Good turn out for Bicycle Action Plan Meeting
The turn out for the city hosted open house style meeting was good with about 90 people in attendance not including city staff etc.. Before the event even began they were off getting more chairs for attendees, a good sign. We’ve been to several of these open house style meetings and this one appeared to be well planned and organized. In true City of Santa Monica fashion there was free bike valet and even a raffle at the end for those who had arrived on two wheels. Nice touch. In attendance were Transportation Management Office’s Principal Engineer Sam Morrissey, Transportation Management Manager, Lucy Dyke and Transportation Planning Associate Michelle Glickert the meeting was well attended by city staff. Approximately 20 members of city staff, City Councilman Kevin McKewown, 3 Parks and Rec Commissio
ners, 3 members of Natural Resources Defense Council, SMMUSD facilities manager and staff, and 8 uniformed officers of SMPD including Neighborhood Resource Officer Michael Boyd who represented SMPD at one of the recent Parks and Rec. meetings regarding cycling issues, namely crash statistics and the crack down/ citations for sidewalk riding in Santa Monica, Also in attendance as a private citizen was Transportation Management Specialist and Santa Monica’s Bike Valet Coordinator, Luis Morris along with about 90 cyclist and community members. Of the approximately 90 people who attended 35 came by bike, not too bad. There was a sign in sheet as you came in (which I presume will put us on some list to be kept informed of progress), organic coffee, a vegetable platter, cheese and crackers and assorted munchies, this I have not seen at other meeting I’ve attended. Altogether a welcoming start I would say. As in other open house style meetings there were tables (stations) around the room where after the “presentation” we would be directed to give our input. The evening opened with an introduction by transportation consultant Jeff Tumlin, from the firm Nelson-Nygaard that is woking with the city to create this Bike Action Plan. Now where as I found much of what he had to say encouraging, others where way less impressed and or underwhelmed. Some, like Alex Thompson where completely unimpressed as he describes in his take on the evening in his post “Lowered expectation in Santa Monica”. Alex makes many valid points, even though I went away with a more positive take on the evening. The consensus of the evening here at Spoke has a broad range of views ranging from encouraged to completely unimpressed, with a near 50-50 split leaning toward on the positive overall.
To get a pretty accurate, although somewhat dry accounting of the evening you can read the article in the Santa Monica Mirror. It gives a good and accurate run down description of how the evening was structured. As I mentioned we have been to several of these open house style meetings. I have been witness at meetings being completely derailed by someone off on a tangent of one thing or another, loosely or completely unrelated to the issues at hand or ranting on and on about one thing or another that could have been said in one or two sentence. So I, for one was pleased at the collaborative structure used; given that we only had 90 minutes to get as much input as possible. We could have been there for easily twice as long and not gotten the amount of input that was gathered in the format used. Unlike other open house meetings where the format was to break into groups, discuss the topic (unless derailed by someone with an agenda) and then reconvene and have one of the people from each group give a short (they are NEVER short) synopsis of what each group discussed, decided or recommended. This takes a long time, at least at the meetings I have been to, and where that may work when you have more time I believe with the short time allotted the format at this meeting worked well. OK so the difference was that after the presentation we broke and for the next 40 minutes or so went around to the different stations on our own and gave input, at each station. There were complaints that the stations where mostly about infrastructure, yes they were but this was to gather input so that’s what we need to tell them, right? In addition to the stations there was a paper survey that could be filled out, and is now available on line for any one to give their input. (more on the survey later) After we reconvened, a staff member from the each station gave a synopsis or tally of the info collected. Efficient, and productive use of time in my opinion. One thing that is said to have fallen short in the introduction was the dwelling on what “might not be able to be done”, “what you want may not be possible” etc etc etc. Nothing we haven’t heard a million times before but shouldn’t have to hear at a meeting for “Bike ACTION Plan”, some sighted a lack of enthusiasm, I can’t say I felt that way. I can honestly say I left hopeful, hopeful that we are finally heading on the right track.
Now what I did find to be a sharp slap in the face was when I read the comments in that article in the Santa Monica Mirror The first of which describes even the idea of a Bike Action Plan “ludicrous” and “a moronic plan” but what really hit me hard was the statement “Reality is we are a society of cars not bikes”. Yep! that’s what the writer thinks! REALLY? What happened to PEOPLE! That is what we need to emphasize in all this. It’s about people and the quality of life we must demand. As Alex said in his article it’s not about us and them or taking away from cars. It’s about balancing inequities to get back what we’ve lost by allocating more space for personal automobiles than for people. It’s about encouragement, education, community space, and yes, enforcement. We must insist that our city rethinking the value and purpose of city street by allocating more to people, pedestrians and bikes. Ensuring that all streets are designed as “Complete Streets” means better traffic flow, and a win win for everyone.
Santa Monica Spoke’s Kent Strumpell said “It is easy to get caught up in a state of struggle and not recognize the progress that has been made”. We now have the framework outlined in the LUCE which lists so many of the things we lobbied for regarding bikes and a city which has opted to name this a “Bike Action Plan” along with a city manager who seems to be becoming more supportive. I do believe this is an opportunity the bike community in Santa Monica has long been waiting for and we need to be vocal with our input. The accelerated timeline to adopt this plan is definitely a concern, we must insist on a thorough process and not allow this to be just “pushed through”. A lesson learned as Alex Thompson pointed out was when LADOT used swift drafting and adoption as the justification when trying to push through an inadequate bike plan in Los Angeles., Through good diligence LA has just passed a worthy bike plan, one that the community can be proud of.
Santa Monica Spoke will give the city a collaborative document outlining a list of Recommendations for the Bicycle Action Plan, a draft of which can be found here was given to staff at the meeting December 13th. You may provide input on this by emailing your comments to Contact@SMSpoke.org