Santa Monica Boulevard Meetup This Monday

Featured

City of Beverly Hills will reconstruct Santa Monica Boulevard in the coming years. Do you believe the boulevard should be made safe for travel by bicycle? Do you agree that this regional backbone route should reflect ‘complete streets’ principles when rebuilt? If so, then join Better Bike, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and local riders in organizing around a proposal to put bike lanes on Santa Monica. Mark your calendar: Monday, December 22nd from 7-9pm at the Beverly Hills Public Library south meeting room. Read on for more details!

We recently recapped the slow progress of the Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction project. And we talked about how seemingly ‘the fix’ is in for a corridor constructed at too-narrow a width to ever include a bicycle lane. Now we need your help in getting the message to our City Council: the era of prioritizing motor mobility has closed, and those of us who ride a bicycle in Beverly Hills need streets engineered to safeguard us from harm.

The trouble is that City Council is more responsive to its core constituency – north-side residents who will oppose bike lanes wherever at any cost – than the interests of road users at large. Read up on the Santa Monica Boulevard project and catch up with the process to date, and then join us for a lively discussion and your input:

  • How best to reach City Council with our message about access and safety?
  • How to organize for pro-bike improvements citywide, including the city’s long-delayed update to our 1977 Bicycle Master Plan? And,
  • What should truly bike-friendly Beverly Hills might look like once a Metro bikeshare system debuts and eventually the Purple Line extension comes to town?

RSVP and read more about the meeting. Drop us a line with any questions you may have. Make some suggestions that we can offer at the meeting.

Monday December 22, 2014 at 7pm – 9pm at the Beverly Hills Public Library’s South Meeting Room: 444 N Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills (map)

City Council Punts: Bike Lanes Deferred Again [Recap]

Deputy Director for Transportation Aaron Kunz

Deputy Director for Transportation Aaron Kunz presents findings to Council.

When City Council last considered bicycle lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard in March, the question of whether to expand the blacktop incrementally to accommodate lanes became bogged down in a broader discussion about costs. Then this December 2nd meeting mostly focused on traffic mitigation. So again Council has kicked the bike lanes can further down the road. Yet Council and staff nevertheless appear to be on the same page: no bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. Let’s recap the meeting and look ahead to the next steps.

[Update: scroll down for more information about our just-announced strategy session on December 22nd.]

We had ample reason to suspect that “the fix” was in even prior to the December meeting. As we detailed then, the 12/2 staff report recommended that City Council not expand the boulevard even an inch beyond its most narrow section at 60-ft. That would effectively preclude bicycle lanes for the foreseeable future. (Read more about the project.)

Though the city wants to keep the narrow section of the boulevard at 60 feet, it acknowledges that even restriping the section wouldn't offer riders safe passage in both directions (per the state's 3 foot passing law).

Though the city wants to keep the narrow section of the boulevard at 60 feet, it acknowledges that even restriping this section wouldn’t offer riders safe passage in both directions because the state’s 3 foot passing law would afford #2 lane travelers only 8 feet for their cage-of-steel.

As Deputy Director for Transportation Aaron Kunz explained in his presentation (and illustrated in the staff report), much of the boulevard is 63 feet wide with one section between Wilshire and Canon that is only 60 feet. The latter is the choke point.

The 63’ section has room for 4.5 foot bicycle lanes on both sides… the 60’ section is narrower and cannot accommodate a bike lane on both sides without reducing lane width and impacting traffic…. Our analysis showed that the 63’ would provide adequate space for all vehicles, including 3 feet of clearance for bicycles, but the 60’ as it is striped now would provide sufficient space in the westbound direction but it would be limited space and tight [for bicycles]. -Aaron Kunz (emphasis added)

Did you get that? “Without reducing lane width and impacting traffic.” That precondition is simply presented as a given. But it is not set in concrete; in fact transportation advocates argue that narrow travel lanes actually benefit all road users as it slows motor traffic. Here it would allow the inclusion of a standard-width bicycle lane for cyclists too.

Given that the prospect of bicycle lanes is the single most politically-combustible aspect of the project (even more than cost) we expected at this meeting a robust discussion on the merits of lanes, plus some acknowledgment that a public process had already been conducted and that the vast majority of the 200+ comments to date are supportive of lanes. (It’s worth noting that the Blue Ribbon Committee formed for the purpose last September actually recommended a wider boulevard with bicycle lanes too.)

