The West Is in the Red

Santa Monica's sunday bike valet
Maybe it has something to do with being at the edge of the continent, the last place you can move to in America before you drown, but Santa Monica, the Land of the Setting Sun, is certainly rising to the occasion when it comes to pedaling full-speed into the Bicycle Millennium.

While Los Angeles timidly initiates “pilot projects” that repeat efforts made years or decades ago in other cities, Santa Monica boldly goes where Amstersdam, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Portland, Davis, Berkeley, and Oakland have gone before.

Okay, they aren’t really inoovators, but they’re still doing pretty well by cyclists–and we’re doing pretty well by them!

Case in point: the Sunday Farmers Market on Main Street.

They offer permanent, free bike valet parking every Sunday. Every effing Sunday. And they don’t get some non-profit to do it–the city itself hosts the bike valet.

They’ve also got what looks like over a hundred bike racks on the few blocks of Main Street alone, besides the bike valet.

And the bike lanes, sharrows, signs, and Bike Centers for commuters I mentioned in last week’s post.

Its people respond: the photo above shows only about half of the bike valet. The street is crammed with bikes, the sidewalk racks are full, the bike lanes are busy….

…And the businesses are raking it in–small businesses all, supporting the local economy and employing, for the most part, local folks.

Yeah, it’s expensive. But the clean little secret is that spending money on bicycle infrastructure nets you a better return on investment than throwing it away pandering to cars.

Fast roads shoot drivers through a region without giving them a chance to stop and spend–or become part of the community. And all that parking just displaces businesses (or homes) and takes property off the tax rolls.

While SaMo’s Main Street thrives, LA’s streets see hordes of metal shells grunt past bleak storefronts on the way to some dreary mall, which vacuums the money off to distant investors while our neighborhoods fade and die….

We’ve got to get louder, folks. LA has made some positive moves in the last two years, there’s no doubt about it. But they’re still too little too late.

Santa Monica has only 88,000 people; it has a limited commercial base; it has a lot of homeless folks who need taking care of–but it has learned that supporting bicycle travel supports vibrant communities and local businesses, which is what makes a city prosperous and healthy.

Many Los Angeles neighborhoods are as big as Santa Monica, in population if not in scale. Imagine what we could do if given a budget of our own, and the freedom to help LA by helping our own streets thrive….

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  1. Posted February 23, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    And there are still not enough bike racks on Main Street for everyone who rides there!

  2. Posted March 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Awesome article with excellent points.

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