Recap: SM Councilman Holbrook asks "why put bikes on the street with traffic?"
Two weeks ago myself, and seven other cyclists visited the Santa Monica City Council (Flickr set) to speak in favor of improving cycling conditions. Specifically we spoke in support of the recommendations contained within the draft Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE.) As I’ve written before, the LUCE will influence transportation policy, and therefore bike policy, for at least the next decade in Santa Monica (an overview of LUCE on the ibikeu Wiki.)
(Mihai stares at the ceiling in exasperation as we wait for our item to come up)
So, knowing that, I, along with Mihai, Brigitte, Roger, J.J., Nicki, Russell, and Gary all showed up to show our support. It’s good we did, because Councilman Holbrook was in a foul, anti-cyclist mood.
When public comment came up for this item, we each took our turn speaking about cycling in Santa Monica. Each person took a different approach, but there were items we all highlighted. We each spoke at some point about the need for my bike lanes, to encourage new or aspiring cyclists to ride. Several people highlighted the difficulty for a novices to pass through or around downtown Santa Monica by bicycle. On the whole we presented a tight message, and represented cyclists well.
(Gary and Nicki wait for their turn to speak)
After staff presented, and we spoke, the council discussed the LUCE. It was revealed then how well our comment had worked. Despite the absence of Councilman Kevin McKeown, the lone cyclist in the body, the councilpersons repeatedly echoed or responded to our talking points. Merely by consistently speaking about cycling, we managed to shift the discussion of the council toward cycling.
(Councilman Holbrook, center, wearing white)
However, it wasn’t all positive. Councilman Holbrook, who draws his base from the conservative Chamber of Commerce machine, shared his refreshingly backward point of view:
Should every street in Santa Monica be a bike street? No, not every street. I wouldn’t ride a bike on Wilshire Blvd for money. . . .
Let me just be frank: I frequently travel north and south on 17th and 20th streets and there are people on bikes. You know what? They always beat me because they never stop for stop signs, and they don’t stop for red lights. They take a quick peek, bingo, right across Montana. Quick peek, bingo, right through the light. . . .
What I’m saying is why put the bikes on the streets with the traffic. Put em on the residential quiet streets. It won’t make any difference; they won’t stop for the stop signs there either. . . .
I think we cannot take anymore blacktop, cement top, away from vehicles at this time in Santa Monica’s place in history. Because even if we use alternatives to gasoline powered automobiles, there’s still gonna be (unintelligible). And we have virtually 90,000 people in this city and most of them have to get somewhere in there car, at some point in their day or in their week.
What happened next was heartening. As we grumbled in disgust, the other councilpersons began to take Holbrook apart. Each one deconstructed his arguments and laid them to rest. Afterward, Holbrook was left looking like the angry reactionary, out of step with all of his colleagues.
This council meeting proved that we are making progress. By continually speaking on behalf of cyclists we’ve managed to keep cycling at the top of the discussion. However, Holbrook’s rant shows us what we can expect if we don’t continue to work hard. So far the council has not made serious efforts to actually implement any new improvements for cyclists. So we do need to continue our efforts.
(Brigitte Kouba stretches during the long meeting)
How to do that is less clear. Based on a brief discussion with staff I think that it might be that there are no meetings in the near future worth attending. What then? We might start a letter writing campaign, or get involved in upcoming elections. It’s tough to know. I do know one thing though – we ought to invite Holbrook for a ride on Wilshire. He won’t do it for money, but perhaps he will ride for F? U? N?