An Exciting First Look at the Santa Monica Bike ACTION Plan

Monday night, Santa Monica’s draft Bike Action Plan (BAP) was presented to the public for the first time at a Santa Monica Spoke meeting at 502 Colorado. Six city staff, one city council member and even one former mayor were in attendance. The atmosphere was jovial, and borderline celebratory.

Entire Document (281 pgs, 74mb) [PDF].
Individual Chapters: Summary | Ch 1 | Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Appendices

Seems as if co-blogger Alex Thompson’s experience at the last Los Angeles Bike Plan Implementation meeting was the polar opposite of mine. Bikeside Chris also seems to have caught a mean case of the BPIT Blues.

Making it Happen
Making it Happen - explained on pages 161-162

Chapter 4 of the Santa Monica Bike Plan boldly contrasts the heel dragging felt on the LA Bike Plan with the heading “Make it Happen”. The sight of that phrase alone sets the tone, and quite frankly, should be expected from a forward-thinking group of city planners who sense a wave of change sweeping through. Using the word “Action” in the title suggests that city staff are indeed taking an active stance, hopefully translating into quicker implementation. Now on to the plan’s contents.

The Plan is driven by simple concepts, all chips off the old LUCE block:

  • no net new automobile trips, achieved by encouraging cycling
  • facilitating affordable and healthy transportation
  • recognizing that a walkable, bikeable city supports economic health

There is a set of 5-year projects that are clearly doable given the current political climate, and a set of 20-year goals, similar to the way LUCE milestones are organized. The long term projects would certainly elevate ridership but are currently considered risque, such as Bike Boulevards on Michigan and Washington. These are referred to as Neighborhood Greenways in the BAP. Some audience members were quick to point out that since most of the funding is secured for many of the 5-year projects, the whole process could be accelerated.

The plan is too large to go into detail, so I will single out three reasons that SM City Planners “get it”.

1) The newly installed bike racks throughout Santa Monica, which effectively double the amount of bike parking. They are rubberized, as to not scrape up one’s frame, and they have a helpful sticker visually explaining how to secure your bike using the rear triangle method.

2) Furthermore proof of the planners’ attention to detail is the design for the Arizona bike lane extension in a hilly section. To make room for a buffered bike lane on the climbing eastbound lane, so traffic can pass up the (potentially) slower rider, sharrows are opted for instead of bike lane on the downhill westbound section.

3) The inclusion of cyclist profiles in Chapter 2 (pg 2-25 to 2-28) paint a human picture of the community while giving individuals a chance to express their concerns.

Current Ridership
The visuals below establish that cycling has picked up in Santa Monica, giving the BAP some political capital that it plans to spend.

29% Cycling Mode Share Increase
29% Cycling Mode Share Increase from 2008-2010
Peak Weekday Bike Counts
Peak Weekday Bike Counts - Heavy ridership on Broadway, Main St, and Downtown area

Priority Bikeway Network

The Priority Bikeway Network sets forth a timetable for bikeway completion (Chapter 3, pg 3-24). Corridors of high priority:

  • North/South: Main St, 16th, 17th, Stewart/28th
  • East/West: Broadway (Appendix B, pg B-18), Michigan Wiggle Neighborhood Greenway (Appendix B, pg B-18, B-28)
Priority Bikeway Network
Priority Bikeway Network - click for PDF

These choices were heavily influenced by public input meetings where local cyclists voted for their favorite routes. The future bikeway network has a evenly spaced-out gridline of routes typical of Gold and Platinum bike-friendly cities. Scott Reiter, a local cyclist, believes a tipping point will be reached once a solid North/South route is established and Broadway gets the buffered bike lane treatment.

Five Year Implementation Plan
Five Year Implementation Plan - click for PDF

Notable projects

  • Green-painted Super Sharrow lanes on Broadway and Santa Monica Bl in Downtown area (Appendix B, pg B-17)
  • Broadway, Arizona, Ocean Park get buffered bike lanes
  • Washington Greenway (Ch 3, pg 3-51)
  • Green Wave (implemented in Copenhagen, Valencia St in San Francisco) to ensure a steady flow of bike traffic through traffic light timing (Ch 3, pg 3-66)

Some of these individual projects represent fractions of the cost of, let’s say, widening a frickin’ freeway. The Arizona buffered bike lane (including extension of the bike lane from 26th St to Centinela) is estimated to cost $250,000 (Appendix B, pg B-13). This project is slated for the 20-year plan, but the only reason it would take that long to implement is bureaucracy encountered due to the potential removal of parking spots.

