Council Considers Five Bike Motions, Ranging from Construction Contracts to Anti-Harassment Ordinances

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The Santa Monica City Council meets tomorrow evening (agenda) to grapple with a contentious agenda that includes five different votes on issues related to bicycle and pedestrian safety. While not as controversial as the resolution offered by Councilmembers Gleam Davis, Caroline Torosis and Jesse Zwick “supporting the resumption of a negotiated bilateral ceasefire in Gaza and reiterating the City’s condemnation of all antisemitism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia,” the measures will provide another test of the city’s commitment to reducing and eventually eliminating traffic deaths.

In a meeting earlier this spring, the council passed a motion by Zwick requiring city staff to draft a “bicyclist anti-harassment ordinance.” The ordinance creates an avenue for bicyclists to file a civil suit against a driver who threatens them with their vehicle or even just verbally. While even the most dangerous driver won’t face jail time or even points for their behavior under the ordinance, it does create an avenue to receive some justice without needing a police report.

Other cities have ordinances such as this one already on the books. Los Angeles was the first city in the country to pass such an ordinance in 2011. The measures have an uneven record of impact, and sometimes are used more as educational tools than legal ones.

Santa Monica Spoke is in favor of the ordinance, although they want to see it widened to include all “vulnerable road users” (i.e. those not in cars).

“Though strongly supportive – we believe this should be an anti-harassment ordinance for all vulnerable road users, be they walking or biking,” says Cynthia Rose, the executive director of Santa Monica Spoke, who still sees the ordinance as a good first step toward improving the rights of people biking.

 However,  “Why are we going for good when we could do much better?” she asks.

As the proposed ordinance would change city law, it requires several “readings” where members can make suggestions and vote on changes before it becomes law. Tomorrow’s meeting is the first reading of the proposal.

Another motion by Davis, Torosis and Zwick directs the city to examine what improvements are needed and feasible to make Neilson Way, nestled between Main Street and Ocean Avenue near the beach, a safer and more attractive place to walk or ride a bicycle.

“Neilson way has been a known danger for decades …It’s a drainage pipe for speeding cars,” Rose begins.

“The speed tables on Neilson Way would be awesome, But I’m afraid that we’re looking at things piecemeal and not holistically. We need sidewalks on Neilson Way. Main Street should be either a Slow Street or a Walk Street.”

To do that, the city would need to look at potentially moving the buses that are currently on Main Street one block west to Neilson. But that would be impossible without sidewalks.

But while Neilson may have needed upgrades for decades, even if the motion passes it will need to wait a little longer as funding is not available at the moment for improvements to this street. The motion does direct staff to search for these funds.

The last three items that will be discussed appear on the “consent agenda,” and have already been approved and have funding identified. The motions are just to approve contracts to begin construction on the Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street Project (part of the Bergamot improvements discussed earlier this year), a contract for a design consultant Santa Monica Blvd Safety Enhancement Study, and a construction contract for the “six schools” pedestrian safety project.

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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