As the reconstruction process lumbers forward, we have to be attentive. At every opportunity, Transportation officials will try to avoid providing lanes. But Aaron in this meeting did make a soft commitment to keeping options open for a bi-directional bike lane on Santa Monica Boulevard. “Our scope of work per City Council direction was to maintain existing curb faces,” he said, “but we’re writing the [request for proposals] to give flexibility.” He added, “It will have flexibility to respond to those ideas.”
That’s as close to a commitment as we’ve heard to date, and we’ve been pressing for 18 months. That soft commitment is only as good as our inclination and ability to police it.
Cyclists have made clear that mode-separated transportation on the boulevard is a priority: participants in our four Bike Plan Update Committee meetings and the Westside Council of Government’s three bike coordination meetings have said that closing that Beverly Hills bike lane ‘gap’ is a must.
City leaders should be on board with bike lanes. To them, Santa Monica Boulevard is important because the Annenberg Center (now under construction at Canon, indicated at left) will change the cultural center of gravity in our town. Adjacent to Civic Center and located midway between our city’s eastern and western gateways, the Annenberg will be the city’s new anchor. That’s an opportunity for us to pin down a citywide bike system to the Annenberg-Civic Center complex that could tie in our major corridors – Rexford or Canon; Santa Monica North and South; and Burton Way – into a local network.
Now, we can simply mind the timeline, or we can be proactive about calling for that bike system and, more importantly, showing city leaders what that vision could look like. For too often, vision is in short supply in Beverly Hills – even though we have an official vision statement.
By the same token, in a small city like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Boulevard is our connection to the larger region, just as the Pacific Electric was more than a century earlier. In the half-century since the trolley stopped plying that route, though, we’ve seen the motorist become king as transit took a backseat. Now it’s the active transportation advocates’ turn.
Today the boulevard hosts 4 Metro bus routes and about 50,000 vehicles every day. Tomorrow this iconic Route 66 state highway and former Pacific Electric mainline will be repaved, re-landscaped, and probably renamed. But it could be US Bike Route 66 as proposed by the Adventure Cycling Association. Perhaps it could be Pacific Electric Park, a Rails-to-Trails style conversion much like the linear Highline Park in NYC. That bit of genius energized the far West side there, but it started as a hare-brained idea of just a couple of Joes.
At the very least, we can e-imagine this historic boulevard as a multi-modal, active transportation corridor instead of another slo-mo freeway clogged with cars and improving nobody’s quality of life in town.
There is a precedent for thinking big and hitching our transportation vision to the regional scale. Olmsted & Bartholomew’s 1930 report to the Los Angeles Chamber, titled Parks, Playgrounds, and Beaches for the Los Angeles Region, envisioned natural corridors as connections between urban spaces and distant places of beauty and recreation. This 80-year old plan was shelved, but our visions need no be relegated to the bin of good but failed ideas.
Let’s view our own Main Street as a key element in an active transportation network that knits the region’s constellation of municipalities. This is our historic transportation corridor’s promise, and it’s ours to seize.
But first we’ve got to become involved in the Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction process before it’s too late. Aaron Kunz is the key contact. Tell him you care, and ask how active transportation can be a part of the boulevard’s future.