Council Expands Anti-Harassment Ordinance to Protect Pedestrians and Approves Plans and Contracts for Safety Improvements


Last night (Agenda), the City Council unanimously passed all five motions relating to bicycle safety. These motions will lead to near-immediate construction of several projects and a study of ways to improve safety on Neilson Way and Santa Monica Boulevard. The Council also took another step in passing an “anti-harassment ordinance” to protect bicyclists and other vulnerable road users.

The anti-harassment ordinance was initially drafted to protect bicyclists but was expanded after a motion by Councilmember Gleam Davis to also include pedestrians. It now bans several dangerous actions committed against cyclists and pedestrians including: physical assault, threatening to physically injure someone walking or bicycling, intentionally distracting a bicyclist or pedestrian in a way that endangers them, and intentionally forcing a bicyclist off the street or out of their lane.

The ordinance creates a civil legal recourse for victims of these actions, allowing them to collect money to pay for damages and legal fees. A person cannot be found guilty of a felony or criminal action, so it does not require the SMPD or other police to be involved.

The motion passed unanimously.

The council also voted to approve a motion requiring staff to focus on slowing traffic and creating a safer environment for all road users on Neilson Way, nestled between Main Street and Ocean Avenue. Neilson has been known as a sort of north-south speedway for motorists and a bane for those seeking to use other transportation modes and residents along the route.

Before discussion began, Mayor Phil Brock lamented that he authored a similar motion in 2021 that has not led to any changes on the street and wished Councilmember Jesse Zwick who authored this motion, “good luck.”

Zwick welcomed Brock’s support and noted that the city has had success in creating safer streets without impacting emergency response times. The Santa Monica fire chief even supports a plan to make Neilson safer despite fire departments across the country being known as barriers to safe streets.

The Councilmember also noted that there were two crashes on Neilson Way just last week: one where a cyclist was struck by a motor vehicle and another where a truck jumped the curb.

“We can’t wait. Especially now that we have the ability to do speed calming measures like this, we should move forward,” Zwick concluded.

The motion passed unanimously.

Earlier, the council approved two items that were approved on the consent calendar included two construction projects and a study for Santa Monica Boulevard. These items were:

Agenda item 5I: Award Construction Contract to Environmental Construction, Inc. for Pedestrian Improvements at Six Schools Project

Agenda item 5C: Award of Agreement to Michael Baker International to conduct the Santa Monica Blvd Safety Enhancement Study supported by a Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant

“Prioritizing the safety of our children should be non-negotiable,” testified Caroline Vilain, a local safety advocate about item 5I. “Streets that are safe for children are safe for everyone.”

A third item, Item 5A: Award Construction Contract for Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street Project, proved somewhat more controversial after Brock questioned whether or not a two foot median was necessary to create a protected bike lane on Olympic Boulevard as the project calls for. Brock has been critical of protected bike lane projects after some residents complained about the 17th Street project last summer. The Council had approved this project as part of a larger plan for improvements surrounding the Bergamot E-Line Station last month.

“Is there an alternative to taking four feet of the roadway away, which doesn’t help anyone. It’s not helping the bicyclists or pedestrians,” Brock challenged. “Tell me I’m wrong.”

Kyle Kozar, a senior transportation planner with the city, did just that. Kozar was polite, but firm, in his rebuttal.

“There’s no way to create a protected bikeway without the two feet that creates that extra protection,” he responded before going into a detailed slide presentation that explained the benefits of two-feet of concrete protection to protect bicyclists.

Brock seemed mollified by staff answers and moved the motion himself which eventually passed by a unanimous 6-0 vote.

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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