that restricted turns at certain times of the day, would dramatically reduce the number of cars using Michigan Avenue to get to the freeway during rush hour.

Opponents said that building physical diverters would be a 24-hour solution to a problem that occurs only a couple hours a day.

In the end, the Council accepted the plan with caveat that should any diverters be built, the Council would first have to give its express permission.

“Nobody is suggesting that when we adopt these bike and pedestrian-friendly measures, it means people need to give up their cars,” said Councilmember Gleam Davis.

“What we are trying to do is to give people options,” she said. “And not just an option but a pleasant option.”

Councilmember Kevin McKeown supported tabling the diverters for now.

“If you push too fast and too hard, you turn people against you who might be allies if you respected them,” he said.

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