Thanks to all the good folks who turned out at for Earth Day in Beverly Hills, and who turned up at our Better Bike booth. The best part of pro-bike advocacy isn’t attending city meetings or churning out blog posts late at night, but instead is meeting new people who harbor a passion for cycling. Whether intrepid enthusiast road-rider or those too long out of the saddle, we appreciate you all. How can we get those ‘latent cyclists’ back in the saddle? Those of any age who want to ride but won’t until they see safer streets in Beverly Hills? That was our mission today.
Judging from the comments we received at our table, everybody seems to agree on one thing: our streets are not very hospitable to cyclists. By far the single most common reason people cite for not riding, or riding more, is that they fear vehicular traffic. At its most strident, these complaints get very specific: big SUVs, phone-chatting moms, aggressive drivers who do this or that. Reasons are invariably accompanied by an anecdote the kind of which we hear too often. But just as frequently we hear a general lament that resonates too: things should be different here in Beverly Hills but, well, they just aren’t.
There is awareness that other cities are moving ahead (several mentioned today’s Los Angeles announcement of a bike share program). There is an expectation that our city should move ahead too into a post-auto future. But then there’s that resignation; the shrug of the shoulders; the nod; and then the moving on to another table.
We at Better Bike love meeting people who share an interest in cycling and safer streets, but let’s keep in mind that winning safer streets for cyclists is not something we can simply expect of City Hall, unfortunately, but will likely come only through a political campaign wherein we pressure elected officials to do the right thing by us.
Now, at today’s Farmers Market we talked up the city’s upcoming Bike Route Pilot program outreach meetings (April 25th and May 9th) and we presented our vision of what a greater Beverly Hills bike network could be. And we often hear in reply, “You know what you should do….” And we agree. But we can’t do it all. We need help. But when we suggest that people need to attend a city meeting, submit comments to the city in writing, or simply pick up the phone to tell the city what’s needed, well, that’s when eyes gaze over.
If we want the change that puts bike lanes on our streets (like in all surrounding cities), or establishes bike stations and bike safety education programs (like in Santa Monica), or even sets up a bike share (announced today in Los Angeles), we’ve got to do more than stand by and wait for it to happen.
All of us who have a stake in safer streets have got to get involved, or else it’s another few decades of turning over this vital public space to motorists and too little, too late for cyclists.