I was a little disheartened by the at times hostile atmosphere at the public meeting this past Monday, though mainly because of the harsh nay saying of a particular individual in attendance. However at today's meeting between members of the Santa Monica Spoke LACBC chapter, my self included, and Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips, Deputy Police Chief Phillip Sanchez and Transportation Planning Manager Lucy Dyke, there was some cause for renewed optimism.
The meeting got off to a rocky start at times, I think in part because so many of us have such a large backlog of grievances and a sense of urgency to the situation on our streets. Waiting for someday LUCE will be passed and everything will better has not been very reassuring. Once dialog really got moving along though it was clear that the immediate problem has been a lack of communication between cyclists and the city. Some of the particular specific problems I brought up at one point, like design problems at a few points on 11th St., are things Lucy Dyke was already aware of or is in their queue of issues for her department. To some extent they don't know certain things we know about being on the street but to some extent they do but we don't know what they know.
We need information flowing both directions, and if the City knows a problem, but for some reason is held up, or something else has priority, we want to know about it. Most importantly we want to know what is being done about these problems, as of course actions are always what speak loudest. However words precede action, so open discussion is critical. I also found it refreshing that apparently a decent number of the staff for transportation planning in Santa Monica do walk, bike or take the bus. Unlike LA County Metro, where less than 2% of the staff actually ride Metro to work.
No specific on the street issues were solved by this brief meeting, and many things I came into the meeting wanting to talk about I didn't get to, but the critical take away has been that Jennifer Phillips has offered to continue the dialog with more round table discussion. We are to have another meeting in about a month and will continue to have a monthly round table discussion eventually moving toward a quarterly meeting once the most urgent issues have been discussed. The goal is to get everything out in the air so we can establish what cyclists most want and need to happen, and then prioritize how we address those issues. The SM Spoke group will meet again before then to hash out specifics of what we want to discuss.
Phillips has offered to have staff from multiple departments present and that if it comes out of these proposed meetings that our priorities are overwhelmingly different with the bike project priorities of the transportation demand management department, than maybe some priorities will be changed. This is wonderful news, and could be crucial to really building the relationship between the cycling community and the City of Santa Monica in a positive direction. The format of completely public forums like the one to discuss 20th and Cloverfield can become a bit of a shouting match between competing interests at times, though all voices should be heard, and 2 minutes of speaking time at the City Council Meetings can only address the tip of the ice berg of our many issues and ideas. Having some more direct time speaking with staff I think can only be constructive.
I would like to thank Assistant City Manager Phillips, Deputy Police Chief Sanchez, and Lucy Dyke from Transportation Planning for their time, and most especially for the offering to keep the discussion going in the months ahead. There is much to talk about.
Speaking of which, I would like to hear back from my readers what are your biggest concerns as a cyclist in Santa Monica. I'll be having some real speaking time with city staff instead of just projecting my thoughts into cyberspace, and would like to best represent our collective interests. Let's get the dialogue flowing.