Eyes on the Street: Green Lights for Bikes in Santa Monica

Signage at Santa Monica Boulevard and 14th Street in Santa Monica. Thanks, Andrew Ellis Miller

After years of being considered the most bike-friendly city in the Southland, Santa Monica fell behind Long Beach in recent years both in terms of infrastructure and cyclists imagination.  However, in recent months, the city once known as the People’s Republic of Santa Monica for embracing many of the most progressive ideals imaginable (at least in America) is playing catch-up.

First, there was the widely-praised release of a Bike Plan that promises miles of new bike lanes and more progressive designs to rival Long Beach.  Next was Bike Center.  Today, cyclists are noticing signage, on the street and on the poll, that give bikes a chance to be counted at intersections and get their own greens.

Reader Andrew Ellis Miller sends the picture to the right and reports that he’s noticing bike markings at intersections along Wilshire Boulevard.

Giving cyclists an equal chance to cross the street is one of the signs of a bike friendly city.  Not only does it increase safety, it decreases the number of times drivers will witness a fed up cyclist, frustrated at a long wait, choosing to cross against a red light.



					
  • Popping up on Santa Monica Blvd. as well. But I haven’t noticed them on Broadway, which has one of the most widely used bike lanes in the city, and there are some intersections without a detector in the bike lane. 

  • Popping up on Santa Monica Blvd. as well. But I haven’t noticed them on Broadway, which has one of the most widely used bike lanes in the city, and there are some intersections without a detector in the bike lane. 

  • This is a great development; I hope to see them on Broadway as well. The streets perpendicular to SM Blvd. could really benefit from this too; especially 14th and 11th which cross 10.

  • These are coming to 4th Street in Los Angeles, too.

  • Mig

    Also on Ocean Park.

  • Hate to break any bubbles, but induction loops that must recognize bikes has been required for quite some time now, and are enormously easy to install.

    Its not the sign of a bike friendly city, it’s a sign of a city following what the manual says, and the manual says to install these.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know if I would consider cutting into the pavement, installing the detection loop, wiring it to the traffic signal, and calibrating the loop well enough that it detects a small bicycle on top but not a large truck in the next lane over enormously easy. True, every signal not on a timer or with video detection should have be of these, although they are not required by law, but based on my experience they a far from easy to install correctly and keep calibrated over time.

  • Anonymous

    Are you sure that those lanes did not already have bike detection, but just weren’t painted with a bike stencil yet? The stencil and sign are great, but I wish more cyclists would know to just look for and place their bike over the detector cuts in the pavement, usually in the middle of the lane just before the stop line. I see so many of them waiting forever at the curb or in the crosswalk at traffic signals, getting frustrated when they could just move a couple feet over for the green.

  • Yeah, AB 1581 has been law since 2007, but it only applies to the construction or re-construction of signalized intersections – which isn’t too many in built out places like Santa Monica.  Proactively installing loop-detection, especially in concert with bike infrastructure and not where required by law, is still pretty significant.

  • @Prinzrob:disqus  I may be wrong, but from what I understand, these detectors do NOT differentiate between bikes and trucks, but simply exist so that when a lonely bike arrives at the intersection, the signal knows to change. From what I understand only camera and microwave sensors can detect different vehicle types, and so change the length of the cycle. I dont know of any induction sensor that attemps to differenciate between vehicle type.

    The thing is, the whole cutting into the pavement and wiring it to the control box is going to be done anyway to detect any form of traffic, the only difference is a denser pattern of wires where the bike will stop. The additional cost is very tiny.

    The sign is simply for situations in which the wire hole is not left exposed but is paved over, rendering it invisible to bikes.

    Heres an example of the additional work. Cars and trucks just need a big circle, while bikes need a denser pattern
    http://g.co/maps/jtxu3

    In this case, no paint or sign is needed because its incredibly obvious where the cyclist needs to stop.

