The length of emerald pavement in Santa Monica is about to quintuple after the City Council rubber stamped a $5 million project to paint twenty miles of green bike lanes, add thousands more racks and install video cameras at intersections to give green lights to bikes and scooters.  The striping improvements will move ahead as city staffers finalize a massive remodel of 17th Street that will create the city’s first parking-protected bike lane and Dutch intersections.

The project is partially funded by a 2009 Metro grant for $2 million, supplemented by a future public right-of-way fee charged to participants in the city’s upcoming electric bike and scooter pilot project. The fee is expected to generate about $1.1 million a year.

City staff says the city’s green lanes on Main Street and Broadway have increased visibility for cyclists and scooter riders and reduced crashes caused by drivers making a turn. About forty new video cameras placed at intersections throughout the city will allow cyclists and other riders to trigger a green light without the presence of a car.

While the city awards a construction contract to repaint the roadway, dramatic changes to 17th Street from Wilshire to Pico Boulevard won’t happen until 2020. The number of people walking along the stretch of 17th between the Expo line stop at Colorado and Santa Monica College has exploded by 1600 percent since the opening of the light rail station, according to a recent city report. The number of people biking is up 82 percent. With the sudden popularity of electric scooters from Bird and Lime, heavy usage of a protected lane is nearly guaranteed.

The project involves removing 94 parking spaces to add wider sidewalks and relocated the bike lane to the right of parked cars for added protection. The project is similar to changes the City of Los Angeles made to nearby Venice Boulevard, that haven’t always received a warm welcome from drivers. For example, changes that narrowed streets in Playa del Rey lead to lawsuit threats and an attempt to recall Councilmember Mike Bonin.

On Tuesday, one of the former leaders of LA’s Great Streets Initiative cautioned the City Council to learn from their neighbor’s mistakes.

“You can do as much outreach as physically possible and beyond and as soon as it’s live and on the ground you’ll have hundreds of people calling … confused about how they’re supposed to use it and what the rational was,” Carter Rubin said.

Rubin urged the city to have a dedicated email address and hotline ready when the project is complete.

Indeed, some Pico Neighborhood residents have already expressed dismay upon learning they will lose precious street parking near SMC, where residents already compete with students to find a spot to park.

Residents said many renters rely on street parking between Delaware and Pico Boulevard, which will basically be eliminated on one side of the street to make way for the extended bike lane.

Councilmember Tony Vazquez said city staff needed to find a way to guarantee residents a place to park near their homes. The plan already calls for preferential parking for those who live nearby.

“We’re talking about the reality of this neighborhood and the Pico neighborhood has a history in Santa Monica that we have never respected the families that live there,” Vazquez said. “And I hope that we don’t continue to just shove this down their throat.”

However some councilmember said the resulting improvement in bike transportation will be a benefit to everyone.

“I view this as a tremendous amenity,” Councilmember Gleam Davis said.


The project by the numbers:

Current bike lanes: 5.3 miles

New bike lanes: 19 miles

New bike racks: 1,250

Intersections receiving bike detection: 39


Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press