Are Fading Beverly Hills Bike Facilities a Metaphor?

Approved Pilot program bike routes map

The pilot program as approved by City Council: just two routes out of five under consideration.

In 2013 City of Beverly Hills chose two corridors for bike facilities under the city’s (very) limited ‘pilot project.’ Several block segments of Crescent Drive and Burton way were identified by consultant Fehr & Peers as suitable for class II bicycle lanes, while Crescent (south of Santa Monica) was also deemed suitable for sharrows. A year on, our facilities are showing their age: Burton Way bike lanes are disappearing before our eyes; and an ill-advised realignment of sharrows on Crescent Drive now puts riders at risk.

Are our city’s first-ever bike facilities installed under the pilot program (read the feasibility study) an indication of bike-friendliness, as our Mayor says? Or do they telegraph our city’s true regard for the safety of two-wheeled road users in Beverly Hills as revealed by councilmembers this past summer? In short, are these pilot improvements a metaphor for the slippage of bike improvements from a Council ‘B’ priority to off the agenda entirely?

Consider the bicycle lanes installed on several block segments of Burton Way. They were striped with ordinary paint. As a result, the pilot program bicycle lanes have faded – really faded – to the point of disappearing before our eyes.

Beverly Hills and Los Angeles bike lane striping on Burton Way

Witness the difference between the faded bicycle lanes on Burton Way in Beverly Hills (left) and the markings on that same corridor in adjacent Los Angeles (right).

Faded crosswalk at Wilshire & Santa Monica South

Pity the poor pedestrians who cross every day at this major juncture of Wilshire & Santa Monica Boulevard South!

Yet the city appears to have no appetite to restripe them. And to be fair, it’s a citywide problem: many of our crosswalks have faded to the point of putting pedestrians in danger. They take on a ghostly quality, which is surely not appropriate for a traffic control device. So you see it’s not just cyclists that get the back of the hand. That’s why Beverly Hills leads small cities in California in pedestrian collision injuries.

Will our bike lanes be restored to their original luster? Our deputy director for transportation was non-committal when asked. (Stay tuned for an update as we have another query into the division.)

Another problem area with regard to the pilot program is the sharrows implementation on Crescent Drive (below Santa Monica Boulevard North). Heading northbound on Crescent approaching Brighton Way, the sharrow is correctly positioned in the right lane. North of Brighton approaching Santa Monica South, however, the sharrow has been relocated to the #2 lane adjacent to the double-yellow. That puts passing motor traffic to the right of the rider crossing over the next intersection. But then north of the Santa Monica South intersection the sharrow again shifts back to the right lane, forcing a rider merge with that passing traffic.

Sharrow placement on Crescent Drive infographicAdd to the obvious safety implications the fact that passing traffic has an incentive to speed along this segment in order to make both the Santa Monica South and Santa Monica North green lights and you have a recipe for serious rider injury.

This was brought to the attention of Aaron Kunz, Deputy Director for Transportation, in early August. Of course transportation staff should have recognized the problem; for many months these sharrows have been misaligned But neither the plain evidence or even our communication has made the slightest bit of difference: riders still navigate this hazard as city hall takes no action to correct it.

City Hall: No Passion for Action on Road Safety

This pilot program in our opinion was too little, too late anyway. It was not intended to be much more than a gesture toward a bike-friendly claim. Indeed it doesn’t bolster our confidence that councilmember Julian Gold has appeared anxious for this pilot program – by definition it’s not permanent – to come back before Council for reevaluation. But to approve it and then wholly neglect to maintain it? That’s spitting into the eye of every rider who would follow our own city plans’ advice to opt whenever possible for bicycle travel over auto travel. You know – to reduce auto congestion and emissions!

Santa Monica's thermoplast bicycle lane markings

City of Santa Monica not only embraces thermoplast but pays more for pre-templated bike lane markings.

Thankfully we do have better examples on offer in neighboring cities. Both Santa Monica and City of Los Angeles, for example, are rolling out bike facilities citywide. They’re installed to be permanent – not as part of a pilot – and they’re installed according to Caltrans requirements. Moreover, these cities use thermoplastic, not regular paint, to ensure that such state-approved traffic safety measures stick around for more than a year. Santa Monica goes one better: new bike lanes there are high-visibility and some of them even buffered from adjacent motor traffic.

