A woman rides along the beach bike path on Tuesday. (Daniel Archuleta)

A woman rides along the beach bike path on Tuesday. (Daniel Archuleta)

CITYWIDE — Police officers routinely monitor streets for traffic violations but for the month of July, sidewalks and bike lanes will receive extra scrutiny.

The Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) will focus on bicycle related incidents as part of their rotating special enforcement program. SMPD officers enforce all traffic laws all the time, but for the past two years, the department has announced a special focus each month. Officers said the monthly focus areas are designed promote education, safety and awareness among motorist, pedestrian and bicyclists.

“(Officers’) efforts supplement and support the city of Santa Monica’s overall  traffic flow and sustainability designs as well as the police department’s vested community interest in roadway safety,” said Sgt. Rudy Camarena.

Camarena said the city isn’t looking to penalize bikers or drivers as much as it is looking to educate everyone on safe behavior. He said the July focus on bicycles coincides with a seasonal increase in bicycle use, on city streets and the beach bike path.

“The city encourages the use of bicycles as a fast, healthy, convenient and inexpensive mode of transportation with a reduced environmental footprint,” he said. “As you can imagine the warm summer months do incentivize people to use bicycles so typically we experience a spike in the number of contacts as well as complaints from citizens, motorists and riders.”

According to SMPD, the July effort will highlight the right of bicycle riders to use the road as if they were driving any other kind of vehicle while also enforcing the city’s ban on riding on the sidewalk. Officers will also be watching for any unsafe behavior from all road users.

“Officers are looking for unsafe and/or irresponsible riding behavior that either become or contribute to the ‘primary collision factors’ in accidents,” said Camarena. “Concomitantly bike lanes and sharrows (pictogram of a bicycle with two arrows) reinforce the rights of bicyclist to use the roadway as granted by the California Vehicle Code. These signaling devices are helpful in reducing collisions and alert motorists of road sharing requirements. Traffic officers are vigilant of motorists disregarding right of way regulations that pose a hazard to riders.”

SMPD Investigator Jason Olson said officers are always enforcing road laws but the monthly focuses are a chance to combine enforcement with some education that will hopefully raise awareness or change behavior.

“For every bike I do stop, at least three more will ride by and hopefully give it some thought about their behavior,” he said.

He said education efforts this month will extend into several places such as bike valets at events.

“A lot of education that goes into it, hopefully it’s not all about enforcement,” he said.

Officers said witnesses to dangerous or life-threatening activity should always call 9-1-1 but there are additional ways to report traffic related issues to the department. For any complaints or service requests, citizens can access the city’s on-line Customer Service Center a.k.a “Go Program” (government outreach) at smgov.net/sm_go.aspx or for non-emergency, traffic related concerns contact the Traffic Unit at (310) 458-8466.

 

matt@smdp.com

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