MICHIGAN AVE — A large vein of bike paths on and around Michigan Avenue were approved this week.
The Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway or MANGO, which is meant to ease pedestrian travel from the easternmost station of the incoming Exposition Light Rail Line to the Santa Monica Pier, got unanimous support from City Council.
The bike route is an extension and will be built in chunks over the next decade but one section, connecting to Santa Monica High School, got the go-ahead this week.
The Samohi connector will be funded through a $880,000 Safe Routes To School grant and a local $100,000 match. Small sections of both Michigan Avenue and Seventh Street will become one-way traffic zones. A traffic signal and crosswalk will be added at the corner of Pico Boulevard and Seventh Street near the campus’ main entrance. The changes are expected to happen over the students’ summer break later this year.
The school connection received wide support from the public at the council meeting Feb. 11. Only one resident, concerned with the possible traffic congestion caused by the changes, spoke against the plan. A study performed by City Hall found that no significant traffic would be created by the changes but the resident questioned the validity of the study.
About 20 people spoke in favor of the plan, including several students who gave first-hand accounts of the challenges of the morning drop-off at the high school. A handful of students said they’d been knocked off their bikes by car doors opened by unaware passengers.
The school route also creates wider sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes to reduce the conflict between cars and bikes.
Even a student driver, Muhammad Yusuf Tarr, a senior, favored the bike lanes.
“I have to say that driving with bicyclists on the road is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I haven’t been someone who has been doored, I’m probably someone who has doored someone else. I have to say that bike lanes would definitely be the greatest solution to this.”
The overarching MANGO plan also passed unanimously (Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day recused himself because he lives in close proximity to the route) but with more public dissent.
The most common complaint was lodged by Pico Neighborhood residents who were concerned that traffic diverters would be added at 11th Street and Michigan. Diverters are raised islands that prevent drivers from making certain turns or through moves, usually on residential streets plagued with cut-through traffic.
Planning officials had initially floated the idea of diverting traffic in the area to make way for cyclists, but came up against vocal public backlash.
Two resident groups with differing views of the diverters surveyed Pico Neighborhood residents and the results matched their beliefs: The surveyors who favored diverters found that residents favored diverters and the surveyors who opposed them found the opposite.
As a compromise, city planners suggested pulling the diverters but using signs to restrict turns in the area during rush hour.
Still, about a dozen residents came to speak out against the diverters, which they said would cause more traffic congestion. Most of those who opposed diverters favored the MANGO on the whole.
Another dozen speakers came out to voice strong support for the plan. Councilmembers agreed with the planners’ recommendations but noted that they would keep diverters on the table for future discussion. If planners want to add diverters they will have to come before council again.
Gloria Garvin, a Pico Neighborhood resident who led the charge against the diverters, said she will keep fighting.
“We will continue gathering signatures on our petition in order to fortify our position in case there is any attempt to amend the resolution that was passed,” she said in a letter to the Daily Press.
Councilmember Gleam Davis praised the project, pointing out that it wasn’t an issue of favoring bikes over cars.
“Nobody is suggesting that when we adopt these bike and pedestrian-friendly measures that it means that people need to give up their cars,” she said. “What we are trying to do is give people options.”
The route will protect pedestrians with traffic circles, chicanes, sharrows, crosswalks, landscaping, and slow-moving intersections. Early phases of the project included a pedestrian-only cycle track but many residents rejected the idea because it would eat up parking spots on Michigan Avenue.
The Samohi section will be implemented first. Funding hasn’t been allocated for the other sections and City Hall hopes to pull in grants to pay for future phases of the route.
The central part of the route, from Lincoln Boulevard to 20th Street, would be added in the next five years. In five to eight years the easternmost sections would be developed, connecting the route to the Bergamot neighborhood and its incoming train station. A final section, connecting to the beach, is not scheduled to be installed for at least another eight years.