But we heard none of that today. First off, we were surprised but not shocked: the city’s decision not to include bicycle lanes was essentially footnoted on page three of the staff report:

SM BLVD existing width text blurb That’s not a good sign as it seems a predetermined decision. Likewise, when the issue was teed up at this meeting by Community Development Director Susan Healey Keene, the conclusion about boulevard width was presented as a matter-of-fact. (Note that the staff report too is silent on the Blue Ribbon’s recommendations.)

Why? The question of whether to include bicycle lanes on tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard appears to be mooted: the two-member ad hoc committee (comprised of Mayor Lili Bosse and councilmember Willie Brien) “agreed to proceed with the project designed at the existing road width” as Aaron noted. That was decided in July, well before the public could fully discuss the available options today.

Perhaps our ad hoc members heard from one particular community that evidently does matter to them: north-side homeowner association representatives and its members. They swing a lot of weight (and campaign contributions) and evidently they don’t care for multimodal transit. They also like to sue.

Public Comment

Though the agenda item was carefully focused on mitigation measures, supporters did have something to say. Speaking on behalf of the lanes option was Josh Paget, board member on the neighboring Mid City West Community Council and co-chair of the council’s Transportation, Parking and Streetscape committee. He said:

We are your neighbors… and we have drafted a resolution in support of bicycle lanes, and the board has voted to encourage BH to adopt bike lanes… We hope that you do that as a benefit not only to benefit your community, but also to members of our community who frequent Beverly Hills. – Josh Paget

He also noted that his board has endorsed both a neighborhood greenways proposal and Melrose complete streets project, the latter “complete with bike lanes because we believe it benefits our community.”

Allison Regin speakingNext up, Allison Regan told the Council that Santa Monica is a “vital link connecting current or proposed lanes” in adjacent cities. She said:

As you know, biking as an alternative mode of transport – and as a preferred mode for tourists – is growing in popularity… [and] it is well documented that bicyclists bring dollars to cities with dedicated bike infrastructure. I encourage you to rethink the widening of Santa Monica, particularly when it would not encroach on usable park space to do so. The preference – the ideal – would be to create an entirely separate bike path along the boulevard, and you could do so by expanding the usable park space…[and] installing a separate bike path in the park. – Allison Regan

LACBC's Eric BruinsThen LACBC‘s Eric Bruins laid out the case for restriping more narrow lanes in order to slow traffic and to accommodate lanes on the boulevard. He referred to his LACBC letter to Council to observe, “Your consultants and staff are not using the best engineering standards for city lane design. They find that 60 feet wide does not accommodate bike lanes.” But it does if you use current NACTO standards, he added. Then he asked, “What are the aspirations here? Are we just trying to rebuild it? Or aspire to a healthier, safe and more sustainable community? We ask that bike lanes be carried forth into design [phase] so that we can preserve that option.”

Then the closer while holding up an image of a boulevard hit-and-run victim:

More important, this is Paul Livingston. He was hit a block from here on SM in 2011. He is among the many injured transported to Cedars Sinai because that street is currently inhospitable [to riders]. The Council can change that if we use the current best standards and do what’s possible in the right-of-way by striping bike lanes to make that street available to all people to use it. – Eric Bruins

Resident Kory Klem also spoke in favor of multimodal mobility and he came loaded with data:

More Angelenos are biking each year, with 8% growth in the past year alone. This number includes both Beverly Hills residents and the folks passing through our amazing community. LA has added 120 miles of bike lanes to support this growth. On streets with new dedicated lanes since 2011, the number of cyclists has doubled. New York’s protected bike lanes have led to a 45% reduction in all injury related accidents. We’re flanked immediately to the east and west by some of the best, contiguous bike lanes in Los Angeles. Please, let’s connect them.

Kory noted the breadth of public support for lanes, including boulevard churches like Good Shepherd and All Saints. “They are 100% for bike lines even at the cost of widening [the boulevard].” He then reminded Council:

You hired a consultant and they recommended widening and accommodating bike lanes… You then appointed a Blue Ribbon Committee and I watched them invert their support and evolve their thinking to actually recommend widening and bike lanes… So I implore you yet once again, please do the right thing, not only for today, but for generations to come…. The only people who should be opposed [the churches] are actually in support. – Kory Klem

Blue Ribbon Committee chair Barry Pressman, in a letter read into the record, said he reiterated the committee’s support; not only for expansion but also for striped bike lanes.

