Just a Few New Bike Racks Coming to Bevery Hills

We’ve just received an update on the too-little, too-late Beverly Hills bike rack installation program. The news is not so good: To the couple of dozen sidewalk racks installed last year citywide, we might add only a couple dozen more. That would total to 50 racks or fewer citywide in the five years since we first urged officials to provide conspicuous and convenient bike parking. By comparison, City of Santa Monica had installed 1,000 racks by 2010 and called for 2,500 more in that city’s Bicycle Action Plan (2011). Why can’t Beverly Hills take this smallest step to encouraging multimodal mobility?

Phase I: Too Few Racks to Make an Impression

Commercial areas bicycle racks priority mapTo recap, Beverly Hills planned to roll out city-installed custom bicycle racks in two phases. (Read the staff presentation.) The first phase complemented a handful of racks installed in the business triangle a decade ago. It added about 25 more racks (primarily to parks and selected commercial corridors, right). These racks were custom stainless steel designs costing approximately three times the cost of off-the-shelf racks. And according to transportation staff remarks to Council, it has limited the total number of racks available to install. In stock the city has only 25 racks on hand – all earmarked for Phase II.

One problem was that Phase I spread too few racks over numerous districts – something Phase II looks likely to replicate. For example, on the 200 block of South Beverly Drive, a busy commercial corridor, only one rack serves the two long block faces where we see  bicycles often locked to meter poles. Oddly, the rack (below) is located nowhere near where people lock-up today (though it is adjacent to an office building). The impression given is of a lone, under-used rack – and that’s when the rack is used at all. Otherwise it is easily overlooked.

Lone bike rack at Gregory & Beverly

This lone bike rack on South Beverly at Gregory Way is not only easy to miss; it’s begging a companion rack or two in order to make bike parking a conspicuous feature of the commercial corridor right-of-way.

While it’s important to provide bike parking near office uses, neighboring cities like Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Santa Monica do that and much more. They have revised their building codes to mandate bike parking for commercial and mixed-use buildings, for example. They install racks on sidewalks in commercial districts. And they each have a rack-on-request program.

Beverly Hills has these programs too, now; but the difference is that those cities actually install racks in any volume. And though Beverly Hills has a bike parking requirement for commercial/office development, the threshold is so high that few new developments have actually incorporated bike racks (as a staffer told us).

Chaumont bike crush: many bikes, no rack.

Transportation officials need no fancy rack placement plan. They need only look where people lock-up today, like this cafe on South Beverly.

As for the rack-on-request program, the plan is to install bike parking on an as-needed basis in commercial areas but only provide 5-10 racks to start, says transportation planner Martha Eros. That limited rollout is scheduled for November. Under the program, no racks have been installed, though eleven requests have been submitted. You can make your own request using the city’s clumsy request webform or the PDF application.

And then there’s the properties that the city owns but seemingly it refuses to proactively install bike parking.

Whole Foods bike parking summer 2014

Whole Foods bike parking: much for City of Beverly Hills to improve to attract riders.

We’ve been begging Whole Foods, which rents from the city on Crescent, for three years to provide bicycle racks to replace the wheel-bender. And more than a year ago we contacted the city directly and met with a facilities guy. To date: no action. While the garage backs up regularly in a massive jam, nobody wants to recognize the value of encouraging travel to the store by bicycle. That is the perspective citywide, evidently.

Phase II: Too Few Additional Racks and Too Long in Coming

Phase II will include 25 racks or fewer, transportation planner Martha Eros says, which will target commercial corridors along Robertson, La Cienega and Wilshire. The caveat is that those 25 racks also include the racks-on-request installations. That is, instead of complementing the city’s Phase II with additional racks on an as-needed basis, the request program actually nibbles away at the few available racks that staff has already identified for installation.

To put the phlegmatic Beverly Hills approach into perspective, both City of Los Angeles and City of Santa Monica have been much more aggressive about installing racks on request. But our program, in development for two years, has accepted applications for months. Yet as far as we know the city has not completed a single evaluation of any request location.*

Ours is a zero-sum approach that reflects our city’s lack of understanding that parking is parking: providing bicycle parking will help us reduce demand for much more expensive car parking. For some reason, neither our Traffic and Parking Commission, nor the ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee on which two members sit, recognize the need. So if you do request a bicycle rack in Beverly Hills, mention that we need many more racks than are on offer for the foreseeable future, and tell ’em that Better Bike sent you!

* From the rack-on-request application: “Following receipt of a Rack-On-Request application, the City Transportation Engineer (or designated technical staff) will conduct a field check within two weeks to determine if a bicycle rack can be installed adjacent to your place of business.”