    It’s not a sign of being bicycle friendly, just following the manual.

  • the lonely rider

    These new signs are video detected and bikes register through cameras above the intersection that are especially calibrated for bike movement on the little sign. 34 intersections through the city are being treated in the first round. It costs 25 grand an intersection. Induction loops don’t work for bikes. (not enough metal to close the loop. Speaking from waiting experience the sooner they arrive the better.

  • hikusar

    1. like everyone else is saying, they are really just following the manual.
    2. they are probably doing it because this allows them to control all the signals from a laptop. Instead of sending someone out to change the timing on a signal, they can adjust everything from the office. This allows them to monitor traffic flows much more accurately as they can see live video what is going on at intersections.
    3. they are only bike friendly if they are programed properly. They work great during the day, but my experience with them at night has been they don’t work 95% of the time. The camera works by comparing a previous image to what it currently sees. Detection works by changing the lighting shade on the live picture and it compares it to the previous image. At night, it is too dark for the camera to pick on this difference (esp. at unlit intersections) and doesn’t work. I couldn’t even get it to change by pointing my bike light at it.

  • Port of Charleston

    I agree with your post, this is full of awareness.

    Port of Charleston

  • Robert cena

    I  do really agree with you. in Most of bike friendly cities in southland,Santa Monica fell behind Long Beach in recent years both in terms of infrastructure and cyclists imagination. The main reason is that there was the widely-praised release of a Bike Plan that promises miles of new bike lanes and more progressive designs to rival Long Beach.  Next was Bike Center. Because this cyclist does not get equally chance  to cross the street. Giving equally chances for cyclist to cross the streets not only does it increase safety, it decreases the number of times drivers will witness a fed up cyclist, frustrated at a long wait, choosing to cross against a red light. Surely this will change intersections between cyclist and bikers.used bikes for sale

  • Anonymous

    @Jass Sorry for any confusion, but I do know that loop detectors do not differentiate between bikes and larger vehicles. From my conversations with traffic engineers and contractors, however, I have learned that to get a detector to sense a bicycle they have to turn the sensitivity up quite high, but if turned up too high then the detector starts picking up large vehicles like trucks in a DIFFERENT lane. Also, as large vehicles pass over a detector it throws off the sensitivity over time, so to continue picking up bikes it has to be re-calibrated regularly which costs money and time. The most popular pattern for bicycle friendly loops (shown here: http://bit.ly/wkW46o) also has sharper corners which cause the wires in the ground to unfortunately wear out and break sooner. As such, beyond the initial installation there is a substantial effort a city has to make to keep their loop detector signals bike friendly, when compared to video/microwave detection or normal, non-actuated timing.

    “In this case, no paint or sign is needed because its incredibly obvious where the cyclist needs to stop.”
    …I wish this was true but your average motorist or cyclist sees the wire cuts on the road and has no idea what they are for. Luckily for motorists they don’t need to know as their vehicle will inevitably be positioned over them and the light will always change. However, a smaller bicycle needs to be positioned just so to be detected, and I have lost track of the number of times I have seen cyclists behind the detector, to the right of the detector at the curb, or in front of the detector in the crosswalk, waiting and wondering why there is no green light. This is why it is not only important to make sure that the detectors are calibrated correctly, but to also install stencils on the roadway for cyclists and even signs like this one which is now in standard use: http://bit.ly/Az2BlU.

    Bicycle detection is only legally required in California, per AB 1581, upon installation of a new signal or reconstruction of a loop detector. This means that all signals should eventually be in compliance, but it will take decades and there is no way to know for sure that a signal one has just arrived at is new or reconstructed.

    Video detection is a good long term alternative as the lifespan is longer, it is more reliable, easier to reconfigure if the roadway changes, and it requires less maintenance. Microwave detection, like the kind being used in Pleasanton right now, is even better as it can also differentiate between bikes and other types of vehicles and provide different green phases based on assumed speed.

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