Santa Monica street goes green with bike-friendliness

A 3,000-foot green stripe that appeared on Santa Monica's Ocean Park Boulevard last week marks another step in the beach city's quest to become more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

The stripe between Neilson Way and Lincoln Boulevard marks out space for the city's many cyclists in a color that's hard to miss. But the city's first distinctively colored bike lane is only one aspect of Santa Monica's larger "Complete Green Street" project that has been in the works for years.

In addition to the green stripe, the $4-million project adds nearly 50 pedestrian lighting poles and more than 75 freshly planted trees to the eight-block stretch of Ocean Park Boulevard, said Peter James, a senior city planner. Bike detection devices in the street lights will use timing to make it easier for cyclists, pedestrians and traffic to coexist, he said.

Construction on the street began in late 2011, and the lanes opened to cyclists Thursday, James said. The overarching idea behind the project, he added, is to treat streets such as Ocean Park more like an open space where neighbors and friends can mingle.

"This is the most ambitious street retrofit we've done to date," James said.

Cynthia Rose, a spokeswoman for the bike advocacy group Santa Monica Spoke, said the new lane should increase bike traffic in the area "substantially."

"This is a reminder of the city's commitment to making the streets safer and more accessible to everyone," Rose said.

The new lane is one piece of a larger push toward biking in Santa Monica.

The city's $2.5-million bike center opened in late 2011 about the same time the city released its 294-page Bike Action Plan. Part of the city plan's "20-year vision" calls for at least 14% of work commuters to travel by bicycle by about 2030.

The city of Los Angeles installed a 1.5-mile green bike lane on Spring Street in November 2011. After being hailed as a progressive step, the lane was criticized by the film industry for making it tougher to use the street as a stand-in for other cities, and confused motorists, who were unsure if they can drive in the colored lane (basically, they can't). The paint also faded quickly, and James said new paint technologies are being tested.

"I think we should view all of this stuff as an experiment," he said.

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