The Blue Ribbon Committee came to these conclusions after extensive investigation, public comment and deliberation… The present status is dangerous or potentially dangerous for drivers and cyclists alike. – Dr. Barry Pressman

 

Discussion

Ad hoc committee member and councilman Willie Brien confined his remarks mostly to traffic mitigation. (That is, only how the Santa Monica Boulevard project might inconvenience motorists during construction). But on boulevard expansion and bike lanes he elided. He has previously stated diehard opposition, and facing the issue again today  called this “a very early step” in the process. “There are no simple solutions to this problem… Nothing is off the table but we do need to move forward.”

But Brien did talk briefly about mobility beyond reconstruction, however, which is a welcome nod to an overdue discussion (the city’s bike plan dates to 1977):

We plan to come back and discuss specifically bike lanes and bike routes in the city. We hear the advocates, and all of us support bike safety to the fullest, and we’re going to look at those lanes and routes. – Dr. Willie Brien

Councilmember Nancy Krasne for her part said of Santa Monica Boulevard, “I don’t see a bike lane there – that is my preference.” But she evidently has a soft spot for folks who travel without a steel cage to protect them. “I worry about the safety of the bikers foremost,” she said, adding later, “I want my bicyclists as safe as my children.” (Yes, do it for the kids!)

When it comes to project prescriptions, however, she wasn’t entertaining bike lanes. “I always hear, ‘This is how we’ve always done it, so we’re going to stripe SM Blvd [for lanes].’ But I think that is a very foolish option.” (Never mind that that’s not how we’ve always done it in Beverly Hills.) She then again floated her proposal:

Let’s remove parking on Little Santa Monica and use it for local traffic and cyclists… As much as I hate giving up parking, if we could put up bollards to get Century City traffic off [it] and use it for local traffic and for bicycles, we will have a safer, better community… My concern is a healthier, safer and more sustainable community.

For what it’s worth, we agree. But that’s a non-starter. She can’t seriously believe that local businesses will give up street parking when they ordinarily fight tooth and nail for any single additional space they can squeeze out of the public realm.

Her opposition to lanes? It makes zero sense: a parade of riders has called bike lanes essential to a safer corridor. And despite studies available to her that attest otherwise, she maintains that state-approved bicycle lanes put riders in harm’s way. (Consult the state’s manual if you’re curious.) You can’t argue with facts if you simply don’t engage them.

As time in this study session ran short, Vice Mayor Julian Gold, councilmember John Mirisch and Mayor Bosse each made no substantive comments. Note that the Mayor didn’t speak from the dais in favor of, or against, bike lanes in this meeting, nor did she address it in March.

Next Steps

It’s been a long slog since the city took control of the corridor (in 2006) and initiated studies in early 2010, as Aaron Kunz himself noted in his own presentation. Moreover, there’s been a public process to collect input too. So it would be a shame to reconstruct Santa Monica Boulevard for generations to come without meeting the spirit of the state’s Complete Streets Act of 2008, which requires localities to plan for multimodal mobility by making travel safe for all road users, or reflecting the needs of users who spoke up about how they might be made to feel safer traveling the boulevard.

The no-net-loss proposal illustrated. (Click to animate.)

The no-net-loss proposal illustrated. (Click to animate.)

So we’d be remiss, too, if we didn’t remind Council that there is a solution to the loss-of-park problem: a no-net-loss proposal that would expand the green space by a foot on two eastern segments of the boulevard while taking away two feet along a single segment between Wilshire and Canon.

It would make the finished boulevard a uniform 62 feet wide – sufficient for 5′ bike lanes, according to this illustration courtesy of Eric Bruins.

Santa Monica restriped at 62 feet

Santa Monica at 62 feet restriped for bicycle lanes is possible!

Call this a win-win! Bike lane proponents get the safe travel infrastructure we need; park proponents suffer no loss of green space; and motorists will have to slow down because tomorrow’s travel lanes would be marginally more narrow.