Appendix G1 defines the Public Bicycle Parking Guidelines – different styles of parking racks are assigned to each district (eg smaller footprint racks are used in commercial districts tight on sidewalk space). Listed are Inverted U, Bollard, and Modified Inverted U racks. Thankfully no mention of Wave-type racks.

For a map of existing bike racks in the city, see Chapter 2 (pg 2-22).


Regional Connections
The BAP includes the Citywide Bikeway System map from the 2010 LA Bike Plan which focus on Backbone routes leading into West LA (Executive Summary, pg ES-7). Lucy Dyke mentioned the importance of the Westside COG reaching agreement about shared routes such as Santa Monica Bl. For now, streets like Wilshire, Santa Monica, and Pico will remain auto priority streets, with the possibility of Sharrows being added in the rightmost lane.

This post barely scrapes the surface of the BAP, so dig in and find out for yourself what a bike plan written by cyclists, for cyclists looks like.

Send BAP feedback to Santa Monica Spoke ( or directly to the City of SM (

BAP in the news: SMDP, Surf Santa Monica, SM Spoke.

Mihai Peteu

Software Developer, Bike Safety Instructor, Amateur triathlete

8 thoughts on “An Exciting First Look at the Santa Monica Bike ACTION Plan

  1. Thanks for the write-up, Mihai. I appreciate a tidy summary!
    A few observations:
    If we’re waiting on the COG to issue some policy guidance, we could be in for a long wait. The focus there is on the lowest-hanging fruit. If change comes to COG, it will come from the grassroots up through your local representatives.

    Planners in SM seem to get it, but in our little burgh of Beverly Hills the planners are even less-relevant than elsewhere. Conservatism reigns. Any of the interesting highlights you note here if proposed in BH would cause your average elected rep to fall over dead.

    Yet having a model plan and BAP as illustrated here is a great tool for us here in BH. It’s an off-the-shelf model we can adapt. And, failing that, a cudgel we can use to embarrass.

  2. A few audience members on Monday night were hoping that Santa Monica would take the first step in filling in the existing bike lane gap in SM Blvd to motivate BH to do the same.

    Regional-level backbone streets were not focused upon much, but judging from the few comments thrown back and forth I have a feeling we have some work to do in that area to push for facilities on Wilshire, Pico, & Santa Monica. I think city planners are considering using Broadway/Ohio as an extension of SM Blvd, instead of offering a solution on Santa Monica Bl.

    You may be spot on about shaming BH into action. When Lucy Dyke stated that Santa Monica now has somewhere close to 1800 bike parking spots after the recent installments, a Beverly Hills resident joked that he knows where all of the bike racks are in BH, and he can count them on one hand.

  3. I do recall City of LA was talking about offloading cyclists onto Ohio – anything but have to deal with SM Blvd in West LA West of the 405. I appreciate the value of Ohio, but it’s not the regional piece as you say, Mihail.

    Re: BH racks, we have a new corral coming to our library any week now – after only more than a year of beggaring one. And one of the city’s two deliverables from the one-year-old Ad Hoc Bike Plan Update Committee was a rack inventory and map. (The other deliverable was an identifying decal applied those racks – no kidding.) But their map was in error, and not usable.

    Have a look here for my own re-done map:

    Here’s a FYI: there are almost as many parking garages in our Golden Triangle business district as bike racks!

  4. Wow. I am really surprised at SM’s forward thinking and taking action in favor of bicycle traffic. Not what I expected from the city that encourages its PD to harass critical mass.

  5. It does seem counter intuitive to promise so much pro-cyclist infrastructure yet not train your police force to be more sensitive to cyclists’ issues. Hopefully this will change with time, right now SMPD is way too eager to ticket cyclists for the most minimal infractions (some of which, arguably, aren’t even infractions). Just like nearby cities (Culver City, Beverly Hills, LA), I bet most police officers in Santa Monica have no clue about how CVC 21202 applies to cyclists. What’s saddening is that instead of protecting cyclists using parts of that code, they misuse those guidelines in order to be able to punish them.

    At times motorists can avoid fines or points on their license by going to traffic school. If Santa Monica truly wants to educate cyclists, they have to look no further than the local LCI-certified instructors that could teach a similar traffic school for cyclists on their first offense.

  6. Nice writeup Mihai. I just read this and it is almost prophetic as to what is going on now. Cyclists interested in the future of regional cycling need to save the date: January 7, 2013. Go MANGo!

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