SM BEACH — Work began this week on improved markings and signage along the beach bike path meant to make it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to coexist around the busy route.
The project will stretch along the entire 2.5-mile route, with special attention to sections like the north and south entrances to Santa Monica and the areas surrounding the Santa Monica Pier.
It will include new crosswalks to give pedestrians places to safely traverse the path as well as different colors for pedestrian and bicyclist sections where the two modes of travel sit side-by-side.
That’s particularly relevant north of the pier, where there is a single, shared path, said Judith Meister, beach manager.
Crosswalks will be picked out in durable thermoplastics, and the bicycle lanes will be painted green where they are near pedestrian routes, similar to the new treatment seen on Ocean Park Boulevard.
The project will also involve specialized signs developed to show distances to major destinations like the pier and Venice, Calif. as well as signs directing cyclists to slow down when they get to particularly busy sections.
Pictoral signs will point the way for pedestrians and cyclists when the path transitions from one configuration to another.
It’s important to use those kinds of signs in order to communicate the idea to tourists and other users who may not speak English, Meister said.
“People get really confused by the changing conditions,” Meister said. “The purpose is to guide the users to be where they ought to be.”
That’s a source of frustration on the bike path, which attracts walkers because it crosses through the sand in some sections where the pedestrian path is further east, and not as convenient for those looking for a respite from walking in the sand.
It can be a dangerous situation that pits quickly-moving bicyclists against pedestrians in a confrontation where nobody wins.
While the bicycle versus pedestrian dynamic on Santa Monica’s portion of the bicycle path isn’t quite as bad as in Venice, it’s still annoying, said Jeff Feazell, 31, of West L.A.
Feazell works at the Santa Monica Bike Center located in the parking structure at Colorado Avenue and Second Street. He bikes there every day.
“I’ve had to swerve around people. If the city can afford to put in a walking lane for pedestrians, that’s great. I think it’s better to address this problem now than to wait for a serious incident to occur,” Feazell said.
Even irregular users of the path have taken notice.
Chris Lee, 44, of Rhode Island, is in Santa Monica on a business trip. He rented a bicycle rather than getting a car, and has taken it out on the beach bike path.
“Although I haven’t had any problems with pedestrians getting in my way, I have noticed many signs asking for pedestrians to not be on the bike path, and I’ve also noticed that many of them still walk on it,” Lee said.
The City Council approved $362,481 for the project in a consent agenda item in November. The contract for the project went to Sterndahl Enterprises, Inc. after a different company already doing work on the nearby beach parking lot turned in a more expensive bid.
The work is supposed to take 30 days, Meister said.
“Hopefully, it will go fast enough that people will see the differences pretty soon,” Meister said.
City Hall is also working on a map that shows where bicyclists and pedestrians are allowed along the length of Santa Monica’s section of the beach bike path.