SANTA MONICA GOES BIKING
By Hannah Heineman
Several years ago, the City of Santa Monica began encouraging residents and visitors to get out of their cars and walk, take buses or ride bicycles in order to alleviate the city’s worsening traffic congestion and reduce air pollution.
Biking had always been popular here, but the City has embarked on an ambitious program of facilities and classes and other inducements to make biking safer and more enjoyable.
City residents can now sign up for free bicycle education classes that are run through the non-profit Sustainable Streets. The City’s Deputy Director of Special Projects, Lucy Dyke, told the Dispatch that the City of Santa Monica, along with the cities of West Hollywood and Burbank, has received a $93,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety to offer free once-a-month classes free of charge. The classes began in September 2011 and will end in September of this year. All three cities have applied to renew of the granst for 2013.
These monthly classes consist of two 4-hour sessions. The first session is spent in the classroom and the second session in the field. The class teaches 12 students at a time how to safely navigate the streets in an urban environment. Students practice their newly acquired skills on the city’s new “Bicycle Campus” that is located south of Ocean Park Boulevard on Santa Monica State Beach. The campus, which cost the City about $10,000 to develop, opened on April 22.
According to Dyke, the City is also planning to improve the beach bike path that is part of the Marvin Braude Beach Trail. It has applied many times for grants to widen the path, but has yet to receive new funding. Despite that, the City is working on improvements, including better signage at junctions of the bike and
pedestrian paths, which will be put in place this summer, Dyke hopes the signs will help “clarify people’s expectations about the path.”
Another resource now available to cyclists is the Santa Monica Bike Center, which has two locations in Santa Monica Place. Built by the City, it opened in November of 2011. The center’s General Manager, Ron Durgin, told the Dispatch the Bike Center is operated by Bike and Park Santa Monica LLC that currently has a two-year contract with the city. It pays the City a base rent and a percentage of its gross receipts beyond a certain amount.
Durgin noted that the center’s main charge is to “encourage bicycling in the downtown.” It provides secure bike parking, showers and lockers, bike rentals, repairs services, classes, in addition to other services. Cyclists can either join the Center and pay monthly fees, or pay cash for individual services, In its first six months of operation, 171 people have become members. It can serve as many as 550 members.
The City is encouraging its staff to use bicycles for City business and has purchased bikes for and offered bike education classes to employees. Dyke noted, “It saves the city money” when employees ride bikes instead of using the city’s car fleet.
Dyke did not have exact figures on how many residents are using bikes but said that biking use has definitely increased and that “over 25,000 people are using bike valets annually in Santa Monica.”