Calling ourselves bike-friendly and making Beverly Hills streets safe and welcoming to cyclists are not the same thing. We find the faded lanes and misplaced sharrows on Burton and Crescent to be an apt metaphor for city hall’s fading concern for rider safety as well as the future of the pilot program.

So often in Beverly Hills we like to talk the talk because it’s easy and cost-free.  But we prefer not to actually walk the walk because it’s harder and it costs money. Other cities make the investment in facilities and plan for a multimodal mobility future. Why not Beverly Hills?

CicLAvia October, 2014 in Pictures

Ciclavia 2014-10-5 map

CicLAvia route for October 2014: Bringing it to the Eastside!

With the 10th CicLAvia in Los Angeles now behind us, we take a look at last Sunday’s festivities with a few snaps. After just a few years running, the city’s premier closed-street festival has not only become institutionalized – that is, carried over with enthusiasm from the Villaraigosa to the Garcetti administration – but is reaching out to new areas like East Los Angeles. Behold the joy of closed streets from Echo Park to the Eastside!

Ciclavia at Echo Park terminus

Embarking from the western terminus at the southern tip of Echo Park, the route followed Glendale Boulevard southeast. Once the the route of the city’s first subway line before ducking underground near Beverly, today Glendale took CicLAvia to 2nd street and through the tunnel westward. Notably, City of Los Angeles put the tunnel on a ‘road diet': now it’s two traffic lanes with buffered bicycle lanes! The tunnel was a high point of festivities on Sunday: not only having it to ourselves, but enjoying that interminable echo too!

CicLavia October 2014 2nd street rotary

After exiting the 2nd street tunnel, Downtown welcomed CicLAvia with a rotary hub at Broadway, where the two routes converged into a chaotic swirl with a dance tent at the center. From this hub, spurs ventured north into Chinatown and south to Broadway and 9th street.

Ciclavia on Broadway spur 2

The south Broadway spur was a highlight for the historic department store architecture and legendary theater corridor – the foundation of a ‘bring back Broadway’ initiative by the city. A few years hence we’ll marvel that we collectively ever let Broadway decline so. But the corridor is still a hard sell to many Angelenos, who can see how far we’ve yet to go to realize the Broadway renaissance. CicLAVia allows us to contemplate this great wide way studded with icons like the Los Angeles and Palace theaters, and all without the headache-inducting buzz of everyday Broadway traffic.

CicLAvia at Chinatown's Gate

Through the Chinatown gate the northern Broadway spur reached, taking riders deep into the heart of the city’s second actual Chinatown. This neighborhood, once Anglo, received the displaced once construction began on Union Station southeast on Alamdeda. That was the locale of the original, long-gone Chinese-majority settlement.

Ciclavia on Chinatown spur

Today’s Chinatown (along the Broadway spine) is notable for its distinct vernacular. Here programmatic architecture provides a backdrop for CicLAvia’s northern hub. But change is coming fast to Chinatown, so get a good luck before it’s gone.

CicLAvia over the LA River Bridge

Crossing the 4th Street Bridge (1930) by any means necessary! There is no finer way to appreciate the transition from Downtown to the Eastside than traversing one of the dozen or so historic spans.

Ciclavia Mariach panorama

Once over the bridge, Ciclovians coursed through Boyle Heights streets. Unlike past years, today’s route approached iconic Mariachi Plaza from the south. And what a hub it was! Packed with folks who converged from all over the city to enjoy the many restaurants that line the plaza.

Ciclavia Mariachi Plaza booths

Vendor booths and information kiosks marked the Mariachi Plaza hub, with the adjacent Gazebo providing color and nearby Libros Schmibros providing the literary culture.

While Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo continues to catch hell for sinking #Fig4all in Highland Park, Jose Huizar reminds Ciclovians that he's behind multimodal mobility!

Los Angeles Councilmember Jose Huizar reminds Ciclovians that he’s behind multimodal mobility while City Council colleague Gil Cedillo remains in the advocates’ doghouse for sinking #Fig4all in Highland Park. For shame, Cedillo!

Metro Moves You mascot at CicLAvia

‘Metro moves you’ indeed! Metro is a major sponsor of CicLAvia, and like every event makes this street party accessible without resorting to motor transportation. Three cheers for the Metro mascot! Hey guy, drop by a Beverly Hills City Council meeting for some of our lovin,’ won’t you?

