Staggered gates activated along Expo Line bike path in Santa Monica

Below are the tweet and news release from Santa Monica. I’m interested to hear what cyclists think about these — they certainly seem effective as a way to slow down cyclists before intersections, but I’m guessing some cyclists will find them unnecessary.

As to why the gates are there…I just spoke with Constance Farrell, a Santa Monica spokesperson and she explained that the gates were required by the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates light rail in the state. The CPUC looks at each rail-street crossing and makes a determination whether any safety measures are needed.

In the case of these three intersections, the CPUC decided that gates were needed because of the combination of at-grade rail, a pedestrian crossing and a bike path crossing the sidewalk. The particular concern was limiting problems between pedestrians and cyclists. The requirement was made before Expo opened and the gates have been there all along — but were locked recently once the necessary signage had arrived and was installed.

Your thoughts? Comment please.

The news release:

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Six sets of staggered gates along the Exposition Corridor Bicycle & Pedestrian Path will be activated today, September 28. The green gates have been installed on the bike path since opening on May 20th. They have been unlocked until today. The locked gates are a safety measure required by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

When the staggered gates are locked, they slow cyclists down before major intersections to reduce conflicts with pedestrians at sidewalk crossings. Signs have been installed to notify cyclists of an upcoming staggered gate so they have warning and can dismount their bike. There are six sets of staggered gates located on 19th, 20th, and Stewart Streets.

The CPUC is responsible for reviewing and approving all rail crossings and each crossing is evaluated separately.  The CPUC has reviewed the Expo bike path crossings along these streets and determined that the staggered gates are required as part of the controls for these intersections.

While this is a permanent bicycle and pedestrian safety measure, City maintenance crews and Santa Monica Fire Department staff have keys to unlock the gates when necessary.

31 replies

  1. It will succeed in reducing conflicts because it will succeed in reducing cyclists to take this route. This is silly bureaucracy at works before there is a problem. I am studying abroad in Germany at the moment and there are at grade crossings everywhere with no signals, no lights, no sounds and with cyclists, pedestrians and autos moving through successfully.

    I suggest that they do not try to solve a problem before it exists.

  2. Hey let’s get more entitled cyclists complaining on one post. They even explained why this is setup the way it is.

    “In the case of these three intersections, the CPUC decided that gates were needed because of the combination of at-grade rail, a pedestrian crossing and a bike path crossing the sidewalk. The particular concern was limiting problems between pedestrians and cyclists.”

  3. This is absurd. Why not prohibit bike riding on the path altogether? That would be the natural next step. If the path were crossing the tracks, that might make sense, but these intersections are no different than the others along the path. Incidentally, those bike symbols you are supposed to wait on to trigger the signal don’t do anything. I guess it’s just a prank on the cyclists!

  4. I tried to take the new Expo bike path last weekend with my road bike starting from Culver City. I got so frustrated at this ridiculous bike infrastructure that I turned around half way. I got so infuriated and angry at the total incompetence of the people who designed this bike path.

    The first obstacle was coming from the existing Ballona Creek bike path. You get dumped on a side street with sharrows facing Venice Boulevard with no signs. I had no idea where the bike path was supposed to continue. It took me about 5 minutes to circle the very busy intersection of National/Venice and about 5 crossings to finally find the beginning of the bike path.

    The second obstacle came at the gap in Chevy Hills. I read about this gap before, but was not really prepared at the reality. Being on a bike lane on Motor hill was ok for me, but of course I would not ever do this with my kids. But then you have to cross through a hilly section where the “path” is marked with sharrows. Well, what I didn’t expect was the degree of incline. My bike computer registered two hills with 6-7% incline! Are you kidding me? I can handle that on my road bike, but do the planners really think that anyone with their cruiser bike will ride there??? Did any of the planners actually try to ride this hill? At this point I was already infurious.

    Then after I finally reached the flatter sections of the path I basically had to wait every block to try to cross the intersections. Of course you have to get to the “beg button” and then wait very long. After about 3 blocks I gave up and turned around.

