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Santa Monica’s New 17th Street Curb-Protected Bike Lanes are Amazing

Nearly completed, Santa Monica's excellent 17th Street bike/ped improvements include Southern California's first European-type curb-protected intersections

4:53 PM PDT on July 6, 2023

Santa Monica’s nearly completed 17th Street curb-protected bike lanes. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

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This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney as part of a general sponsorship package. All opinions in the article are that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of LABA. Click on the ad for more information.

Santa Monica has long been one of the most bike-, walk-, and transit-friendly cities in Southern California, which is unfortunately a pretty low bar. Watch this 2016 Streetfilm for an overview of earlier Santa Monica multimodal facilities.

This year, Santa Monica will open one of its more ambitious projects designed to support bicycling and walking on 17th Street; the improvements are officially titled Safe Streets for 17th Street and Michigan Avenue. The city notes that since the 2016 opening of the Metro E Line, 17th Street has seen increases in walking (up 1600 percent) and bicycling (up 82 percent) on 17th.

One way to glean that the improvements are worthwhile is that, even before construction is complete, the project already has some drivers and some councilmembers up in arms. Mercifully, a recent City Council skirmish reaffirmed the project.

17th Street project map - via Santa Monica city project handout

The nearly completed 17th Street facility extends just over one mile from Wilshire Boulevard to Pico Boulevard.

The relatively short bikeway makes lots of key connections, especially serving the 17th Street Metro E Line Station, plus Santa Monica College, the Expo Line bike path, bike lanes on Arizona Avenue and Broadway, and the Michigan Avenue Greenway (MANGo - which is being extended north/east via a separate project).

The northwest end of the 17th Street project features curb-protected bike lanes and protected intersections (at Broadway and Arizona). Southeast of Michigan, the bikeway is at sidewalk level. Though these treatments are fairly common in bike-friendly European cities, Santa Monica's 17th Street has L.A. County's first curb-protected intersections. It's also the county's first both-sides-of-a-street curb-protected bike lanes. Somewhat similar facilities (though one-side two-way) are open in Pomona and Santa Monica's Ocean Avenue, and a similar bikeway is under construction in downtown L.A.

Santa Monica expects to complete construction on the 17th Street facility this month. The curb work appears to all be in place, but some final pavement markings are still pending.

Below are recent photos of 17th Street (northwest to southeast), plus connecting facilities along Broadway and Pico Boulevard.

Santa Monica's 17th Street curb-protected bike lanes near Wilshire Boulevard. As with many other Southern California parking-protected bikeway projects, on-street parking has been moved away from the curb, and the existing bike lane was moved toward the sidewalk, and away from moving cars. Southern California has dozens of protected bike lanes like this, but 17th is the first that has added a raised concrete curb between the bike lane and the parked cars.
At the intersection of Arizona Street and 17th is a fully protected intersection, the first of its kind in Southern California. Pedestrians and cyclists (in bike lanes on 17th or Arizona), wait behind raised curb islands. The design encourages drivers to make slower safer turns, with full view of people on foot and bike.
Arizona Avenue's unprotected bike lanes are curb-protected at the intersection with 17th
The 17th Street project also includes a fully curb-protected intersection at Broadway
Cyclist making left turn from 17th onto Broadway, waiting behind the curb-island
Connected to 17th is Santa Monica's separate Broadway Safety Project, which recently added quick-build parking-protected bike lanes on Broadway between 16th and 20th Streets. The project includes plenty of plastic wheel stops to help drivers stay in the correct parts of the street.
The 17th Street bikeway connects cyclists to the 17th/SMC Metro E Line Station (located at 17th and Colorado Avenue). The fence along the station entry ramp is visible in the upper middle of this photo.
Southeast of the Metro station, the facility varies somewhat - with sections of curb-protected and sidewalk-level level bike lanes (see below), and this short plastic-protected stretch on the bridge over the 10 Freeway
At the Michigan Avenue Greenway, the 17th Street bikeway goes from curb-protected to sidewalk-level. The Michigan intersection is similar to Arizona and Broadway.
Southeast of Michigan, the 17th Street bikeway continues at sidewalk-level. Notice the existing sidewalk on the right, and the new bikeway nearer to the curb on the left.
17th Street ends at Pico Boulevard, at Santa Monica City College. Santa Monica added a one-block stretch of plastic-bollard protected bike lanes on Pico. These allow cyclists to transition between 17th Street and 16th Street, which is relatively quiet and has a one-way uphill bike lane.

Added bonus: in brief, below are three more fairly recent Santa Monica bikeway improvements.

Santa Monica recently received praise for its rapid install of curb protection along the already parking-protected two-way bikeway along Ocean Avenue
In addition to the narrow curb strip, Ocean features wider curb areas at intersections
A year or so ago, Santa Monica upgraded 23rd Street's basic bike lanes, adding plastic-bollard-protection and green pavement. The 23rd Street bikeway extends about a half-mile from the L.A. city limit (at Dewey Street/Airport Avenue) to Ocean Park Boulevard.
The 23rd Street protected lanes continue up/down the hill
Near Ocean Park, the protected lanes drop, and 23rd Street has an uphill bike lane, downhill sharrows, and on-street parking
In Santa Monica's civic center, between the Civic Auditorium and the new Historic Belmar Park, there is a short (0.1-mile) new bike path. The northwest end of the path is at Civic Center Drive.
The southwest end of the civic center path is at the intersection of Pico Boulevard and 3rd Street

For the latest on bicycling issues in Santa Monica, check the bike news tab at SBLA sister site Santa Monica Next.

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