MICHIGAN AVE ‚Äî City officials and many residents were optimistic but shared concerns about parking, traffic patterns and safety after the unveiling of the first plans for the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway (or MANGO) at last week‚Äôs Planning Commission meeting.
MANGO is a proposed bike and pedestrian corridor, to be built in phases, designed to connect the surrounding neighborhoods with the coming Exposition Light Rail station, the beach, the Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica High School and Downtown. It is also intended to provide a safe place to bike, walk and interact with neighbors.
City transportation planner Jason Kligier presented three basic options (which can be mixed and matched) for the greenway: traffic circles, slow speed intersections or chicanes, and a cycle track. The cycle track would utilize a strip of concrete to split Michigan Avenue into two parts: one side for bikes, one for cars.
Most planning commissioners expressed a personal preference for the cycle track, but acknowledged that it would be the largest undertaking. The track would cut parking on Michigan Avenue by 50 percent. Adding perpendicular parking spaces on adjacent blocks, Kligier said, could mitigate some of the parking loss.
Several residents and commissioners Richard McKinnon, Jennifer Kennedy and Amy Nancy Anderson opposed traffic circles. Kennedy said that drivers struggle to navigate the circle near her home at 26th Street and Washington Avenue. Anderson noted that traffic circles slow all forms of transportation, not just cars.
McKinnon called MANGO important, but his biggest concern was that “the drive for perfection, in some way, will get in the way of simply a very good thing happening, and happening quickly.”
His need for expediency, he said, is driven by a concern for the safety of kids on bikes.
“You‚Äôre starting to see collisions and incidents build up along that corridor,” he said. “It‚Äôs really astonishing that no one has been killed on that road yet. The mix of bikes and kids walking and the car culture that‚Äôs developed down there is lethal and on any given day, something can happen and we need to move on that. It‚Äôs just staggering that nothing has happened, and it will.”
McKinnon, who ultimately favors a cycle track, proposed painting a green bike path immediately. Kligier said it was something that could be studied by City Hall.
Funding for a portion near the Edison Language Academy has been procured through a grant and construction should begin in the next year or so. Los Angeles County Metro is expected to pay for a portion from Lincoln Boulevard to 20th Street by 2018. It‚Äôs unclear, at this time, where the remaining funding will come from.
Alison Kendall, the transportation chair at Samohi, urged city staff to link up with school officials before finalizing any plans. She spoke during the public portion of the meeting and stated that 100 kids are biking to the high school everyday, a huge increase from previous years. Currently, bikers and cars are entering the school in the same place, leading to “doorings,” in which a cyclist is struck by an open car door.
Several residents, as well as Kennedy and Anderson, echoed this sentiment.
Kennedy, Anderson, McKinnon, and commissioners Gerda Paumgarten Newbold and Jim Ries, all stated that the cycle track would be their first choice.
With the help of a Caltrans grant, city officials solicited residents to express their transportation needs. They sent postcards to residents and placed door-hangers on Michigan Avenue homes. On Sept. 21, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., City Hall will hold Pop-Up Mango, a public meeting in which all three options will be on display, and residents are encouraged to try them out.
Commissioner Sue Himmelrich attended a previous outreach program and lauded the city‚Äôs efforts.
“At the beginning there was a lot of neighborhood resistance,” she said. “People had a lot of things to say about how terrible it was, and that was why they were there. By the end of it, people were saying, ‚ÄòBoy, I didn‚Äôt even know that‚Äôs what my neighborhood looks like.‚Äô They always say that attitude follows behavior, and I think just getting people out on the streets and walking around or biking around can make a big difference.”