This week, Santa Monica opened it’s first on-street bike corrals located within business districts, with two prominent locations on Main Street. At Main St. and Kinney St. there are 2 corrals on each side of the street, with a larger full space on the east side of the street, and a smaller corral with 4 racks on the north side. Another full size corral with 7 rubberized staple racks is located in front of the Peets Coffee at the Edgemar Center between Ocean Park Blvd. and Hollister Ave.
The corrals occupy what were previously red zones marked to ensure visibility of pedestrians at the busy adjacent crosswalks. Since bikes do not obstruct sight lines nearly as much as parked cars do, these corrals could be safely installed directly in front of the crosswalks. This allowed the bike corrals to be squeezed in without the politically contentious move of removing any street spaces for cars yet. If these locations are successful, they will hopefully open the door to considering trading out car spaces in the future.
The bike corrals are a natural extension of the character of Main St. and it’s growing bicycle ridership that needs secure places to park their bikes. Although the hard data available for the economic impact of bike riders in Santa Monica is limited, it has become clear to me that Main St. in Santa Monica is one of the most successful microcosms of bikenomics in action within the Los Angeles region.
On my most recent trip walking up and down Main St., before these corrals were installed, everywhere I turned there was a bike attached to one of the many new sidewalk racks that had been installed in recent months. When those racks had filled, bikes were still being attached to parking meters or anything nailed down. At the most popular cafes the number of bikes would often equal or exceed the number of cars parked on the adjacent street. Locals and tourists alike flow down the street on bikes at a steady beat that is rare in LA County. On Sundays the Main St. Farmers Market explodes with hundreds of bike riders, thanks in part to the wildly successful bike valet program for such big events.
With the new bike corrals in place, we should start seeing fewer bikes being attached to less secure miscellaneous objects, and clearer sidewalk spaces as a result. Providing prominent infrastructure can also entice latent demand that other wise wouldn’t materialize, which I clearly witnessed riding around Portland Oregon with it’s numerous packed on-street bike corrals that have been installed for years now.
On a street with as much bike riding as Main Street already has, and with improved connections like the bike lane extension into neighboring Venice, I have no doubt these new bike corrals will be well utilized. I think this summer we’ll see more businesses become converts to seeing the benefits of bicycle infrastructure, and requests for more corral locations will start springing as any mild grumblings of protest recede into the background.
Two more locations are already being planned as part of Santa Monica’s first year Bike Action Plan implementation goals. One in the Downtown area, and one near the Co-Opportunity Market at Broadway Ave. and 16th Street. Long Beach may be generating a lot of publicity for it’s Bike Friendly Business District program enticing people to ride, but Santa Monica has been quietly creating it’s own culture of commerce by bike that is increasingly in a league of it’s own within Southern California.