Torosis, Zwick and Davis Want to Make City’s Bikeways Free for Parked Motor Vehicles


If you aren’t a regular bicycle rider in Santa Monica, you may not have noticed. But anyone that regularly has two-wheel travels in the city can tell you Santa Monica has a chronic problem: motor vehicle drivers park in the city’s bike lanes regularly and with impunity. But a trio of City Councilmembers are trying to change the city’s park-in-the-bike-lane culture.

At tomorrow night’s City Council meeting (Item 16E on the agenda), the Council will consider a motion by Councilmembers Caroline Torosis, Jesse Zwick and Mayor Gleam Davis that instructs city staff to consider options to reduce and eventually eliminate drivers choosing to park their cars in the bike lanes. Options mentioned in the resolution include enforcement options (both officers and camera) and engineering designs including quick-build protected bike lanes and and “reorienting” car parking to make bike lane incursions more difficult.

“I’m are very happy to see councils leadership in support of safer streets that protect our community infrastructure investments and safer bike lanes. We applaud Santa Monica City Council Members Zwick, Torosis, and Mayor Davis’ Item 16E that proposes we prioritize timely and effective solutions to make our streets safer for everyone!,” writes Cynthia Rose, the director of Santa Monica Spoke.

One reason the motion includes a buffet of options to be studied and implemented is because there is no simple way to change a culture that has permitted scofflaw behavior quickly.

The idea of quick-building a network of protected bike lanes is a popular one among advocates for safe bicycling infrastructure…and Santa Monica certainly has the resources and experience to create this network quickly should it choose to go that route. Streets for All has an action alert for those looking to encourage the City Council to act on the Torosis/Zwick/Davis motion.

The city can also put in plastic bollards nearly overnight, although these are far less effective in dissuading motorists bent on violating the bike lane. Depending on placement, the bollards can be avoided or just smashed to pieces by fast- or slow- moving automobiles.

As seen in the picture below, even cement barrier protected bike lanes are not a perfect solution in a world where vehicles and tires are getting larger.

Photo: Cynthia Rose

California has a strange history with cars parking in bike lanes. For years, the State’s Department of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Handbook actually told drivers it was legal to park in bicycle lanes provided there was not a “no parking” sign and that the parked vehicle was not actually blocking a bicyclist at that moment. Mercifully, that language has vanished from the most recent handbook.

They finally fixed it :

Enforcement in and of itself isn’t a solution either. There’s plenty of data that shows that traffic enforcement should rely less on in-person interactions between law enforcement and drivers both because of racial biases that result in uneven enforcement of the law and a windshield bias mentality that is pervasive with law enforcement units. On top of that, SMPD officers are anecdotally more likely to block a bike lane in a non-emergency situation than anyone else as evidenced by the below video.

Photo: Caro Vilain

It’s clear it will take an “all hands on deck” campaign to fix this problem, but there’s truth to the old axiom that “the first step is admitting you have a problem.” With this motion, the City Council can take that step. Let’s hope it’s honest with itself on the steps that are needed to bring about a real solution.

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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