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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

December 7, 2015 -- A report to the Planning Commission on Wednesday about bicycle riding in Santa Monica showed some good progress as City officials work toward a goal of lessening the amount of vehicle traffic.

Through a series of programs and improvements, City officials hope to increase bike ridership further.

Bike riding in Downtown Santa Monica this past summer was up 4.3 percent from 2013, according to official counts. These same counts showed rides on the Main Street corridor were up 4.4 percent.

“These numbers are still on the rise even with the amount of major construction surrounding Main/Colorado/4th Street which would normally encourage use of other routes,” City officials wrote in a report to the commission.

A count of city-wide bike riding is wrapping up, and a report is expected to be released in the spring.

The most recent report showed 5 percent of transportation trips in Santa Monica being done via bicycle. Reaching the goal of 15 percent by next year would be difficult to achieve, Michelle Glickert, City bike programs coordinator, told the commission.

“I’m pretty confident that we’re going to have some good progress and see that 5 percent jump up a bit, but to see it triple in one year even with Expo coming, I’m just not certain we’re going to get there,” she said.

But Glickert said the situation in Santa Monica is far from grim. She noted many projects that have been accomplished since the City Council approved the Santa Monica Bike Action Plan four years ago.

These include the increase of bike lanes and sharrows (vehicle/bike sharing lanes) and other enhancements, as well as the creation of protected bike ways and the plan for more (“Santa Monica Celebrates Greenway Project Milestone,” May 29, 2015).

There is a continuing effort to connect bike lanes throughout the city, with completion of connections to Expo stations as a priority, officials said.

The Breeze bike share program, which debuted last month, has been a success, Glickert said ("Santa Monica Officials Release Early Bike Share Ridership Numbers," December 3, 2015).

This program involves riders renting bikes for brief amounts of time through one-time payments or monthly memberships. The bikes can be picked up and returned to kiosks located throughout the city.

There are more than 2,100 Breeze members who have taken nearly 9,000 trips, Glickert said. This is bringing new people onto bikes (and, in turn, out of cars), including some who have not ridden in a long time.

“We’ve got a lot of newbies on those beautiful greenies (referring to the bikes' color), and they’re excited,” Glickert said.

Other positive statistics include the addition of 170 bike racks in the city over the past year, with more grant-funded racks planned to be installed over the next year.

Also, the number of bike crashes this year is on pace for 120, down 10 percent from the number in 2014.

Education programs targeted toward bike riders and motorists are designed to further increase safety and decrease the number of crashes, officials said.

Glickert said she is working with the police department on education programs, including those for people returning to bike riding via the Breeze program.

Planning Commission Chair Richard McKinnon had an idea to promote bicycle riding.

He said a portion of the city should be closed to vehicles for a few hours one Sunday. McKinnon said it should be done after the Expo line starts operating in Santa Monica next spring.

McKinnon’s plan calls for closing off Fourth Street to Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard to the I-10 Freeway, including all of Main Street and Ocean Avenue to San Vicente Boulevard.

“That would attract everyone’s attention in this city,” McKinnon said. “And you would have maybe 21 acres of open space for the first time that’s released to the the public to ride on and bike on.”

He continued, “The key to that is it suddenly signals to everybody in our community that we have changed direction, that we’re doing a different thing here.”

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