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About Better Bike

I am a Beverly Hills resident and longtime cyclist. I created Better Bike in 2010 to spark a conversation about street safety. After a couple of near-misses in one day underscored the peril of riding a bicycle in Beverly Hills, I began to wonder why there was not a single sign, sharrow, or bike lane in the city. There were just a few racks in the central business district.

So I looked to see what our General Plan said about safe cycling. I saw the usual platitudes about encouraging people to embrace healthier and less-polluting alternatives to the automobile. Attached to the Open Space Element was a Bicycle Master Plan, and it described a citywide network of bicycle routes that didn’t exist. The bicycle plan looked different than the rest of the plan though: it was dated ‘1977’ and looked every bit its age – like a bad Xerox.

This was a ‘shelfware’ plan at its worst! Despite a General Plan update the prior year, our new plan simply carried over a 30+ year old document without change because the original was evidently lost to history. Indeed the city upon request couldn’t provide a new printout of that citywide bike route network map.

“This is planning malpractice,” I thought. I’ve been to school for planning and no textbook or instructor would ever dare suggest to carry over a 30+ year old document into a contemporary plan. Because what’s the point? Planning is about the future.

Perusing that old plan was a fitting introduction to transportation planning in Beverly Hills. That is to say there was no planning; the transportation division’s primary duty was to repave the roads. There was no effective oversight of mobility because the Traffic and Parking Commission was more concerned with parking permits than street safety. Pleas to accommodate those who ride a bicycle for many years simply fell on deaf ears – and largely still do.

Persistence has paid off, however. People concerned about cycling safety packed city meetings and ultimately persuaded City Council to include a bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. We made some noise about the high-and-rising frequency of crash injuries (and lately fatalities) and officials are now taking a second look at pro-forma police department crash injury numbers. We have pressed the city to embrace complete streets as a value and not just as a box to be checked to qualify for Metro grants.

By the end of 2018 we will know if the city is serious about complete streets and really concerned about street safety. In the meanwhile we’ll keep the focus on City Hall.

Help Us Make Change

Please sign up for the Better Bike email newsletter. Join us at a City Council meeting. Drop me a line with your concerns about safe streets in Beverly Hills. We’re rolling!

Recent Posts

Lend Your Voice to the Beverly Hills Complete Streets Plan

Several years ago Metro added a condition to the transportation grants the deep-pocketed agency makes to localities: money is contingent on a Metro-approved complete streets mobility plan in place at the local level. Our 1977 Bicycle Master Plan won’t cut it, so City of Beverly Hills city stepped away from a decade of talk about a plan update and instead chose to focus on a brand-new complete streets plan. That planning process is under way now. Mobility advocates please lend your voice!

We need you to participate in the Beverly Hills complete streets planning process by both taking the city’s online complete streets survey (tell our complete streets consultants about your mobility preferences!) and attending one of the city’s complete streets public events. The first workshop was held in mid-March (read my recap) and the next scheduled event is Earth Day on Sunday, April 15th at the Farmers Market. Check the city’s complete streets website for more upcoming events.

Some Backstory on the Complete Streets Plan

So Beverly Hills has embarked on a complete streets plan process. Why now? The city kept an outdated bike plan on the books for four decades and made no other multimodal concessions aside from a few bike lane segments. Then the city heard that regional transportation agency Metro requires localities to have an approved complete streets plan if a local agency wants to tap Metro grant money. The city will receive not one but two Purple Line metro stations, so the city saw the light: adopt a complete streets plan or do without Metro’s pot of grant-funding gold.

Metro may be best known here for sparking the heated debate about a tunnel under Beverly Hills High School, but there can be no debate that Metro is the good guy when it comes to multimodal mobility in Beverly Hills: the agency forced the city’s hand where we bike types failed.

Multimodal advocates have dogged City Hall for years about safe streets¬† (and specifically the lack of safe facilities for those who ride a bike) but we were out in the cold. At least until found strong support among three councilmembers: Lili Bosse, John Mirisch, and Bob Wunderlich (now in office just a year). Bosse, in fact, was committed to multimodal back in 2016 when she forged (bare) Council consensus to make it a Council ‘A’ priority. The following year she garnered City Council support for a complete streets plan (her first official action as Mayor). And notably those three councilmembers supported a bright green high-viz bicycle lane for Santa Monica Boulevard too!

In the end Council support was unanimous, and last year the city selected Iteris engineering as lead consultant on the complete streets plan. It was backed by Nelson Nygaard and Alta Planning as subcontractors. Theirs wasn’t the most imaginative proposal, but the team is experienced and Alta has some bike plan bona fides. If this plan fails it is because we-the-people didn’t step up to make it our priority. Indeed the plan and the implementation program will be less the measure of our consultants than a reflection of our city’s commitment to the principle of complete streets: the ‘complete’ street is one that is safe and accessible for every road user regardless of age, ability or travel mode.

Santa Monica Boulevard hazards

Storm drains like this one reflected the disrepair of Santa Monica boulevard as well as the city’s disregard for cyclist safety on that corridor.

Will the final plan be a leading-edge example of multimodal planning? Time will tell, but don’t sit this one out. We’ve come this far, over too long a time, against too much city-side opposition, to simply leave it up to staff and consultants to shape a draft plan for Council consideration this fall.


Interesting side story.

Caltrans, the state transportation agency, handed to City of Beverly Hills control over North Santa Monica Boulevard back in 2005. The boulevard was a shambles, so Caltrans forked over about $5M for repairs. Beverly Hills sat on that project for nearly ten years as bicycle riders endured clearly unsafe conditions. When it came time for a top-to-bottom reconstruction the city eschewed any outside money for the estimated $13 million job. Why? The city wanted no conditions attached to that money; the city didn’t want Caltrans or the Federal DOT requiring bicycle lanes or other complete streets design features.

Well when the city did finally reconstruct Santa Monica Boulevard (wrapping up this June) it will have a bicycle lane; and it will have high-visibility crosswalks. Because the city belatedly acknowledged that such features on a corridor like Santa Monica are required for bike and pedestrian safety.. They needed only glance at crash data to understand. Thing is the city was left holding the bag when the cost projections for Santa Monica reconstruction soared to $24 million and we could tap not a dime of outside money for it.

City Hall made no such mistake when it comes to Metro’s Measure E pot of grant-money gold. Transportation officials here may continue to view mobility exclusively through the windshield (they never did recommend bicycle lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard even though we got the lanes anyway) but they know a pot of grant money when they see one. With two Metro stations coming to the city we needed a complete streets plan post-haste.

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