Lately it seems like every week in Santa Monica there is something new happening that makes it easier and more pleasant to get around without a car. New sharrows there, a new bike lane here, bike racks popping up at shops all over town. New pedestrian oriented mixed use developments are going in several at a time along the future Expo Line corridor and revamped Big Blue Bus shelters are waiting in the wings.
The latest reconfigurations of street space that I’ve spotted include the introduction of two new bike lane types not used in Santa Monica prior to the adoption of the new Bike Action Plan (pdf ). The first is a climbing lane, which is a treatment that incorporates a bike lane in one direction, the one with the most elevation gain, and sharrows on the opposite side. This allows a bike rider to have dedicated space when they are at their slowest, and are reintegrated with traffic on the down slope, where they are able to keep a faster pace more comparable to cars on neighborhood streets. On streets that are too narrow to include bike lanes in both directions, climbing lanes are a way to fit in more than just sharrows. This configuration also slightly constrains the space for driving, which has a traffic calming affect since drivers must exercise more caution in passing each other.
Arizona Ave., which has a standard bike lane in both directions from Ocean Ave. to 26th St., now has a climbing lane and sharrows from 26th St., where Arizona narrows in width and experiences reduced traffic volume, out to Centinela Ave. Centinela defines the border between Santa Monica and the City of Los Angeles. Prior to this upgrade, this stretch of Arizona was marked as a bike route, but the only indication of such was the bike route signs reminding everyone to “share the road”. Hopefully the City of L.A. will connect this route with improved bikeways on Texas Ave. and S. Westgate Ave. to Ohio Ave., an important route option to get across the 405 without using an arterial.
The second new bikeway treatment to debut recently in Santa Monica is a buffered bike lane on Bicknell Ave., connecting 4th St. to Main St. Sharrows extend the remaining narrower length to Ocean Ave from Main St. The wide street width on Bicknell from 4th to Main, and modest traffic volume, meant there was plenty of room to work with to provide the new buffer. With this bike lane we now see Santa Monica’s first effort at addressing the door zone issue through street design. For those unfamiliar, the door zone is the space opened car doors extend into, which can be a significant hazard for a bike rider when drivers open their doors without checking if anyone is approaching. This also marks an improvement in bringing bikeway connections to beach lot and bike path entrances, one of the priorities of the new Bike Action Plan.
We’re not rolling Copenhagen style just yet, but the comfort level of these buffered bike lanes is a marked improvement over the California minimum standard bike lanes. A number of streets with existing minimum standard bike lanes and high ridership are proposed under the new bike action plan to be upgraded to buffered bike lanes like this, some with green coloration, including Broadway Avenue and Main Street. Such enhancements will correspond with regular street resurfacing to be implemented at reduced cost. Since Santa Monica actually stays on top of it’s regular resurfacing schedule, hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to see more upgrades like this in the near future.