City Council will next consider the question on January 6th. We hope then our councilmembers will choose to make the Beverly Hills segment of this key regional corridor bike-friendly. Join us in a strategy session at the Beverly Hills Public Library on December 22nd at 7pm. (For more information and to RSVP, check here.) We’ll talk plans and politics and organize to get our Council behind a compromise that will afford non-motor travelers sufficient space on the blacktop while meeting the demands of north-side residents for no loss of green space.

LOL

Aside

LOL: “Under the leadership of the City Manager, Jeff Kolin, Beverly Hills City employees aspire towards a performance environment of excellence and innovation. The ultimate goal is to provide unparalleled municipal services by being ‘the Best of the Best.'” We wish him well in his pending retirement.

Reminder: Police Reports Often Slight the Rider

Aside

In a reminder of our own experience that police crash reports can be biased against a rider (even if following the law), Chicago Bicycle Advocate tells how CCTV video provides a necessary correction to the drivers story as parroted in the official report: “A man on a bicycle struck her vehicle and hit her windshield.” Lesson: Never trust a PD report to reflect your own account of a crash; always verify it.

Gatto Introduces Hit/Run Amber Alert Bill – Again

Aside

Following on Gov. Brown’s veto of the same bill last year, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) has introduced AB-8 to “authorize a law enforcement agency to issue a Yellow Alert if a person has been killed or has suffered serious bodily injury due to a hit-and-run incident.” We’d like to see the Governor get serious about street safety, and signing this bill would be a start. (See Calbike’s Sacramento wrap-up for more on safety bills vetoed by Brown.)

Death Blow to SM Blvd Lanes Likely Tomorrow

Santa Monica-Beverly Boulevard buses allow little room for riders

On today’s Santa Monica Boulevard, riders are mere luncheon meat in a sandwich of big rigs and the curb.

Beverly Hills City Council will very likely deal the death blow tomorrow to hopes for striped bicycle lanes on the city’s section of Santa Monica Boulevard. Before Council is a recommendation developed by two council members to reconstruct Santa Monica Boulevard at its current, irregular width, which would preclude adding a striped bicycle lane for decades. Is the fix in? Only three councilmember votes are needed to give the go-ahead, so only one additional councilmember is needed to rubber-stamp this proposal. For those who support Santa Monica Boulevard bicycle lanes, this is likely the bitter end to a two-year campaign. And it could be a death blow to anybody who envisions a safe corridor for all road users.

The recommendation from the Council’s own Ad Hoc Committee (a two-member body comprised of Mayor Lili Bosse and Vice Mayor Julian Gold councilmember Willie Brien includes two components: traffic mitigation alternatives that would reduce congestion during the construction phase; and a recommendation to reconstruct the boulevard at its current width. The prescription is made on page 3 of the staff report:

SM BLVD existing width text blurbThe mitigation alternatives are of no interest to us here, so let’s move on to the width issue.

The boulevard today ranges in width from 60 to 63 feet.* At its widest, on the eastern segment east of Beverly Blvd, a rider and driver can share the right lane comfortably (poor pavement conditions notwithstanding – sections rate only 3 out of 100 points on the ‘pavement condition index’). The boulevard in this section conforms to the state’s ‘standard’ lane width.

But the central segment of the corridor narrows to 60′ west of Canon Dr. which acts as a choke on efforts to ensure safe passage for those who ride a bicycle. If we can’t expand beyond the 60′ we can’t include bicycle lanes – or even provide a right-hand lane wide enough to share. It seemed that we were on the cusp of a real discussion about multimodal mobility in the Spring, but back then in a March meeting City Council punted on the boulevard’s future design.

You see, costs had ballooned and traffic mitigation plans were under-developed by a staff ill-equipped to serve Council properly. Yet at that time Council ill-served the larger community too: it sidestepped the work (and recommendations) of the Santa Monica Boulevard Blue Ribbon Committee, which had voted in January not only to expand the boulevard but also to stripe bicycle lanes. Council in March also waved away the twenty speakers who showed up at that meeting to support bicycle lanes. And almost without comment, councilmembers effectively dismissed the nearly 200 public comments (90% in favor of lanes) as the work of bike nuts or outsiders. (Disclosure: Better Bike was appointed by Mayor Bosse and participated in that process. Read our notes.)

