Bike Plan Update Committee #5

Bike Racks

Small Business Task Force report coverBike racks aren’t as sexy as Santa Monica Boulevard or the Pilot, but they’re important because in themselves  they acknowledge that cyclists make a contribution to our local economy – a notion not even recognized in our recent Small Business Task Force findings report. We’ve urged Beverly Hills to seize the opportunity.

At this meeting, transportation planner Martha Eros presented an update concerning new bike rack installations and a rack-on-request program (like Santa Monica and Los Angeles have implemented). An earlier presentation (in January) found the city focusing on racks for parks and schools, an approach that Bike Plan Update Committee meeting attendees found underwhelming and one that we didn’t hesitate to criticize. Transportation also then presented a rack locator map [9mb PDF] and said that it was a first step toward integrating the location of bike racks into the city’s GIS systems.

The updated presentation offered at this meeting was much improved. Where earlier we criticized the focus on schools as beyond the city’s purview, and noted that racks for parks overlooked obvious existing demand in commercial areas, the presentation here refocused the initiative around parks, parking structures, and the central business district. It also identified parks that were previously identified as not needing racks and gave more consideration to how future bike routes will relate to today’s parks. Also appreciated is the rejection of substandard rack types (e.g., the ‘wave’) and the recognition of existing installation guidelines. (Refer to New York’s So You Want Bike Racks, the Bicycle Alliance’s 1-page Bike Parking Essentials for Retailers, and ABPB’s Bicycle Parking Guidelines.)

Rack-on Request

This is one program that would benefit retailers interested in putting a bike rack near their place of business. The need is evident here too: Better Bike has been contacted by several retailers about sidewalk racks, but we can’t point them anywhere; the city has no program. Call Transportation? They don’t know what you’re talking about. So we’ve asked the city to create a rack-on-request program to provide that channel (just like Santa Monica and Los Angeles).

Los Angeles rack request screen

As presented here, our city’s process would provide an input via our Ask Bev (a.k.a. comcate) platform. Once a request is received, it would be reviewed for suitability (sufficient space requirements and perhaps prioritizing high-need areas) and then publicly noticed somehow so that nearby stakeholders can comment. This program is still being fleshed out, but we have a couple of suggestions:

  • Forget Ask Bev: simply provide a simple webform as does Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Our new website coming offers an opportunity to improve on our city’s sub-par transaction features, so let’s use a simple form.
  • Rethink the public comment requirement. This is not like removing parking spaces or installing outdoor dining facilities; there is no required permit, and thus no discretionary review. Racks can be quite unobtrusive too. A rack corral, though, would suggest the need.

The rack-on-request program is also an improvement over January’s presentation. But the problem is time: there is no specified timetable! From the presentation we see that movement may not occur until after the new fiscal year in July. We can’t wait until the Fall to see a request program or ever racks hit the ground. Santa Monica has installed hundreds in only the last couple of months. And it’s working: a spot check this week of the Santa Monica main library found its 30-something bike racks mostly occupied; that same afternoon, the Beverly Hills library’s new racks held two bikes. We can do better, and this meeting suggests we’re at least on the road to it.

We can certainly do better with this bike plan update process. For inexplicable reasons, the city continues to schedule these meetings during the workday – at 5pm – which is a reason that turnout is not robust. Rick Risemberg, cyclist, write, bike apparel maker, publisher of Bicycle Fixation and consistent attendee noted that there were only three stakeholders at the meeting compared with seven city staff. “I arrived at last Wednesday’s Ad Hoc Bicycle Committee meeting in Beverly Hills with low expectations, mostly because the reminder email for this 5pm meeting had gone out only the night before,” he said.

“However, I left moderately optimistic. There appears to have been real progress in developing the bike parking programs that we discussed over previous months, as well as the pilot bikeway implementations.” I agree with Rick’s sentiment: “The next few weeks should expose the sincerity of the city’s commitment to cycling. I look forward to seeing what happens.”

[If you couldn’t attend this meeting, don’t fret: it wasn’t very substantive. Writing this post took 3x longer than the meeting itself.]