Weekend Review: Santa Moninca Festival Embraces Biking, Complete Streets

The author's beleaguered Nishiki road bike awaits help from Bikerowave volunteers.

On Saturday afternoon, the City of Santa Monica hosted its 20th annual Santa Monica Festival. The wholehearted embrace of biking at this year’s event was, it seemed, both an embodiment of the city’s early successes in encouraging biking and a hopeful harbinger for an even more bike friendly future.

To set the stage, I’ll refer to an article written by Gary Kavanagh in Santa Monica Patch titled, “How SM Could Become the Cycling Envy of the Nation.” Of a recent trip to Portland, Kavanagh wrote: “Given how much more ideal [Santa Monica's] city scale and weather are for bicycling, it was kind of embarrassing how far ahead of Santa Monica they are up there in the Northwest.”

Santa Monica Spoke hands out literature about bike planning.

And that’s basically where Santa Monica stands today: So much potential, but a lot of work to be done. The signals coming from the city — whether it’s planning the Expo Line to be bike accessible or giving biking top billing at the festival — suggest that they understand the challenge and are embracing it.

At the festival, the embrace of bicycling took the form of various stations and activities that dealt with a range of bike issues, including political advocacy, rider education, consumer advice and maintenance help.

Featured prominently at the festivals entrance were two booths hosted by Westside bicycling mainstays, local advocates Santa Monica Spoke and neighborhood co-op Bikerowave.

The former was encouraging Santa Monica residents to get involved in the city’s five-year Bicycling Action Plan process, which is ramping up very quickly (especially when compared to the City of L.A.’s bike planning process). The next planning meeting is May 16 at 7 p.m. in the East Wing of the Civic Center Auditorium at 1855 Main St.

Bikerowave was helping on the repairs front, giving free advice and assistance to anyone who wanted it. The city itself was holding training sessions for children who wanted to learn how to bike safely. And local shops were there to provide tips for finding the right bike, depending on its intended use and the rider’s physical parameters.

Bike valets -- a common feature at Santa Monica events -- takes the stress out of bike parking.

Amidst the bike emphasis, it’s important to note a couple other livability initiatives that were present. From transit to water recovery to street trees, a panoply of complete streets issues were given voice.

The challenge for the City of Santa Monica going forward will be to balance these disparate issues, which sometimes can work against one another, but just as often can work together in synergistic manner . A perfect example is the city’s Ocean Park Boulevard Green Streets Project, which seeks to turn a stretch of city streets into a vibrant ecosystem, of flora as well as transportation modes.

This sort of vision, applied city-wide, could go a long way towards making Santa Monica the jewel of bicycling in Los Angeles County — a title Long Beach’s mobility coordinator Charlie Gandy probably won’t let away easily. And then, maybe Portlanders will head south to check out the latest innovations in bike parking, street treatments and safety measures.