Cyclists Make Their Case for Improved Access and Safety When Using PCH
• Traffic Laws Must Be Followed by All
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
Bike safety was once again the topic of discussion at a joint meeting of the City of Malibu's Public Safety Commission and the City Council's public safety subcommittee last Wednesday. Marissa Christiansen, a representative of the League of American Bicyclists, gave a presentation on her organization and Malibu's potential eligibility for the program, discussing the five aspects of implementation: education, engineering, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation.
The commissioners and subcommittee members indicated support for education, encouragement, evaluation and enforcement, but pointed out that PCH is a state highway and that the city has no power to reengineer the city's high-speed main street.
Point Dume and Malibu Park were identified as the most practical portions of Malibu to consider improvements that encourage residents to use bikes. The league goal of encouraging residents and city employees to bike to work was greeted with laughter from the audience.
"Something to remember is recreation is something focused on but more importantly that your city is for people to use [bikes] as regular transportation," Christiansen said.
Other options were greeted with more enthusiasm.
Christiansen suggested that Malibu improvements could include painted road-sharing indicator "sharrows," and short-term and long-term bike parking to encourage residents to connect to public transit. "The city has options that get people out on their bikes," Christansen said.
Subcommittee member Pamela Conley Ulich suggested that the Civic Center-area has potential for a day-long "Cyclovia" event, described by Christiansen as a festival in Los Angeles that closes 10 miles of streets to vehicles and encourages cyclists and pedestrians to spend that day shopping, dining and exploring.
The joint commission agreed that protecting the legal rights of cyclists is important, as is ensuring that cyclists also follow traffic laws.
"I would like to see this happen," Commissioner Chris Frost, an avid cyclist, said. "There has to be something done on the other end with cyclists. I have to [follow traffic laws] now, I made such a fuss about it. To make a program like this work the cyclists have to take responsibility.
They gotta walk the walk. Both sides. There has to be education. The attitude on the highway hasn't changed that much."
"They're on their bike, having fun and maybe sometimes they forget," Christiansen responded.
"There needs to be a global solution. My work is mostly South Bay beach cities. There are big problems. Dozens of different bike clubs who all have different mentality all have to buy in to propriety of following laws."
Christiansen described PCH as "a tough nut to crack."
"Is there any [city] comparable, with a 60 mph highway?" asked commission Chair Carol Randall.
"PCH runs through cities I work with," Christiansen said, describing the highway as a "harrowing road."
"Speeds [on other parts of PCH] don't reach the level [of PCH in Malibu] but volume exceeds it. It's one we avoided in our bike plan. We had options. This is a really unique situation. There aren't a lot of alternatives. To be exact, there are none."
Cycling activist Eric Bruin, who traverses PCH regularly, commended Conley Ulich for wanting to create an action plan. "It's going to take serious planning. It's going to be a multiyear effort to accomplish this."
Bruin said that "There are some low hanging fruit policies like safe streets. When they look at anything that touches the street, they look at bikes, pedestrians, young, old, how people interact with our public streets."
Bruin also suggested that the city could research a bike parking policy that would require the installation of additional bike racks. He suggested an exchange of car parking for bike parking. "I don't know if that's possible, but getting more racks in more places would be a good idea."
Bruin said that the cycling community would support the city on creating an anti-harassment police.
He suggested "way finding signs" to show cyclists how far they are from destination, and applauded the suggestion of bike routes in school neighborhoods.
Bruin indicated that bike improvements on PCH may eventually come from federal sources. "[There's national pressure to do a national bike route," Bruin said. "The Coastal Route is still on the map even though it still doesn't exist. It's something that's coming in a couple of years. Bike tourism is an industry averaging billions of dollars a year. How do you get more people to come spend money in Malibu? Bike tourism. Malibu can really shine at and become a national leader.
"The biggest issue is that your main street is a highway. As long as we look at it as a highway we aren't going to get there. Look at it as a main street," he said.
"The bicyclists are going to continue to come," Conley Ulich said. "We have triathlons, we have people come up here every weekend. Why are we not inviting them, embracing them, taking advantage of economic development? I'm really hopeful that this public safety commission will look at it with fresh eyes."
"I don't think we will solve everything encountered. What we have before us is whether to make a recommendation to the city council," Malibu City Manager Jim Thorsen reminded the panel. He added that, if the council decides to pursue the recommendation, "many steps need to be accomplished. First is to identify possible bike routes throughout the city, throughout the general plan, then you move ahead with a safety plan, facility plan."
"We are already doing this in the west end of town," Conley Ulich said, referring to a $900,000 bike improvement grant.
The panel unanimously approved a motion to send the issue to the city council for further investigation and discussion.