A man rolls down the beach bike path. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

CITY HALL — “I want to see this happen, and happen soon.”

These are not words that often pass the lips of City Council members, who seem to relish excruciatingly slow public process and discussion, but the council was excited to move forward with the Bicycle Action Plan, a 300-page document that spells out the future of bicycle facilities and programs in Santa Monica for the next 20 years.

Staff presented the plan at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

Rather than focus on specific infrastructure improvements, which the plan details street-by-street, City Hall’s Transportation Planning Manager Lucy Dyke described the overarching intent of the plan: To get Santa Monica residents biking.

“The Bike Action Plan asks us to shift gears and get people on bikes and out of cars,” Dyke said.

The plan proposes to do this by focusing on infrastructure, education for would-be bicyclists and encouragement in the form of events centered on cycling.

“When (Santa Monicans) ride, they encounter a bike network that has some relatively good facilities,” Dyke said. “But they’re relatively unconnected and discontinuous.”

To fix that, the plan identifies nearly 75 percent of streets ready for a range of intensive or minimal improvements that makes it safer and easier for bicyclists to get to critical destinations like schools and the incoming light rail stations.

The improvements will create a backbone of high-quality, visible bikeway improvements, and expand the number of streets that bicyclists can feel comfortable traversing, Dyke said.

“We’ll have neighborhood greenways, bike paths, sharrows and climbing lanes,” she said. “Overall, the network will be much more complete, connected and oriented to where people want to go.”

As bike-friendly streets multiply, so will much-needed support services like parking, valet, signs that tell bicycle riders how to get to important destinations and full-service centers with showers, repair facilities and storage.

To buttress the improved facilities, the plan also proposes classes and even a bike campus on the beach where newbies can learn the rules of the road on two wheels instead of four.

The plan specifically targets groups that City Hall wants to encourage to get on bikes, like school district students, Santa Monica College students and city employees.

Rounding out the presentation was a comment on how staff plans to keep accountable to the ambitious goals stated in the plan.

The plan’s success will be measured by the things City Hall is doing as a result, like the implementation of programs, priority improvement projects, development of a bike parking ordinance and working bike principles into development agreements, Dyke said.

League of American Bicyclists cycling instructor Meghan Kavanagh gave the plans high marks as a good first step.

“By the time everything in this is implemented, we’ll be able to accommodate the cyclists that Santa Monica already has,” she said. “If we get all this stuff, we’ll see ridership increase, and then we’ll need more. But that’s OK!”

Council members applauded staff’s efforts, which have included years of work, research and public input.

“Staff caught the bike fever that’s happening in the community and that I’ve been seeing nationwide, because biking is fun,” said Councilmember Terry O’Day.

O’Day stressed the importance of making clearly-defined goals to enhance accountability, as well as a strong education component to cut down on bicycle accidents, which have been on the rise in Santa Monica.

The solution will have to apply to both bicyclists and motorists, said Councilmember Bobby Shriver.

“You’re going to lose every encounter you have with a car. It’s a simple and important point,” Shriver said. “No matter what your rights are and the respect you deserve, you’re dead if you run into a car on a bike.”

With a round of approvals from council members, staff is greenlighted to put out an environmental impact document that community members may comment on.

It is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission on Oct. 5, and then return to the City Council for direction in November on how to order the projects.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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