    I did hardly see anyone use this path on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. I know exactly why: This path is completely useless in its current form!

    Oh, by the way, try to use these nice bike induction loops with a full carbon road bike…

  5. Not gonna stop from slowing down if you can swerve around them sharp and quick enough. Seriously though, this bike path was already crap as it was with the lack of signal priority even on the weekends when no cars are crossing for up to 3 min at a time.

    Thanks CPUC and Santa Monica, but I’ll take my Chances on Venice Blvd. where the articulated buses speed by you at 40-50 MPH (yeah, I’m being serious). Don’t worry, the fear of death goes away after a few times.

  6. I don’t even ride a bike, and this is pure idiocy. Remember to give Metro more money in November!!

  7. This is ridiculous. I think what bugs me the most is that the other poor design choices along the bike path were there from the beginning so I overlooked them largely because of the excitement over the new protected path. These gates serve no purpose other than to annoy cyclists. Cyclists already have to slow down for the intersections anyway to look both ways for cars and pedestrians. Pedestrians walking perpendicular have to look both ways for trains, and presumably a simple sign reminding them to look for cyclists like on the bridge perpendicular to the Ballona bike path near Culver City high would have worked to remind them to do that too.

  8. If you look at the crossings, there is not much of a gap between the tracks and the bike path. I guess the thought is that bike riders may turn right into the path of an oncoming train and be killed, although the parts of the bike path which are adjacent to streets don’t have this concern.

    • Hey Henry —

      My understanding from the city of SaMo is that the primary reason the CPUC ordered the gates installed is to keep bikes from hitting pedestrians or pedestrians from walking into the path of bikes. I personally do not think that is much of a problem — nor do I understand sometimes why the CPUC demands or doesn’t demand certain safety features along rail lines.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • If this is the reason, why is there no safety feature at all at the 26th Street station, where pedestrians flow off the train platform right into the bike path? I have to stop there often on my commute to avoid hitting the crowd of people. They have put gates on the intersections that don’t need them, and not on the ones that do!

  9. Very poor bikeway design. “City maintenance crews and Santa Monica Fire Department staff have keys to unlock the gates when necessary.” The City of Santa Monica should begin maintenance on the path immediately and unlock the gates, and leave them open 24/7 for the next several years, while they’re maintaining the path. Why does the CPUC have authority over a path parallel to the crossing, anyway? Absurd!

  10. While we’re on it, can we somehow prevent people with bikes from blocking the doors on the trains? Even when the bike areas are empty they still just stand inside the doors creating a barricade.

  11. Dismount at every crossing…? Yeah, sure. More like pedestrians beware when they have to squeeze through the new bottleneck with the bikes, at least in those places where the side barrier is not just landscaping. Wonder if the authorities will put crossing guards where the cameras see too many violations, including riding against the red.

  12. The bike path is already staggered enough, and I feel safer riding my bike across the intersection as bikes are meant to be ridden.

  13. Love the lame attempt to deflect responsibility to the CPUC If this treatment were really required by the CPUC they would have put them along the whole line, not just in SM.

    This is in place for political reasons to placate anti-bike Santa Monica. Not for safety.

    • Hi Dave;

      The CPUC looked at the line intersection by intersection and decided these were three that needed staggered gates. I disagree strongly that Santa Monica is “anti-bike.” I think, in fact, that the city has been as progressive as any in our region when it comes to installing bike infrastructure.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  14. This is sooooo metro. Let’s build a poorly engineered bike facility then fix the inevitable safety issues with even more bad engineering!

    Bonus points to metro bikeway engineers for not conforming to MUTCD and coming up with their uniquely bad solution!

  15. At this rate, why have an off street bike path to begin with? You might as well ride on Colorado or Olympic. On the other hand, this route will be good for kids to practice cycling, since commuters will use regular streets.