CicLAvia on Caesar Chavez

Here we are, snaking our way down Caesar Chavez toward East Los Angeles. Hungry for a taco? You wouldn’t have been disappointed: there are dozens of options in this most colorful and tasty neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Once one of the city’s earliest suburbs, home to Jews and Protestant gentry alike, today it’s Latino dominate. The bonus? Unlike Westside CicLAvia routes, this eastern variant is more about good food than ever.

The Car of the futureThat wraps up another great CicLAvia from Aaron Paley and the good folks that bring you Southern California’s premier closed-street bike & ped festival. You’ve come for the liberated streets; you’ve stayed to see the great variety of city culture on display; and you finally you’ve pedaled away belly-filled with tacos. That’s a might-fine recipe for a successful CicLAvia, and once again the good folks at CicLAvia HQ delivered!

In exactly four short years (tomorrow marks the anniversary of the first event), CicLAvia has made its mark on the culture and calendar of the larger region. Consider supporting CicLAvia and/or volunteering for the next event on December 7th. Mark your calendar!

A Campaign Ad That Transit Buffs Can Appreciate

Bobby Shriver PE flyer versoAmid the onslaught of flyers that seem to keep the Postal Service afloat every campaign season, the last theme we expected to see land in our mailbox was one harking back a century to legendary interurban rail travel. Mass transit, sure – it’s every progressive’s pet cause today. But to summon the heyday of the Pacific Electric, the gargantuan Southern California system felled by disinvestment and the convenience of the automobile?

Maybe it had to come from a Santa Monica candidate for the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor. That city (unlike Beverly Hills) has taken the lead both in transit-friendly planning and in creating the infrastructure and programs to make cycling attractive, practical and safe as a mode choice.

Though Metro’s Expo Line is not expected to reach the beach by 2015, well in advance of that historic re-linkage of the beach city to Downtown Los Angeles the city embarked on a general plan update. And the updated plan envisions “no net new evening peak period vehicle trips” (see the executive summary). The new Land Use and Circulation Element in effect calls for policies that it is anticipated will redistribute travel from automobile trips to those on other modes.

Leveraging public investment in transit and infrastructure is the key, Shriver’s flyer suggests. By concentrating new development near transit hubs, as well as providing incentives to walk, ride and/or use transit, we can find our way toward a post-auto transportation future.

Of course the larger region enjoyed that kind of transit access a century ago, and candidate Shriver’s campaign flyer summons that history with a map of the extensive Pacific Electric lines inter-city travelers once took for granted:

Bobby Shriver PE flyer frontSlowly but surely, Metro, with the support of the voters, is retracing some of the original PE rights-of-way (like Expo Line, which sticks closely to the old Santa Monica Air Line) in an effort to again offer travelers transportation alternatives. Shriver juxtaposes the legacy of interurban rail travel with today’s present program to “rebuild our infrastructure!” by foregrounding the role of public investment in the recreation of a great transit system. As a County Supervisor, too, he’d be in a position to approve further investment to make county-wide rail access a reality.

Now, this is no endorsement. Let’s wait to see if his opponent Sheila Kuehl steps up to herald that bygone era of convenient, affordable rail access, perhaps with her own tribute to the Pacific Electric. Is there a more suitable tip-of-the-hat to our region’s once-greatness that reminding us that we once had a jewel of a public transit system?Pacific Electric Railway in Southern California map 1912

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.”

Jerry Brown: No Friend to Vulnerable Road Users

Governor Jerry Brown has again proven his administration to be no friend to bike riders. He’s just vetoed four bills that would have increased accountability for those who perpetrate hits-and-run. And he’s stricken a bill that would provide added protection to “vulnerable road users” like bicycle riders (Mark Levine’s A.B. 2398). Recall that not long ago, Brown vetoed safe passing bills not once but twice (before signing the third – a victory we can only chalk up to the California Bicycle Coalition‘s persistence). Is this a governor who really cares about road safety?

Here’s the roundup of the recent vetoed bills as helpfully summarized by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) in their recent email blast. Four would have upped accountability for hits-and-run:

  • Assembly Bill 2337, from Assemblymember Eric Linder (R-Corona), which would have increased the automatic driver’s license suspension for a hit-and-run conviction from one to two years.
  • A.B. 1532, from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), which would have required an automatic six-month license suspension for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run collision in which a person was hit, whether that person was injured or not, and elevated the penalty to be on par with that of drunk driving.
  • A.B. 47, again from Assemblymember Gatto, which would have created a new “Yellow Alert” system to help the CHP quickly apprehend hit-and-run crime perpetrators, similar to the existing Amber Alert that disseminates information about child abductions quickly throughout California.
  • A.B. 2673, from Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), which would have removed the possibility of a civil compromise in the case of a hit and run.

