The Beverly Hills ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee met on January 18th to update the bike community on several projects of concern to cyclists: Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction, Bicycle Pilot Routes, and two initiatives related to bike parking. Here we’ll address Santa Monica Boulevard separately as it’s such a key issue to cyclists across our region, and because the city is inexplicably viewing it as a separate project though it could have a major active transportation component – bike lanes.
For people who choose to bike, a lot rides on the pending Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction project. Today it is a danger to cyclists intrepid enough to bike it. From harried motorists to pavement irregularities and even obstructions such as tire-catching grates that shouldn’t be legal on a shared roadway, current conditions make it difficult for those on two wheels. At best it’s a hassle; at worst it’s a treacherous ride.
Aaron Kunz, the Deputy Director for Transportation (and lead contact for the reconstruction project) reviewed the upcoming steps in the reconstruction project:
- Mid-March: The city will issue a request for design proposals;
- Mid-Spring: identify a consultant;
- Mid-year: public outreach scheduled;
- End-year: final alternative chosen with construction to commence in 2013.
We’re in the early stage, so we’ll have to mind the timeline (note that the reconstruction project is not included on the Bike Plan Update Committee work plan, but it should be). We’ll want to keep an eye open for the meeting this summer where the design options will be scoped (once the design consultant is selected). So the process that will kick off with a request for proposals in March will in mid-2014 culminate in smooth new pavement for this former state highway. And we in the cycling community expect that bike lanes will be on it.
The argument for bike lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard is clear enough: existing lanes lead right up to our city but stop before our boundaries. Looking ahead, West Hollywood and Los Angeles will be extending those lanes E & W to connect Downtown to Ocean Boulevard – making a proverbial Bikeway to the Sea. Our city will be the crucial piece missing, just as we’re MIA in the larger bike ‘backbone’ regional network.
Why? Beverly Hills policymakers and Transportation officials have resisted committing to putting Class II lanes on this corridor. Santa Monica Blvd. varies in width, for one thing, and the inviolable boundary of Beverly Gardens Park precludes expansion of the corridor (according to officials). On the south side there exists a patchwork of land ownership, and City Council has never been eager to bring that land under city control for public purposes.
Moreover, the city has allowed non-transportation uses and new development to encroach on what might be an adjacent, alternate active transportation & recreation corridor, along the old Pacific Electric right-of-way. ‘Temporary’ uses like city parking garages (and less-temporary ones like an office building) pinch the room available to cyclists, officials point out, without noting that an alternative is to pinch the capacity afforded to motorists. That would be a ‘road diet.’
Policy decisions also complicate using available land for mobility purposes. The city already agreed to grant extraordinarily narrow setbacks (5 feet!) for the Hilton developers on the north side, west of Wilshire, and soon the Planning Commission will allow conversion of the historic T-zone land on the south side for office buildings (which will torpedo a transportation/recreation corridor). For cyclists on Santa Monica Boulevard, it looks grim. Talk to officials and they say, “There’s no room for bike lanes.” Our position is that there was no room for disabled people in many public places until we recognized that constituency – and our ethical obligation to safe mobility – and made room for them.