Open Letter: Protecting Santa Monica bikeways from motor vehicle incursions

Date:

To:  Santa Monica City Council, Santa Monica Planning Commission, City Manager David White, Mobility Manager Jason Kligier, Director of Public Works Rick Valte,  

Subject: Protecting our bikeways from motor vehicle incursions

Dear Council Members and City Leaders:

Santa Monica has become an exemplar of far-sighted bikeway design and implementation in our region.  Recent innovations seen on Ocean Ave. and 17th St. have raised the bar for creating protected bike facilities that provide the safety and comfort to allow many more people to bike for their everyday mobility. Additional protected bikeways planned in Santa Monica’s Bicycle Action Plan will bring us ever closer to realizing a citywide bikeway network that will be a game-changer for mobility, traffic reduction and meeting our Vision Zero and climate goals.   

Unfortunately, some motorists are undermining the benefits of recently-installed protected bike lanes (and standard, striped bike lanes) by parking in them and sometimes even driving in them. This behavior is photo-documented almost daily in social media posts.

When motor vehicles block these lanes it forces cyclists to divert into traffic lanes, sabotaging the safety and utility of these facilities, spoiling their potential to provide safe, equitable mobility choices for greater numbers of people.  Further, when cyclists need to divert around vehicles blocking bikeways, this induces unsafe cycling behavior that might expose the city to liability as a result of negligence in maintaining proper bikeway access.

Therefore we, the undersigned organizations strongly urge the city to take steps to address this epidemic of bikeway incursions.  There appear to be several strategies that could be explored:

– Physical barriers where they are safe and appropriate to prevent or discourage drivers from entering bikeways, such as bollards at entrance points, concrete separators and modular curb elements (like seen on Broadway).

– Additional signage and pavement markings to make it blatantly clear that bikeways are off limits to cars at all times.

– Signs that stipulate substantial fines for violations.

– Enforcement by parking and traffic officers, especially where vehicles park on the sidewalk or driveway aprons. But as a general rule, officer enforcement is sporadic and therefore less effective than physical elements. 

– Perhaps photo enforcement, using something like the Automotus camera technology recently deployed in the Zero Emission Delivery Zone program.  

– A literature search to explore best practices being used by other municipalities.

Clearly, physical barriers that prevent motor vehicle incursions 24-7 without the need for enforcement personnel is the superior and likely most cost-effective choice.  And it makes sense to implement effective solutions to this problem before new bikeways are installed, so that this problem is not perpetuated and to save from having to make costly retrofits.  

Please direct staff to find effective solutions to this vexing problem so that we can fully realize the many benefits of our growing bikeway network, especially public safety, and prevent this critical investment from being compromised.

Thank you,

Kent Strumpell, Laurene von Klan, Co-chairs 

Climate Action Santa Monica 

Co-signors
Santa Monica Safe Streets Alliance 

Santa Monica Spoke

Santa Monica Families for Safe Streets

Streets For All

BikeLA (formerly Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition)

Santa Monica Forward

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