The hazards of hit-and-run we’re just beginning to appreciate, in part to efforts by hit-and-run victims like rider Damian Kevitt, who was left to die and who lost a limb to a criminally-negligent driver. To raise awareness of the crime, he’s ramped up his Finish the Ride campaign. But evidently Brown doesn’t agree that hit-and-run is a crime worthy of significant penalties.

Vulnerable road users also didn’t fare well at the stroke of Brown’s veto pen:

  • A.B. 2398  (Mark Levine, D-San Rafael), would increase fines and the point penalties for injuring “Vulnerable Road Users” (those on bike and on foot).

And recognizing the clear safety hazards presented by distracted drivers, a new distracted driving law would have upped penalties:

  • A.B. 1646 (Assemblymember Jim Frazier, D-Oakley), would increased fines and add a point to a driver’s record for using a hand-operated phone or for texting while driving. That bill was also vetoed by Brown.
Boulder buffered lane example

Boulder’s cycle track shows how just a couple of feet of buffer can make a bike lane feel better to use.

Read more in Streetsblog’s recap. About the only good that Brown did was to sign a protected bike lane bill that directs state officials to create standards for this essential facility. Imagine Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills with a bike lane that actually buffers passing traffic!

While Brown’s administration dithers, riders fall victim every day to distracted drivers and  criminally-negligent hit-and-run perpetrators. Until such legislation comes to pass in California, all we can do is to support the organizations that support us. Join the California Bicycle Coalition to ensure we’ve got a voice in Sacramento; re-up your membership to the LACBC; and take pen to paper to let these legislators know that we support their efforts.

CicLaVia Returns Sunday, October 5th

Ciclavia 2014-10-5 map smallThe vaunted closed-street bike parade known as CicLAvia returns to Los Angeles city streets this Sunday with a ride from Echo Park though Downtown and into East Los Angeles. This exciting route not only offers a window onto our region’s complex urban fabric; it also bids Westside riders to explore areas to the east which we are less likely to seek out. We’ll be there on Sunday and may even catch a feeder ride to Echo Park. Join us!

What Is CicLAvia?

What needs to be said about our region’s foremost celebration of the street as a public space? This Sunday morning, feel-good shutdown of traffic that otherwise rules is not only an opportunity to see our region from a different perspective. That’s important because we must refocus our attention from the reigning mobility paradigm, in which policies and priorities make motoring our first and most convenient choice, to a near-future wherein multimodal mobility offers real transportation options to those who don’t want to drive.

In fact, CicLAvia has been conceived as a bona fide social program to prompt us to reconsider our most overlooked public space resource: city streets. “Our streets are congested with traffic, our air is polluted with toxic fumes, our children suffer from obesity and other health conditions caused by the scarcity of public space and safe, healthy transportation options,” the CicLAvia folks say. “CicLAvia creates a temporary park for free, simply by removing cars from city streets. It creates a network of connections between our neighborhoods and businesses and parks with corridors filled with fun.”

We’ve participated in many of the CicLAvias and it’s always a blast. And you don’t even need to own a bike to enjoy CicLAvia. There are plenty of opportunities to rent a ride. And if you don’t want to ride, you can walk, run, skate, or scooter. By whatever means of conveyance, be sure to join us! And be sure to ride safe.

The Route

This ‘Heart of LA’ route will once again make Downtown LA a fulcrum of sorts for a cross-region ride. From the west, riders will gather in Echo Park and then follow the historic Pacific Electric route to downtown. From there we’ll thread through the Historic Broadway Theater District, where a relocated pedestrian zone will encourage mixing; then stop at the Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture (at Grand Park) before crossing the Los Angeles River to pass by Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights on the way to the East Los Angeles. The official route terminates with a ‘kids zone’ at the East LA Civic Center.Ciclavia 2014-10-5 map

Grab A Feeder Ride!

Unlike recent CicLAvias, this weekend’s ride does not close Wilshire Boulevard so you’ll likely find yourself on a parallel route to downtown or to the route’s terminus at Echo Park. Fortunately you won’t have to think too hard about it: we have two good feeder rides to lead us to either the Echo Park terminus or the Downtown hub.

