By Bill Bauer, December 7, 2014
MY WRITE — Santa Monica has some of the worst traffic in Southern California – and the nation. Think that relief is in sight? Forgeddabout it! Our City Hall deals with the situation by implementing policies and programs to make congestion and gridlock even more heinous.
The latest manifestation of City Hall’s upraised middle finger to residents is the unveiling of a reconfigured Second Street between Colorado and California Avenues. Traffic engineers have removed one traffic lane in each direction and replaced them with bright green “bicycle only” lanes.
The traffic carrying capacity of one of Santa Monica’s most critical thoroughfares has been halved for, at most, less than five percent of its users on bicycles who could ride in the old traffic lanes to begin with. What’s next? Dedicated skateboard lanes? Pogo stick pockets? Special Segway runs?
It’s all part of the city’s Bicycle Action Plan which calls for infrastructure alterations citywide to create more visible, safer, dedicated bikeways on a number of city streets to encourage more bicycling.
There are major flaws in the strategy. Facilitating the ability for the vast majority of people get around should be the primary goal. Instead, we get the usual and tiresome social engineering experiments, designed to get more of us on bicycles.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to emphasize “sharrows” or shared traffic lanes with painted bicycle logos on them to remind everyone to share the road instead of reducing street capacity and exacerbating congestion?
How about installing bicycle lanes on an “as needed” basis such as when street usage reaches 25 percent bicycles? What about putting bicycle-friendly amenities on less congested streets that are more lightly traveled by motorists and inherently safer?
Work is underway on the Colorado Esplanade, which will result in only one motor lane, wider sidewalks and new, dedicated bike lanes on four blocks of Colorado adjacent to Santa Monica Place and Sears just west of the future Fourth Street Expo Light Rail Terminal. Head shake.
Many of my friends and associates already avoid going west of Lincoln Boulevard because of the hideous traffic and expensive, inconvenient parking associated with the area. The throttling of Second Street is just one more reason to avoid crowded, congested and touristy Downtown.
Last month, City Council approved $10,405,580 for a bike share program that will utilize 500 high tech, rentable “smart” bikes for 60 to 75 projected rental “hubs” located throughout Santa Monica.
I’ve seen bike sharing in operation in London, England and I think it’s a great concept. The blue “Boris” bikes with their prominent Barclay’s logo are everywhere. Remember, this is Santa Monica. Things will get screwed up – like the new Big Blue Bus stops.
CycleHop LLC was unanimously awarded the contract to provide the hubs and bikes that will come with an eight-speed drive shaft (chainless) system, integrated lighting and locking systems, mobile connectivity, GPS/security tracking and adjustability features. These proposed rent-a-bikes are overly-complicated and costly.
500 bikes for over $10M? Prorated, that’s $20,000 per bike! And, that’s just the start. Watch this balloon into $15M to $20M before City Hall’s social engineers get a handle on it.
Tariffs will include hourly, daily, monthly and combo Blue Bus/bike rates. For the casual rider, it’ll cost $2 for every 20 minutes of rental time. $6 per hour is also way too expensive.
Metro is working on its own bike-share system for Los Angeles County raising the issue of compatibility (or lack thereof) with systems in other communities. And, a corporate sponsor has not been signed to subsidize our operation.
There’s more bad news. City Hall’s “Pedestrian Action Plan” is in the works. If it turns out anything like the Bicycle Action Plan, expect even more mobility problems as street traffic capacity will continue to be sacrificed on the altar of unwanted behavioral modification.
Who da Mayor?
With Kevin McKeown again being the top City Council vote-getter in the November election, you’d think he’d get some respect from his colleagues on the dais. McKeown has never been Mayor in his 16 years on the council. The closest he’s come was Mayor Pro Tem from December 2001 to November 2004.
Over the years, he’s been shut out by pro-development faction on the council spearheaded by his arch-nemesis and current Mayor, Pam O’Connor. “Teflon Pam” is on record as saying that he’d never become Mayor as long as she was on the dais.
But, with the retirement of Bob Holbrook and the election of slow-growth Sue Himmelrich, the balance of power on council has shifted. Himmelrich joins Ted Winterer, Tony Vazquez and McKeown on the anti-development side leaving O’Connor, Terry O’Day and Gleam Davis on the side that favors more development.
You’d think that McKeown would garner at least four votes from his colleagues at tomorrow evening’s council meeting, become Mayor and be able to finally thumb his nose at “Teflon” Pam.
There’s a lot of posturing and political maneuvering behind the scenes. Neither O’Day, Davis or “Teflon Pam” have enough votes necessary to become Mayor. I’m hearing rumors that one slow-growth councilperson may not back McKeown.
That means a compromise may be in the cards with Winterer then most likely to become Mayor if McKeown can’t muster the fourth and winning vote. Of course, all of this is speculation. Anything could happen.
As for me, I say Kevin’s paid enough dues that he should be appointed Mayor. His time is overdue and “Mayor McKeown” just sounds good.