The City is beginning a public outreach campaign to get suggestions on improving the Santa Monica Beach trail, particularly the northern portion of the trail and underneath Santa Monica Pier.

“Right now, it’s very confusing and very crowded so we want to deal with the public safety issues and make it much more clear so people know where to go,” City beach administrator Judith Meister said.

The project will focus on the stretch north of California, where Ocean Front Walk ends and there is a single-shared path. Walkers and bikers often complain the path is too narrow and difficult to navigate through the different speeds of traffic.
“In some areas the path is so narrow that the only way to pass the person in front of you is to cut into the other lane,” Resident Kiersten McLennan said, who supports building a separate path for pedestrians. “Its too small of a space to ride side by side with friends.”

The bike path through Santa Monica is part of a 22-mile stretch through several Southern California beach cities built in 1976. The stretch receiving renovations was completed in 1989. Meister says she has been applying for grants to build a separate path for pedestrians for the past fifteen years and finally has the money in the budget to make changes.

“It’s a long time coming and I think it will be really appreciated by all the people who use this path,” Meister said.

While the City does not have recent estimates on the number of people who use the path every day, Santa Monica is the most popular portion of the 22-mile stretch.

Between the bike path and the popularity of the Santa Monica Pier, navigating the crowd can get particularly difficult at the portion where the path goes under the Pier. Meister explained cyclists’ eyes are still readjusting to the sunlight after emerging from the tunnel when they are confronted by all the beach-goers leaving the parking lot at 1550 Pacific Coast Highway.

“That lot is always really busy,” Meister said. “People are going to the beach and they have all their stuff with them and they’re not necessarily looking where they’re going.”

The community has a chance to weigh in on coming changes to the Santa Monica Beach trail next month as the City begins the community outreach and design portion of the project.

Renovations could include new paving, seat walls, lighting and better access to the Pacific Coast Highway overpasses. The shared bike path will be widened with a separate path for pedestrians.

City staff will be along the Beach Trail Sunday, April 9 taking surveys between noon and 4 p.m. to interview users and pass out short surveys. Community members can also weigh-in by taking an online survey: www.tiny.cc/SurveyNorthBeachTrail through April 20.

The survey asks users to rate their comfort using the beach trail at different sections as well as access to the Beach Trail. The survey also asks what improvements people would like to see.

In May and June, staff will hold community workshops and present initial design concepts.

Marina Andalon contributed to this story.

kate@smdp.com

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