Beverly Hills: The Most Dangerous Little City in California

To read the Beverly Hills vision statement is to get a sense of the high regard in which civic leaders hold our city. “Beverly Hills offers the highest quality of life achievable,” we are assured. Our “world-class community” is known for “leading edge” thinking and “innovative” government. Those “alluring and distinctive hotels, retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment” make us exceptional. But Beverly Hills is exceptional in another way too: we’re the most dangerous little city in California.

At least the most dangerous small city according to the state’s Office of Traffic Safety. Its collision rankings comparison tool draws on CHP Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) data. The tool was designed with a noble purpose in mind:

The OTS Rankings were developed so that individual cities could compare their city’s traffic safety statistics to those of other cities with similar-sized populations. Cities could use these comparisons to see what areas they may have problems in and which they were doing well in.

So let’s go ahead and see how Beverly Hills ranks as a ‘safe city.’ That’s another of our city’s vision statement bullet points: “Beverly Hills is committed to being the safest city in America.”

A few clicks shows that between 2007 and 2011 Beverly Hills has ranked either 1st or 2nd among comparable cities (under 50,000 population) in the category of ‘total fatal and injury’ collisions. Depending on how you look at it, we’re either riding high among the worst-performing cities with regard to road safety, or we’ve fallen to the bottom of the heap relative to cities that do care about curbing collision injuries.

We’ve put the OTS tables clickable gallery. Scroll down or simply click this table to open a simple animated presentation. Below you’ll see that the most recent (2011) data puts our city’s claims of ‘safest city’ in an unflattering light. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for the methodology).

OTS small-city collision rankings (animated) Pedestrians Have It Really Bad

Breaking it down by collision type, for pedestrian collision injuries we were consistently among the worst three (out of almost one hundred). Always the over-achiever, Beverly Hills took first place dishonors in two of the five years. That puts us near the top one percent of cities that also take little or no care to prevent pedestrian injuries and/or fatalities.

With regard to older pedestrians (65+) we rank marginally better. Beverly Hills only places in the worst five among cities of fewer than 50,000 population. If you’re a senior, remember as you use one of our faded crosswalks or cross a poorly-signed alleys that statistically you’d be safer walking any one of 95 other small California cities.

What about children? We hear civic leaders talk about the welfare of our kids often. We love to see Scouts in Council chambers. But the reality is that we’re not keeping them safe when they cross our streets. Across the 5-year period we typically edge out two-thirds of all other comparable cities when it comes to collision injuries. Except for 2008 when we fell into the bottom (better) half, we tend to nibble at the top quartile of most dangerous cities in which to walk as a kid.

Bicycle Riders Have it Almost as Bad

Those of us who ride a bicycle fare little better than pedestrians. We’re not the #1 most dangerous small city for a bicycle rider, but we’re close to it. From 2007 to 2011 for example, bike-involved collision injuries put us among the top-5 worst cities in each of 3 years of the 5-year period for which we have data. One year (2007) we ‘slipped’ to 6th and in a true outlier we fell to 22nd place (2009). But we’re always in the top quartile of small cities for bike injuries, baby!

We’re also in the top (i.e., worst) quartile for under-15 bike-involved collision injuries, sadly. While we do seem marginally better able to keep children who ride bikes out of the police reports, is it because so relatively few children ride a bicycle in Beverly Hills? Or because those very few children are injured at a disproportionately high rate? We don’t know. Waht we do know is that the #1 reason cited by parents who won’t let their children ride a bicycle in Beverly Hills is that it is unsafe.

What About that ‘Safest City in America’?

It’s one thing to create a bullet point that brags about keeping us safe in Beverly Hills, but it’s another to take the steps to actually make us safe. And where road safety is concerned, our city has simply failed us. All of us: walkers, riders and even drivers.

Keep our poor road safety record in mind when you talk to a member of the City Council or address the Traffic and Parking Commission. Ask why we’re doing such a bad job of keeping our walkers and riders safe. And if you bump into our City Manager, Jeff Kolin, evidently a cyclist, ask him why we’re not asking more from our transportation staffers in the Community Development Department (which is tasked with transportation planning). And ask him why he’s not more sensitive to rider safety needs in particular.

* From the OTS comparison tool methodology: Victim and collision rankings are based on rates of victims killed and injured or fatal and injury collisions per “1,000 daily-vehicle-miles-of-travel” (Caltrans data) and per “1,000 average population” (Department of Finance data) figures. This more accurately ensures proper weighting and comparisons when populations and daily vehicle miles traveled vary.

2 thoughts on “Beverly Hills: The Most Dangerous Little City in California

  1. And those are just the numbers they record!

    I caught a mild right hook at Santa Monica and Alpine last fall — the third time I’ve been hit on Santa Monica in Beverly Hills over as many years; I was lucky to just carom off the SUV and fall off my bike into the grass at the corner. The driver took off, but another motorist chased him down and brought him back. We exchanged information, and I figured that since I felt okay I should just hit up my doctor at UCLA, where I work.

    After my doctor gave me the all-clear later in the day, I called BHPD to report a bike collision. The call went something like this:

    “Hi, I was hit by a car on Santa Monica today and I figured I should report it for statistics or something.”

    “Were you injured?”

    “I’m bruised but my doctor says I have no permanent damage.”

    “Not interested.” *click*

  2. Thanks for your message Kyle. Yes – that’s just the data they collect. Often getting that report filed, as you say, is a hurdle. Then making sure it’s correct is essential. Often the rider’s story gets twisted on the way from mouth to page, as I found in my own report. Unless we follow up, our ability to recover compensatory damages may well be limited by the erroneous police report, which often lets the motorist off the hook.

    First steps after a collision: http://betterbike.org/2010/10/in-case-of-crash/
    When the PD is not responsive, persist, even if it’s frustrating: http://betterbike.org/2012/06/update-on-our-motorist-battery-case/

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