Departure: Wilshire & La Cienega
We gathered at 9:30 at the John Wayne statue near Wilshire & La Cienega to hear ride leader Will Campbell recollect his early years spent nearby in one of the many prosaic Beverly Hills multifamily buildings that northsiders seem to think of as ‘adjacent’ but many of us call home. Growing up second-class in Beverly Hills is a tough story, but one with a happy ending as it brought us together today to look around town with an old hand.
First stop: Beverly Hills High School, which Will attended. Now, from a certain armegeddon video being circulated by opponents of Metro tunneling, one might think that this school’s claim to fame is the future subject of an Irwin Allen disaster film like Earthquake or Towering Inferno. In fact, this school’s legitimate claim is its pool: it was the location of that famous scene from It’s a Wonderful Life – the one where the gym floor divides and the Baileys fall into the pool. On this warm Sunday, it was decidedly less exciting: just another school equipped with a few bad quality, wheel-bending bike racks. So we were off to Rodeo Drive!
With Biking In LA blogger Ted Rogers riding shotgun and Colin Bogart from LACBC wrangling our unwieldy wagon train though Beverly Hills, our next leg was up Rodeo Drive and then a turn west onto Santa Monica Boulevard.
Santa Monica Blvd. gives the world a taste of the worst blacktop that we have to offer. See, the state ceded control in 2005 and gave us a pot of money as a dowry, but we’ve done nothing to improve it. (We’ve been pushing bike lanes as part of the planned reconstruction est. in 2015, but the outcome is uncertain and, in any case, our Transportation officials refuse to patch it up in the meantime.) For cyclists, it’s a wish and a prayer. Indeed this stretch of old Route 66 gave us a taste of the hard-charging motorists that ply our streets…even if they were on their best Sunday Funday behavior.
We stopped to reconnoiter at the Beverly Gardens fountain at Wilshire, catty-corner from the city’s Western Gateway. This development is currently in front of City Council. It is the biggest threat (in our opinion) to future integrated mobility solutions for Beverly Hills. Here we have an opportunity to incorporate active transportation into what need not be another bland office project atop the old Pacific Electric streetcar right-of-way, but officials seem to favor the developer giveaway – sans transportation provisions. In the two years that Better Bike has followed it, we’ve expressed concerns on behalf of cyclists and active transportation users. (Read more about the Gateway.)
To date, participation in the big policy decisions with transportation effects has been light. Ofter we are the only cyclist in Council chambers. That’s why Beverly Hills Public Works commissioner Steven Weinglass exhorted our group today to step up and participate, and we at Better Bike say, Hear, hear!
From the fountain, we wound our way through the tree-lined sinuous streets that give our city its good name; stopped at the famous Witch’s House; then crossed Rodeo Drive North where the streetcar once picked up Beverly Hills Hotel guests at the city’s rail station.
On to Greystone
We then headed for Greystone Mansion. We were a lazy peloton to be sure; an unruly snake of riders that stretched only to regroup at the intersection. But it was a Sunday, and traffic was light, and there was simply nothing better to do than tool around and look at the trees. The hard work would soon begin!
Like any good climb, this leg of the ride tested the mettle of the group and indeed we spread out like a Tour de France peloton. Low-geared fitness-minded folks took to the thinned air with aplomb, while the caboose was the family of four who struggled to make it up on fixed-gear bikes. Dad in particular had a long haul: he pulled his daughter behind and she was in no mood for the trip up.*
The rest of us fell somewhere in between – we got there but sometimes were not too proud to walk uphill. Those who braved it were rewarded with a great view of the flats and – gasp – perhaps the greatest expanse of blacktop anywhere in the city (left).
For shame! Why mar a National Register-listed historic estate in the hills with a huge surface parking lot right outta K-Mart? With not a bike rack in evidence one might suggest we have our priorities backward: why not provide disable placard parking but encourage visitors to ride and walk to the mansion? ‘Nuff said.
And the Ride Finish
The ride back was literally a breeze: all downhill from the foothills. The drop from the mansion was steep (but no collisions) and then the namesake Doheny Drive is one long parasail ride down to Santa Monica Boulevard. There we reconnoitered again by a fountain and talked about the pilot routes program.
The early leg of the route took us west on one of the city’s more popular crosstown connectors, Charleville Drive. It connects Mid City to the bike lanes at Century City and could become even more popular if the city provided safety improvements to get kids from the three schools along its axis to ride. At this city gateway, the city has favored Carmelita as the key east-west corridor. And in May, our Traffic & Parking Commission declined to recommend it Charleyville as a bike route but kept Carmelita in the mix. While proposed pilot routes have been a long time coming, the discussion is actually on the City Council study session calendar tomorrow, July 3rd, at 2:30 pm.
Here at the city’s eastern gateway we should also note that new signage and landscaping is on the way. Maybe one day new uses may be found for the fenced-off old right-of-way on the other (south) side of the boulevard (it is contaminated land today). But with the western Gateway development process corking up mobility opportunities at the corridor’s other end, it’s likely we’ll blow any chance for any future corridor-long active transportation corridor. We’re crossing our fingers just for bike lanes!
After a few remarks we were on our way back to the John Wayne statue at La Cienega from where we embarked. Thanks go to Will, Ted, Colin, and the LACBC crew without whom Sunday would have just been another day instead of a Sunday Funday. Who says that Beverly Hills and bikes don’t mix? Only our transportation officials and policymakers, and we showed them wrong today.
Will has put together a time-lapse video to recall the ride. Sure – now we tell you, after you’ve read this whole post!
*If there is a metal for enthusiasm and sheer effort, though, it would go to that family for climbing one of the steepest ascents in the city on heavy bikes with baggage in tow.