Ciclavia 2014-10-4 Santa Monica Spoke feeder route mapRiders in Beverly Hills can join up with not one but two ‘feeder’ rides to the downtown event. Santa Monica Spoke, that city’s premier bike advocacy organization, is hosting a ride departing from the Santa Monica Pier at 8:30 a.m. (come early for the free bagels). Their route courses through Beverly Hills along Santa Monica Boulevard South and Burton Way before it hooks up with LA’s 4th Street bike boulevard to the western Echo Park terminus.

Ciclavia 2014-10-4 I martin feeder route mapIf you make your way to Mid City, bike shop I Martin is hosting a feeder ride from that shop at 8330 Beverly Boulevard which will depart at 8:30 a.m. This feeder takes the same 4th Street route to downtown. With enough riders from the Westside, we can make it a defacto CicLAvia route east!

You need not ride the whole CicLAvia route or even ride to the event at all. Public transit has always been a key consideration for ride organizers. Find Metro rail stops all along the route! We’ll see you there!

Gran Fondo Italia Comes to Beverly Hills on 9/28

Gran Fondo Italia BH logoThe Gran Fondo Italia ride, an annual for-profit ‘packaged’ bike ride & marketing extravaganza, comes back to Beverly Hills with city sponsorship this September 28th. It’s the only kind of ride our city appreciates: hospitality dollars roll in while City Hall basks in ersatz Euro-gloss. Fittingly, premium riders will enjoy a dinner at the Montage Hotel and a Tuscan wine ‘goody bag.’ But those linen tablecloths and Tuscan wines won’t streets any safer for the everyday riders. If you’re concerned about safe streets in Beverly Hills, this Gran Fondo is as relevant to your commute as if it actually happened in Italy. 

The Laguna Beach-based organizers behind the Fondo promise “a strong ‘Italian feeling’ with Italian sponsors, Italian foods, and a great Italian atmosphere,” according to correspondence with city officials. “The spirit and passion of Italy, iconic Italian brands and products, and incredible destinations are all part of the experience with Gran Fondo Italia events,” their promo materials say. And the pitch to riders: “Grab your cycling friends and line up behind the Lexus lead car and police escort for a fantastic start to a beautiful ride through the Santa Monica mountains and back to the finish at Beverly Hills City Hall.”

But we need remind nobody that non-paying riders in Beverly Hills enjoy no lead car or police escort through our city. We’re subject to regular motorist harassment (as if we’ve got no right to the road) but no cop comes to our aid. Though we’re threatened by reckless drivers, speeders and red-light runners every day, there is no traffic cop on the beat as enforcement has decreased over the past five years, according to our analysis of BHPD data.

Santa Monica Blvd pavement irregularitiesIn fact, dangerous conditions greet riders every day especially along this big event’s main course – a few blocks of Santa Monica Boulevard between City Hall and Wilshire. For this key regional connector has languished over the past decade as the city has simply refused to repair it. Yet the Gran Fondo riders who brave only a few blocks of the rutted corridor won’t feel the full Beverly Hills welcome. That said, we will not be surprised to see some spot repairs made on the event section (that is, only where our event guests will see it).

It’s All About the Marketing

But then it’s all about the marketing anyway, as the Chamber’s letter to Council supporting the event says:

The event will provide an opportunity for local merchants to participate in the event and related activities. Attendees of the event will be able to easily dine at our restaurants and walk around and shop while in Beverly Hills. In addition, the event could be a nice occasion to bring the residential community and the business community together.

Yes, why not use cycling to bring residents and businesses together? Why not encourage two-wheeled travel to shops and restaurants? Great questions. But in the past, the Chamber has not been very receptive to notions of bike-friendly business districts. (We received an icy reception when we met with a Chamber official a few years ago.) Indeed the Chamber is actually driven by larger members anyway – hotels, restaurants, and banks for example – and so is not particularly representative of the smaller shops who would find support in a ‘shop local’ program. (The Chamber even once ran its own until it folded that tent when City Hall money ran out).

Of course City Hall is on board. “We are thrilled to host the Gran Fondo Italia and it is a great way to help promote our Centennial year internationally,” said Mayor Lili Bosse in an event press release. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase the bike friendly activities in our city and build on our Healthy City Initiative, both for our community and for cyclists visiting from around the world.”

Should Local Bike Clubs Support a Marketing Event?

