I was just in Naples, Florida, which has a strong seasonal increase in its population thanks to the winter “Snowbirds” who flock down from the North East to avoid the horrid winters and enjoy the balmy Gulf Coast weather. Naples also has a large retired contingent of year-round seniors. As a city that caters heavily to tourists it has a few things in common with Santa Monica – lots of cash, a relaxed atmosphere, and a beach community that is richer than most of the country.
Both cities have governments that are engaged in long range planning and trying to prepare for an increase in population as the country greys. Naples is investing heavily in infrastructure, much like Santa Monica.
What is different are the ways in which Naples is spending money, putting in hurricane strength traffic signals, flood management systems and widening roadways to handle additional traffic.
Santa Monica on the other hand, well, I’m not always sure about what we’re doing. We put in traffic circles on Michigan Avenue that are too large for the intersections and I have yet to figure out why we needed them other than to keep a landscape crew occupied for three weeks. There’s this new “bike lane” on Pico between 7th and 6th which so far seems to serve no purpose, other than to keep a road crew busy for a month.
I noticed on Monday that bike racks are being installed on 11th for the Breeze bike rental program. You can register this week for a free trial on the 12th of November. The free trial day is this Thursday. If you go to http://santamonicabikeshare.com/#how-it-works you can register and set up an account, which you’ll need to rent bikes later. As a Santa Monica resident you will be able to choose a rental plan of 30 or 60 minutes a day for reduced rates.
The plan currently is available for $99 a year as a founding member, which is down from the $119 annual basic plan. There is also a “pay as you go” plan available for $6 an hour. Depending on how much you need to get around town, this could be a good deal. The bikes come with baskets, handy for grocery shopping for an individual and maybe a couple, but certainly not big enough for a family.
I’ll be interested to see how this catches on. Part of me likes the idea, but thinks it may be too expensive for bike rental – seems like the cost of usage could be too high for mass consumption – but I’ve been wrong before on what people will pay for, and how much. On the other hand, given the number of bike thefts in town, and that these bikes are going to stand out with their lime green coloring and publicity it’s unlikely they will be stolen, and if they are, as a user, I can just grab another one. Of course I’m curious who is liable if a bike I’ve rented is stolen during my rental; and I have to pay for it, that makes it a very expensive proposition.
As we prepare for the next 100 years, with impacted population, increased traffic and no room to expand, it will take creative minds to match the growth. I’m glad that we’re trying new things, some will work wonderfully, some will likely fail. Perhaps the bike share will be amazing, perhaps not. Perhaps this weird bike lane thingy on Pico is a truly useful development, but I’ve yet to see a single bike in it.
Long range planning is a bit like alchemy; some mathematics, a bit of history, intuition are mixed with a great deal of luck. There’s a line in the song “Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen” that goes like this, “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.” I love that, because it’s so true.
As a city we must do our best to prepare for the things that we know are possible. For example in Naples Florida it’s hurricanes, in Santa Monica it’s earthquakes and tsunamis, but the thing that is likely to do real change, that can truly upset our city is a massive technology boom, or a rush of new residents, possibly a surge in development, maybe the tech boom going bust, all of these are possible and unpredictable.
But in the end, we can only try things that look and sound plausible to prepare for the known unknowns, and wait and see how the unknown unknowns play out.