West LA Bike Tour Extravaganza: Santa Monica

On an early Saturday morning, the squad rolled up, suited in our yellow jerseys, ready for an adventure. Although we were all pretty grumpy, hungry, and tired, we mustered up the energy as we rode in our mini-vans to the beach cities.
After listening to Miller’s tunes (his favorite band is 21 Pilots if anyone was wondering), we got to Culver City ready to roll.

Once we finished up lunch in Culver City, we rode along a fresh new bike path, which paralleled the new expo line. The ride was one of the smoothest we’ve had the luxury of riding so far. For the most part, we had the path to ourselves, so we sped toward Santa Monica. Once we reached the border of Santa Monica, we met with a super-mom who has been an avid bicycle advocate and has spearheaded the Kidical Mass movement, which is like Critical Mass but for kids. She is often seen riding around Santa Monica wearing costumes and crowns. On our ride, she was wearing Minnie Mouse ears. Her and Jim Shanman led us to our Santa Monica basecamp.

When we arrived to Santa Monica, Cynthia, Rose who was rocking a purple shirt, greeted us. Cynthia is the director of Santa Monica SPOKE, one of the leading bicycle coalitions in Southern California. Apparently her and her partner, Orange, are well known by the community according to their favorite apparel colors. We all carried our bikes to the second floor (lucky most of our bikes are lightweight and we’ve all been getting in shape since our weekly rides began). After locking our bikes on some neat foldable bike racks, we headed up to a conference room.

There, Colleen Stoll, a planner and a lead for the Mobility sector of the Santa Monica city government joined us. We did our usual introductions, followed by a Q&A. Santa Monica, along with Culver City, was one of the first cities were we really saw bicycle infrastructure thriving and coming to life. The three women in the room represented the perfect synthesis of players in the process of infrastructure implementation. The three entities have worked together to promote family events, like Kidical Mass, lay down the proper infrastructure, and design an interconnected transit network that thinks about the first-mile, last-mile concept in commuting.

Santa Monica, like many other cities we’ve visited, still struggles to engage underrepresented communities. While they’ve tried giving surveys, they don’t know how to distribute them to a wide audience or to capture diverse inputs. Thus far, they have succeeded in creating multi-lingual maps and info sheets. Much of the success they have had is also result of the city’s relationship with Metro, which has collaborated in the design of the Expo line and the bike infrastructure that will accompany it. I’m excited to see what SPOKE, the community, and the city government prioritize in the years to come.

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