Gran Fondo Italia Beverly Hills organizers have reached out to local clubs for a little bit of promo love. “Dear Cycling Club: Help get the word out!” an email pleads. “The Gran Fondo Italia Beverly Hills is Sunday September 28. Please post the event on your website calendar. And feel free to use the image links (below) in your messaging.”

Gran Fondo Italia promo

Pasadena Athletic Association Club President Wesley Reutimann brought it to our attention and copied us on his reply to event organizers:

Thank you for reaching out to our club. As President of PAA cycling, a 350 member bike club, I am unable to promote this event or any other in the City of Beverly Hills as long as its elected leaders and City staff do not take the safety of ALL road users seriously. Over the past few years, the City of Beverly Hills has repeatedly failed to support local efforts to improve the safety of its streets.

At the same time, neighboring LA, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica have made significant investments to protect vulnerable road users like bicyclists (e.g., bike lanes on Santa Monica Blvd). Until the City can address these issues (e.g., existing bike lane gap on Santa Monica Blvd), I will be compelled to take my business elsewhere, as well as encourage that of our entire membership to do so as well. Please feel free to relay my message to your contacts in the City.

Bravo! Wes has been witness all along to our city’s resistance to safer streets for cyclists, and he’s lent his effort to secure bike lanes for Santa Monica. So he has a right to gripe.

And he’s right: Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Los Angeles and Culver City have each pressed ahead with bike-friendly measures while Beverly Hills has slapped down only a few block segments of sharrows and lanes and called it done. That’s par for the course for Beverly Hills: we talk a good game in our plans – for example, about multimodal mobility in our General Plan and we even encourage cycling in our Sustainable City Plan – but we seem to not be able to muster the interest to make cycling safe for folks who might want to bike to the cafe or store.

Heck, we’ve even got a Bicycle Master Plan that dates to 1977 (and it’s still legally in effect, contrary to what our transportation officials think) and it calls for all the right things: a citywide bikeway network; a designated bike route on Santa Monica Boulevard; and safe connections between schools and parks.

Yet city leadership won’t follow our own guiding policies. Most recently, City Council slapped back at the over 200 riders who spoke up in support of class II bicycle lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard. A majority of councilmembers essentially disparaged supporters and waved away their comments in support. One, Nancy Krasne, questioned whether lanes were even safe (despite evidence that they are more safe than streets without them). Read more about the SM Blvd project on our dedicated page.

We feel that city support for Gran Fondo Italia should be seen as a rebuke to anyone who calls for safer streets for cycling in Beverly Hills. Because really it’s the principle of the thing: why take unearned rewards by coat-tailing on an ersatz Euro sport ride event when policymakers can’t make a simple effort to create welcoming, complete streets?

So we appreciate Wes and his club for speaking up. “Cyclists have a lot of purchasing power,” he says, “and we shouldn’t be shy to wield it and encourage others to do so too.”

Has your club been on the receiving end of the organizer’s outreach? Has it declined to support the Fondo? Let us know. We hope you stand with Wes! (Update: Ted Rogers over at BikinginLA chimed in too: “While I’m normally willing to back any event that promotes bicycling, it just doesn’t make sense to support a bike event in a city that doesn’t support us.”)

Three Feet for Safety Act Goes into Effect Today!

Give Me Three poster

At long last, those who ride a bicycle in California enjoy some protection as vulnerable road users under the state’s vehicular code. The new law, Three Feet for Safety Act (section 21760), for the first time specifies what ‘safe passing’ means to riders and drivers. When passing riders in the same direction, drivers must allow a three-foot margin. And if there’s not three feet available, the driver must slow and pass when there is sufficient room to present no danger to the rider. Recall that state laws allow bicycle riding on virtually every public roadway, and even allows the rider to use the full width of the right lane if it’s not wide enough to share. (For a refresher on … Continue reading

How NOT to Make a Street Safety Video

dangerstoppers video title

We watched the new City of Beverly Hills video ‘Watch Your Walk,’ part of the Dangerstoppers series co-produced by the Beverly Hills Police Department and the city’s Health and Safety Commission, because we were curious what kind of safety advice City Hall dispenses. And true to this trouble-titled video, pedestrians are admonished to take extra care because drivers are off-the-hook for their bad road behavior. We wondered, why has Beverly Hills suddenly gotten into the street safety business? For years the city has turned a blind eye to driver aggression streets (especially when it’s directed at those who ride a bicycle). Perhaps officials were prompted to act by the average six pedestrians injured every month on Beverly Hills streets. That rate … Continue reading