Santa Monica Debuts Two New Bikeway Designs

New Climbing Bike Lane & Descending Sharrows On Arizona Ave. New Climbing Bike Lane & Descending Sharrows On Arizona Ave. New Climbing Bike Lane & Descending Sharrows On Arizona Ave.

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.

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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.

  • J

    Great article. Thans for the update, Gary.

    Interestingly, streets that have enough room for buffered bike lanes probably also have enough room to be upgraded to protected bike lanes in the future. This is what was done on 8th Ave, in NYC, and what will be done this year on 1st Ave and Hudson St. Unfortunately, at two blocks, it might not be worth it on Bicknell. 

  • Currently the Santa Monica Bike Plan calls for a protected bike lane to connect the future 17th St. and Colorado Expo Line rail station with the Santa Monica College Campus.

    Hopefully some of the buffered bike lanes that will be going in elsewhere become a stepping stone toward protect lanes eventually. Main St. in particular I think would be well suited for protect bike lanes because of it’s vibrant mix of uses and fewer conflicting driveway entrances than other SM streets because of side street parking.

  • 17th Street from Marine/Robson to the south up to SMC at the north has a climbing lane as well. 

  • roadblock

    SANTA MONICA is HANNELEN BIZ! Love this. I’ve often thought about using sharrows for downhills because of the speed and risk of being too close to cars at speed. NICE WORK.

  • Anonymous

    No need for “Door Zone” markings in Copenhagen.  The Cycletrack is on the passenger side of the car where there is less potential for conflict given the average 1.1 person occupancy of these 4-5 passenger vehicles:

  • Mihai Peteu

    I’m liking the Arizona climbing lane a lot, I don’t feel forced to squeeze over to the right anymore. I ride that stretch 2-3 times a week.

    Bicknell was a total surprise. While looking for the easiest way over to Main St, I took a random left off the bike path on the first street that didn’t look too hilly. Shazaam, now I’m riding the comfiest bike lane ever. In my excitement, I snapped a downhill photo from the same angle as yours.

  • Anonymous

    Arizona is definitely welcome news! Perhaps someday we’ll see decent access between UCLA and SM (granted, there’s San Vicente, but it goes far north of where most people would probably like to go and is indirect).

  • Juan and I have noticed that there are some stripes that kind of look like they *might* become bike lanes on 11th, north of Wilshire. I’ll have to double check with the Bike Plan to see if there is any language about that. 11th north of Wilshire is pretty narrow, all things considered. The “bike lane” is squarely in the door zone and the “car” lane is down to about 8 feet wide, which doesn’t quite bother me since traffic on that street ought to be slowed down anyway (remember, twenty is plenty).

  •  Update: I got a postcard in the mail yesterday announcing that Santa Monica is adding a NB bike lane on and SB sharrows on 11th between Wilshire and Montana; and Pico and Marine.

  • The number of blocks getting new bike lanes and sharrows is difficult to keep up with recently. I’ve spotted preliminary spray paint marks all over town. It looks like in one full swoop Santa Monica is looking to close all of the little obvious gaps in it’s bike route network.

  • There are still some quirks, though, as Evan Garcia pointed out to me via Twitter recently. The NB bike lane on 11th at Wilshire shifts abruptly into the right turn pocket — kind of confusing for those of us who intend to keep going north, and now contradictory because there will be a bike lane between the parking lane and the #1 vehicle lane north of Wilshire.

  • That bike lane that goes into the turn pocket is an unfortunate design legacy from the 1995 plan (that was actually a Caltrans suggested treatment). I think for re-striping they are planning to wait until repave, but that one spot is so bad I think they should buff the old striping and redo when they do the further North lane.

  • Joe B

    I briefly looked at the BBL on Bicknell, and it looks nice. Will cyclists (especially novice cyclists) understand that the area to the right of the dashed line is a buffer, and not a second travel lane? Perhaps some crosshatching in that area would help convey that idea.

    I rode the Arizona lane last week, and frankly, it’s kind of scary. Especially the part just east of Franklin (I think), where the bike lane goes steeply downhill.

  • Joe B

    How did you get signed up to get postcards in the mail about bike lane installations? I’ve been asking for almost a year now to be informed of bike infrastructure before it is installed, and have been all but ignored.

  • So, folks, I have some good news. The NB climbing lane on 11th has been permanently striped and the double yellow line in the center of the street has been shifted. Proof is in the pictures. 

    Also!!! The city restriped the 11th St NB bike lane just south of Wilshire! No longer are bikes guided into the right hand turn lane. 


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