Beverly Hills City Council UNANIMOUSLY OKs SM Blvd Bike Lanes

In an incredible turnabout tonight, all five Beverly Hills councilmembers agreed to include bicycle lanes on our segment of Santa Monica Boulevard. The unanimous vote demolished the specious claims put forth by NIMBY opponents. And it recognized the solid arguments brought forth by forty speakers and scores more comments from proponents of safe multimodal mobility. In sum, bicycle lanes not only make riders feel safe, they actually make us more safe.

In what amounts to a total victory, we not only gained five votes for lanes; we also have support from three councilmembers for high-visibility lanes. On that point, the only discussion concerned just how conspicuous we could make them. Councilmember Mirisch suggested a very specific shade of blue to pop out; even better, he said, let’s make any colored treatment self-illuminating. (Is this Beverly Hills?!)

Third, and most incredibly, it looks like we have Council approval to actually make an incremental reduction – yes, reduction – in the #1 (inside) vehicular lanes. Staff had¬†inexplicably recommended 11-foot inside lanes, much wider than necessary, while whittling down our bicycle lanes to a bare-minimum 4’6″. Councilmembers asked, Why so wide? With some support from our transportation consultant, Iteris, it now looks like the boulevard’s #1 lanes may shrink to 10.5 or even 10 feet. (Pinch me. Where am I?!)

In a perverse bit of irony, that too-wide #1 lane recommendation included in the staff report might have allowed opponents to have their cake and eat it too. Three years ago they throttled the boulevard’s width and almost squeezed out bicycle lanes. (We barely got the necessary width back in January 2015). Yet now lane opponents claimed that the only bicycle lanes that would fit on a boulevard they worked so hard to narrow are simply not safe to ride. The balls of it.

But their argument was dispatched tonight with alacrity because, unlike opponents, our councilmembers actually reviewed the prevailing design guidance and agreed: 11 feet is too wide. Moreover, the Council majority embraced the notion that narrower lanes would calm Santa Monica Boulevard traffic. (Seriously, in Beverly Hills?!)

The incredulity expressed by councilmembers regarding our opponents’ flimsy arguments against bicycle lanes suggested two things as the evening progressed:

  1. Complete streets is a concept whose time has finally come in Beverly Hills. We’re embarking on a complete streets plan process now, and the embrace of safe, multimodal mobility makes all the difference between ginning up a pro-forma, check-the-box complete streets plan; and a real policy statement and implementation framework that would actually make our streets safe for all road users. It’s the difference between cynicism and optimism.
  2. The NIMBY zombie that has come back, time and again, to loom like a black cloud over every discussion of bicycle lanes in Beverly Hills has finally been banished. Not only could the opposition forces not muster the enthusiasm (let alone numbers) of years past; their arguments were transparently disingenuous.

For this we can thank Mayor Lili Bosse for her leadership. She made the bike plan a priority; then she literally put bicycle lanes back on the agenda; and finally, tonight, she proclaimed, “bike lanes everywhere!” John Mirisch, likewise is a solid ally and a complete streets supporter. He always has been. And rounding out the loudest voices for multimodal mobility, councilmember Robert Wunderlich is all about making our city bikable. (C’mon, man, this is Beverly Hills?!)

That’s just three votes, of course, but we got five for lanes. I trust that Vice-Mayor Gold and councilmember Friedman will come around.

If there was one outcome worth the many-years wait, it is that we in Beverly Hills have conclusively put to rest the fictions that have long-driven our transportation planning. That we could remain an isolated suburb in the center of a sprawling urban region with serious mobility and quality-of-life challenges; and that we could cling tight to a 20th-century car culture even as we enter the second decade of the 21st century.

Thanks be to all of our friends and supporters who have been there from the beginning – and those that joined us tonight for the first time. You will get your due when this is updated with a full-on report! Onward!

8 thoughts on “Beverly Hills City Council UNANIMOUSLY OKs SM Blvd Bike Lanes

  1. This mayor seems to be making a difference, exploring sensible ways to open up their city making it more user friendly to visitors & residents alike. With her morning walks – inviting everyone to take part to explore the community. A great model for other citys nearby.

  2. Also – huge thanks to Mark Elliot for his years of persistence related to this matter and bicycle public policy. Though we no longer live in Beverly Hills, I can attest to how his commitment and policy development skills over the years has made a huge difference in this and other bicycle policies.

  3. Thanks Calla! And Jeffrey, I may have to tap you for a job reference. Even better, a job!

    We knocked at the door for many years but the stars finally aligned with the last election. Practically we got a potential third vote, in addition to the Mayor and CM Mirisch; that was always denied to us by Nancy (“I love the bikers but you guys are organ donors!”) Krasne and others. The election not only put Wunderlich on Council, it put Bosse in the Mayor’s chair at a crucial moment.

    And she has made a HUGE difference in the mobility conversation. She’s been out front on #HealthyCity initiatives and has been the most vocal pro-bike supporter. Even before she was Mayor she had the biggest megaphone. Drop by for Walk with the Mayor on Monday mornings for a literal and figurative feeling of how the warm, political currents flow with her.

  4. Thank you Mark Elliot for your sustained leadership on this issue. I have been watching this on Biking in LA. You stuck it out and won it, and a whole lot of people who will never know will be thankful they can ride Santa Monica Blvd. from Hollywood to the beach!

  5. Any info on possible upgrades to the small section of SM Blvd that is in Century City (City of LA) that still does not have bike lanes and is really dangerous? Having bike lanes in BH is great, but this will remain as a dangerous gap unless it gets fixed.

  6. Both City of LA and WeHo have committed to closing those small gaps. Both cities lent us support when we brought to council the bicycle lanes in mid-2014; and they remained supportive when we brought our Greenway proposal forward in 2015. The latter effort secured in getting a boulevard wide enough for lanes. Also have to shout-out Assemblyman Richard Bloom and deputy Josh Kurpies, who also stepped into the scrum as early as 2014. Solid backing from the institutions!

  7. Thanks! We had so much help along the way from Kory Klem, Rich Hirschinger, Barb Linder, Sharon Ignarro, and WeHo’s Kevin Burton and Victor Omelczenko (and so many others – more on that soon).
    Next I’m looking to get Adventure Cycling Association’s Bicycle Route 66 (BR66) designation for this corridor. They’ve been asking for BH staff help for an alternate route to SM Blvd, but that’s been a dead-ed. I hope now we’ll step up that effort; I believe that both Mayor Bosse and CM John Mirisch will back it.
    And let me hat-tip Kevin Burton, from WeHo BC, who brought bikeway-to-the-sea to my attention as a theme and we’re going to ride with it. Once the new boulevard opens, I suspect we’ll see CicLAvia and other bike-centric events. This council decision is just the beginning.

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