  16. 1 step forward and 2 steps back. Wake me up when motorists have to dismount their cars and press a button to cross an intersection. Seems like every Fed, State, local policy is to discourage cycling and walking.

  17. My girlfriend and I have ridden on the Expo Line path several times since it opened. In fact, we plan to take the path from the Westwood station this coming Saturday on our way to the 18th Street Coffee House on Broadway in Santa Monica. Please clarify: When the gates are locked by the CPUC does that mean the bike path is closed at those points? And if so, how are cyclists supposed to proceed?

    • Hi John!

      No! The bike path is open. The gates just force cyclists to slow down and the signs require cyclists to dismount before crossing the sidewalk and then the intersection.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • “the signs require cyclists to dismount before crossing the sidewalk and then the intersection.”

        I can’t tell you how much I look forward to trying to do this in my road cycling shoes with cleats.

  18. The Expo path already suffers from street crossings with lights that are massively prioritized for cross motor vehicle traffic – on the weekends, you can wait for minutes at Overland, Military, Sepulveda, Sawtelle, Gateway, Pico, Barrington, Bundy, and Sawtelle. It’s bad enough that I regularly see families with children run the lights…there’s nobody around but the light just will. not. change.

    This is just yet another in a line of talking about improving cycling, but then treating cyclists as second class citizens. Why don’t they put in staggered gates for cars as they approach train tracks? It might reduce the occurrences of cars colliding with trains, which seems to be a significantly greater problem than what this proposes to solve.

  19. Yet another reason why at-grade crossing for light rail is pure pennywise pound foolish idiocy. At grade crossing forces the hand of LADoT to require street widening. At grade crossing forces the hand of the CPUC to require 85 dbA crossing bells that ring every time a train crosses. At grade crossings force the hand of Metro that, in addition to the 85 dbA bells the train horns honk in repetition to “clear” the intersection. This, at all hours. At grade crossings are the worst way to construct a rail way unless you’re cheap and have a callous disregard for the neighborhood through which your rail way passes.

  20. Bicycling is my main form of transportation. I’ve ridden on all of the bike paths in the San Fernando Valley and all of them ,which run at street level, have intersections where the cyclist is treated like a pedestrian with push buttons to activate walk signals and steep ramps on the path to exit or enter the street. The whole point of cycling is to go faster than a pedestrian. This bicycle/pedestrian crossing in Santa Monica illustrates how absurdly bad bicycle facility design can get in the U.S. I can understand the need for crossing gates and signals at intersections for trains that are running above a certain speed, but not restricting the speed of bicycle riders to reduce potential conflicts with pedestrians.

    Contrast this design in Santa Monica with a very busy intersection in Amsterdam that has trams, trucks, cars, motor bikes, pedestrians and lots of bicyclists each deciding if and when to stop or go. There are no stop signs or traffic signals, only caution signs.

    The Netherlands has one of the lowest traffic fatality rates of any country and yet has by far the highest rate of bicycling.

    Here is a report about the differences between the U.S. and the Netherlands in bicycle facility design from two members of the federal highway administration (FHWA) who made a week long trip there in August of 2015.

  21. When I read this, I had to look at the date to make sure it is not April 1st. Dismount at every crossing??? In Santa Monica of all places, which usually tries hard to ENCOURAGE cycling???? Is this for real????

    Perhaps Donald Trump suggested this idea at the debate on Monday night, and I just happened to miss it?

  22. I’m sure this is great. I just started taking the Expo line to and from La Cienega to the 7th st. station but I’m not sure it’s going to work out. The problem is going into the 7th st. station takes way too long. It varies but this morning because of waiting on previous trains it took about 20 minutes for the last 3 stops. I don’t know if this is fixable but it’s just too difficult to gage commuting time.

  23. This is ridiculous! Dismount at every crossing? Seriously? I thought the idea was to reduce impediments to riding, not create more!! If these gates reduce speed and convenience enough I’ll go back to riding on Olympic!