Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bike Plan Update & Other Issues To Be Discussed At Tonight's Santa Monica Planning Commision Meeting

(Cross posted from my new blog Bay City Urbanist. For the moment, until readership builds up on the other blog, I will continue to cross post some material over here, but in time will transition more content to being exclusively on the other blog.)

Pier Parking Lot And Bike PathIf you haven't noticed the trend, bikes are a discussion topic in Santa Monica right now. At City Hall Wednesday night at 7pm, the planning commission will be discussing 3 topics relevant to bicycling, most notably the discussion of the pending bicycle plan update, item 9-B. If your interested in attending or commenting on the bike plan portion, you may not want to show up early, I've heard word the meeting may go late, and 9-B is last item. Regarding the bike plan, the commission will be discussing "Status, implementation plan, key milestones, priority, funding status, challenges, and planning commission role."

Just before it, 9-A, will be a discussion of the demolition and rebuilding of parking garage 6, which includes plans for additional bike parking capacity in addition to significantly more car parking spaces. The idea of adding a lot more car parking while the claimed goal is no new net car trips in LUCE, is entirely contradictory to me, but that is a whole other can of worms.

About the parking garage and concerning bikes, I am most concerned with how bike parking is designed or integrated into the building. Currently most parking garage bicycle parking is underutilized because no one knows it exists and parking garages are never inviting spaces for someone on a bike, both in inhuman aesthetic design and the hazard of drivers pulling in and out and searching for spots. Bike theft is also a significant concern in this city, and bike parking must be designed with visibility and security in mind. In regards to pedestrian issues, I am most concerned with sight lines and lead up space at entrance and exits for cars, since existing parking garages downtown are often difficult to cross on the sidewalk without someone nearly bumping into you in their car, and drivers frequently block the entire sidewalk while waiting to merge with backed up traffic.

Early in the evening is 8-A, a recommendation to the planning commission to remove the formally proposed roundabout from the plans for Main St. at the future Civic Center Drive that would connect between 4th and Main just south of the Court House. Being a fan of roundabouts, both for the significant public safety benefits in reduced severe intersection traffic crashes, reduced speeding, and the aesthetic qualities, I'm somewhat disappointing that this is the recommendation. Although apparently prior meetings showed a lack of support for the idea. I do think there are intersections that might be better served by one, such as one block North once Olympic Drive connects across to Ocean Ave, and I hope that removing the circle here doesn't indicate an unwillingness to try them again in other places.

Something I find missing in the staff report concerning the roundabout is while there is much talk of the aesthetic qualities of the proposed circle,  apart from the ambiguous description of traffic calming, almost no mention is made of the significant public safety benefits of roundabouts compared to other intersection treatments like stop signs. For a primer on the oft misunderstood roundabout, I recommend Tom Vanderbilt's, author of "Traffic", article in Slate, "Don't Be So Square, Why American drivers should learn to love the roundabout."
    

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