CITY HALL — Bicyclists broke out in riotous applause Tuesday night when the City Council unanimously approved the Bike Action Plan, a 20-year vision that planners hope will encourage people to get out of cars and onto bikes.
City Council members caught the mood, pushing forward with the $2.5 million that will be spent in the next two years to bring bike-friendly improvements to more than 30 miles of streets, improve public bike facilities and bring free educational opportunities to the residents of Santa Monica.
“This item is a celebration!” said Mayor Richard Bloom, who invited Lucy Dyke, the deputy director for special projects, to introduce the plan.
Dyke presented a distilled version of the 400-page document to the Planning Commission on Nov. 9, detailing the highlights of the multi-year effort which will bring to fruition one of the goals established in the 2010 Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) — reduce Santa Monicans’ dependence on traffic and pollution-causing vehicles.
City Hall plans to put that initial $2.5 million to work immediately to create 14 miles of new bike lanes and 17 miles of green buffered lanes on Broadway, Main Street, Second Street and on Ocean Park Boulevard.
Another 2,500 bicycle parking spaces will be available within the next five years, and the nation’s largest bicycle center opened last week on Colorado Avenue at Second Street.
The first beachside bicycle campus will open in coming months, and with it City Hall will provide bicycling curriculum to teach etiquette and rules of the road to budding bicyclists of all ages.
Planners will also create bicycle-focused plans to use for new development to encourage developers to keep building the appropriate infrastructure along with their commercial and residential structures.
In the future, approximately 30 intersections will be rehabbed with bicyclists in mind and a wayfinding system will help them navigate city streets.
The Planning Commission had mainly positive commentary on the plan it saw earlier in November, but added a few new details to it for council approval.
The biggest was the proposal for a bicycle track at the Santa Monica Airport, which will be added to the 20-year timeline, but the commission also requested one east-west and one north-south separated bike lane and that a greater priority be put on efforts with schools to establish safe bicycling routes for students.
Additionally, the commission requested that the bicycle sharing program, which will be funded in 2016 through the Metropolitan Transit Authority, get off the ground faster to give Santa Monicans access to bicycles when they need them most — in Downtown for quick errands or trips.
The commission also suggested creating a measurement to see how successful the plan is in getting people onto bikes, and to provide an annual report on how the plan is rolling out.
Bicycle activists spoke warmly about the plan and urged the City Council to adopt the plan with the Planning Commission’s new suggestions. They also called for more separated bike lanes to improve safety.
“There are some things they want you to go harder and faster on, but the fact that there’s no opposition means you’ve hit the sweet spot,” said Planning Commissioner and longtime bike activist Richard McKinnon. “This is almost the perfect present for our community and the people who ride bikes here.”
The only call for caution came from the senior community, which pushed council members to require bicyclists obey traffic laws and employ creative sentencing for riders who persist in ignoring the laws.
Louisa Fish, a member of the senior commission, had her own ideas for punishments.
“If they drive their bikes eastbound on a westbound lane, they won’t be allowed to wear Spandex for a year!” Fish said, causing the room to erupt in laughter.
Bicyclists were overjoyed by the news, said Cynthia Rose of Santa Monica Spoke, a bicycle activist network.
It took years of work and a huge amount of community input to forge the plan, and the City Council’s support — and $8 million in promised funding — will push the effort forward.
“That they’re asking for more is just awesome,” Rose said.
Santa Monica-based environmental organization Global Green USA also chimed in its support for the plan.
“We applaud the council for their support on this issue, and will work hand in hand with them to ensure that a viable alternative to driving a car is an option for all residents, workers and visitors in Santa Monica,” said Matt Peterson, CEO and president of Global Green and a member of the City Hall Task Force on the Environment.