After missing the original opening date last month, the city began installation today on Santa Monica’s first dedicated bus lanes.
The city began striping the lanes, which will replace the parking lanes on Lincoln Boulevard south of Olympic Boulevard during rush hour only, today and is expected to finish up by the end of this month, according to officials.
The bus lanes will also alternate so that the northbound bus-only lane will operate during the morning rush hour and the southbound bus-only lane will operate during the afternoon rush hour, 7-to-9 a.m. and 4-to-7 p.m. respectively.
During the hours that each lane operates as a bus lane, vehicles will be prohibited from sharing the lane, including bicycles, except for turning, according to city policy.
That is a different tack than the city of Los Angeles has taken with dedicated bus lanes on Wilshire, which people on bikes are explicitly allowed to share with buses.
Streetsblog LA editor Joe Linton was active in the push to get the city of L.A. to post that cyclists are, in fact, allowed to ride in the bus lanes while they are in operation.
“Bikes share bus-only lanes in L.A. and other cities. It’s not a perfect solution — some cyclists aren’t all that comfortable with big loud buses passing nearby, and some bus operators occasionally see cyclists as impediments to bus speed,” Linton told Santa Monica Next in July. “Given the frequency of buses and the numbers of cyclists, it works OK. In the Wilshire peak-hour bus-only lanes, the conflict between buses and bikes is much less than that between buses and cars illegally using the restricted lanes.”
While bikes are not allowed in the lanes when they are operating as bus-only lanes, bikes will be allowed to share the lanes with parked cars when the lanes revert back to parking lanes.
The new lanes are expected to speed up the commute for bus riders on the north-south thoroughfare that connects Santa Monica to Venice, Marina Del Rey, and LAX by about eight minutes.
It may not seem like much, but it’s a start. Part of the issue is that the bus-only lanes are only in the city of Santa Monica at the moment, which means they end at Marine, where Santa Monica ends and Los Angeles begins. Extending the bus-only lanes into Los Angeles remains a possibility but with no concrete timeline currently.
The dedicated bus lanes are part of a larger plan by the city of Santa Monica to make Lincoln Boulevard, once managed as a highway by the state of California, into a street that is more safely navigable on foot, bike, and other non-single-occupancy-vehicle means.
The Lincoln Neighborhood Corridor (LiNC) was approved by Santa Monica City Council in May, though some Council members were concerned the plan didn’t go far enough to ensure safety on Lincoln, especially with regards to cyclists.
“What I’m concerned with is that the plan that I see today is making value decisions that I don’t think reflect how I’ve been trying to make those decisions in a planning context in this city,” Councilmember Terry O’Day said at the May City Council meeting.
“And, in particular, it looks to me that it prioritizes beautification over safety of bikes in particular. I think there is a real lack of thoughtfulness related to bikes in this plan,” he said.
Safety was a major concern at the May City Council meeting, which had followed on the heels of a rash of deaths and major injuries in the city caused by traffic crashes, including one in which a woman was killed walking across Lincoln at one of the intersections targeted for improvements by the LiNC plan.
At the Council meeting, Mayor Ted Winterer cited the incident as a reason why he wanted the proposed safety improvements to move forward without further delay.