The South Bay Pedals Uphill Towards a More Bike Friendly Future

(Today marks day two of our special series on biking, and bike issues, around the county.  Yesterday, Mark Elliot talked biking in Beverly Hills.  Today,  Marissa Christiansen, South Bay Initiative Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, talks about biking in the South Bay and their new Master Plan.)

Whether it’s a Saturday morning or a Thursday afternoon in any one of the South Bay’s picturesque beach towns, you will find the charming scenery complimented by a smattering of spandex-clad cycling enthusiasts or flip-flop donning beach cruisers. The enthusiast/recreational bike culture here is alive and well. The South Bay still has a long way to go to earn the “Bike Friendly” title though. Almost entirely devoted to the enthusiasts and casual cruisers, the South Bay’s bike culture lacks any prominent representation of bike commuters or those using their bikes for daily transportation needs.

After a recent survey, the South Bay Bicycle Coalition (SBBC) and bike planning consultants Alta Planning + Design determined that the lack of active transportation in the area is largely due to a fear of a street system that is almost entirely devoted to the car. Most of the South Bay’s streets are not only lacking any form of bike facility, but are used as high-volume, fast-moving thoroughfares by a vehicular population that is so far removed from any freeway that city streets become opportunities for high speeds and a “get me there now” mentality.

Still, I am convinced that the cycling scene bolstered by a population of sun-worshippers who live here [in part] for that very reason coupled with the proximity of major employment is the exact equation needed for a successful shift in the South Bay’s transportation culture…and I’m not the only one. In an effort to make this vision a reality, SBBC and Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) partnered together more than a year ago to win a grant (funded by RENEW through the Department of Public Health) that will fund the planning phase of the South Bay Bicycle Master Plan. This seven-city sub-regional plan will specifically focus on making the South Bay’s streets safer for all cyclists, with a specific focus on making it safer and more convenient for active transportation; for commuting, daily errands or even getting to school.

All seven partnering cities have been largely supportive by offering some staff time, a council member delegate for the advisory committee, and in the case of Redondo Beach, office space for yours truly; but now comes the hard part. We’ve seen this before, an advocacy-municipal partnership that seems cumbayah enough until someone asks for real change…which is exactly what the draft plan will do. The draft (which will be released in June) proposes approximately 250 miles of bikeways, along with the progressive signage and policy designed to catalyze the South Bay in becoming an alternative transportation epicenter. In the fall, the final draft of the South Bay Bicycle Master Plan will be presented to each of the seven city councils for adoption.

While our primary platform is increased safety for all cyclists there remains a local police force or two out there that would have the community believe that increased bike infrastructure will somehow aide “these cyclists” in breaking the rules of the road, despite the trends and research that supports the exact opposite.  So, as we continue to arm ourselves with the facts that assert increased bike infrastructure and cycling populations actually result in safer road conditions for all users, we look towards a more equitable transportation system in the South Bay and know we have our work cut out for us. That said; consider this your call to action.  If you live, work or ride in the South Bay, or know someone who does, give us a shout at www.SouthBayBicycleCoalition.org and when the time comes, help us show the South Bay cities how important bikeability really is.

Thanks to…

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