West LA Bike Tour Extravaganza: Culver City

Culver City was the first stop on our all day bike tour extravaganza. We departed from Harvey Mudd in cars rather than bikes because it would have been over a 4 hour and 22 minute bike ride (according to Google Maps). The two U-hauls and three cars all reconvened at Jackson Market & Deli where Harvey Mudd Finance Professor/ Bicycle Revolution superstar Gary Evans provided the entire group with amazing sandwiches for lunch. We were so lucky to be able to meet with three different bicycle superstars: Jim Shanman, Culver City Safe Routes to School Coordinator and cofounder of the Culver City Bike Coalition, Charles Herbertson, Culver City Director of Public Works & City Engineer, and Meghan Sahli-Wells, cofounder of the Culver City Bike Coalition and city council incumbent currently running for reelection.

The speakers were quite a power trio, and it was evident from their talks that their group dynamic has done great things for Culver City. All three of them are bikers, but each has a unique perspective that complements the others. As a city council member, Sahli-Wells is able to utilize her platform in City Hall to create change. Shanman brings a devoted citizen’s perspective and is able rally other members of the public to the cyclist’s cause. Herbertson has the engineering background to make his and Shanman and Sahli-Wells’s dreams reality in the city.

The speakers noted that one particularly effective tactic for increasing bike lanes in Culver City has been framing the improvements as a necessity for the safety of kids attending the city’s schools. Safe Routes to School has been very effective in Culver City, and Shanman is certain that neighborhoods near schools that may have rejected bike paths will change their mind once they observe their benefits. Shanman lightheartedly noted the importance of patience for effecting change in the city, as often opponents may “retire or die.” Sahli-Wells followed by adding that it is sometimes possible to persuade naysayers or to frame ideas in a way that they cannot reject, as they did with the Safe Routes to School initiative.

I really enjoyed hearing Sahli-Wells speak about the environmental and housing justice aspects of the debut of the Exposition Line in Culver City. The Expo line is a great asset to the city and will certainly help reduce CO2 emissions. However, better transportation has led to greater demand for housing in some areas of the city, pricing out current or prospective residents. The City Council Woman spoke about the importance of maintaining a diverse income distribution in the city and pointed out that unfortunately many of us students would not be able to afford housing in the city given the skyrocketing proper values. Sahli-Wells said that she is making affordable housing a priority so that all members of the community can benefit from better transportation options.

Shanman, Shali-Wells, and Herbertson accompanied us on a bike tour of Culver City. We were able to see many of the improvements around schools, such as increased bike lanes and many intersections in which they had utilized curb extensions (bringing the sidewalk out at an intersection) to increase pedestrian and cyclist visibility and reduce the amount of time actually spent in the crosswalk. Though the Exposition Corridor Bike path is not technically open, the class was treated to a special test ride. Though the route to Santa Monica was not completely perfect, the improvements made our ride very enjoyable! It was also such a pleasure to be able to hear the different leaders speak candidly with each other about the project, as they had devoted so much time and energy into this project. The Class I bike lane was definitely the best I have ever experienced!

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