Fast forward to today. We’re looking at a proposal ginned up in the intervening months by Mayor Bosse and Vice Mayor Gold councilmember Brien who together met as an ‘ad hoc’ committee to develop a recommendation (to be heard by Council in study session on December 2nd) not to expand the boulevard even a foot. Here’s why riders throughout Los Angeles should be alarmed.

More About the Recommendation to Keep to Today’s Boulevard Width

The recommendation before Council would keep at its current 60′ width a key section of Santa Monica Boulevard between the Wilshire-SM intersection and Canon Drive. That would preclude both the installation of bicycle lanes (someday) and even the safe sharing of the right lane (when reconstruction’s finished).

In the staff report there are two scenarios for that 60′ segment: either maintain today’s lane striping, which affords a few feet of space in the right-hand #2 lane – but only for the westbound rider; or else redistribute the lanes within that 60′ right-of-way to narrow the #2 lane to ‘substandard’ width in both directions.

Both of these options fail the safety test. Here’s option #1: maintain the same lane widths as today:

SM Blvd alignment proposed 60ft width as existingNote that the westbound #2 lane (at right) is 15′ overall, the ‘standard’ minimum and wide enough to share. But eastbound riders today use a lane too narrow to share with SUVs, trucks and buses, which creates an immediate hazard as the rider is forced to either marginalize herself near the curb or else command the entire lane to the disgust of impatient drivers. Reminder: state law is clear on the rider using the entire lane. But you won’t find a sign advising as much in Beverly Hills (much less a driver inclined to follow the vehicular code).

The other option is even worse: redistributing the lanes across the same 60′ width to deprive riders of a sharable lane in both directions:

SM Blvd alignment proposed 60ft width as restripedHere the problem is that 14′ wide #2 lanes will force drivers into lane #1 to pass a rider. The fact is that riders fear sharing narrow (or ‘substandard’) lanes because many drivers don’t give the requisite margin. And that discourages cycling. But the city sees another side: it would “have a negative effect on the capacity of the eastbound lanes,” according to the attached discussion:

SM BLVD 3ft discussion text blurbOf course the discussion says nothing about the safety of riders in such circumstances. (We expect nothing more from Beverly Hills.) The reality is that wedging riders into a narrow lane with drivers is a recipe for danger and inconvenience. It is for this reason that the Blue Ribbon Committee voted to incrementally expand the corridor and stripe bicycle lanes. Safety aside, making the right lane sharable would simply increase capacity. That seems to not have been persuasive with the two-member ad hoc committee.

Think about our options: one standard lane wide enough to share, or two substandard lanes that are hazardous to share. Put another way, what’s more beneficial to you as a rider: having a half-loaf of bread or no loaf at all? It is a trick question: under the state’s Complete Streets law this corridor should be incrementally expanded to make it safely accessible to all road users. We need not decide between a half-loaf and no loaf when it comes to road safety.

Bike Master Plan Bikeways system map (1976)

An ambitious 22-mile bikeways system for Beverly Hills in the Bicycle Master Plan (1977) shows how schools and parks should be linked by multimodal mobility facilities like bike lanes, paths and routes.

What makes the city’s proposed Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction traffic plan so outrageous is that the recommendation before City Council would not only preclude striped bicycle lanes on this major corridor for many decades; it would lock down the hazards that riders face today. It flies in the face of our own General Plan’s circulation element, which says nice things about multimodal mobility; it makes a mockery of our Sustainable City Plan, which urges residents and visitors to bike more often to reduce congestion; and of course it contravenes our Bicycle Master Plan, which dates to 1977 but is still on the books with an intelligent citywide bike network proposal that, yes, sees Santa Monica Boulevard as a key route.

Not least, Santa Monica Boulevard is no ordinary city street; it’s a regional backbone route with bicycle lanes already installed to the east and west. Can our city really proclaim itself ‘bike friendly’ if it merely recreates for tomorrow’s corridor the dangerous conditions faced by crosstown riders today?

Politics Rules

The lesson from this recommendation is that taking measures to increase road safety is simply not politically convenient for our City Council. Off the table is a 63′ option that’s already been proposed to remake the boulevard wide enough to accommodate riders with the necessary margin of safety (but not too wide to nibble much into the Beverly Gardens Park).

A second takeaway is that NIMBY community opponents from the Municipal League and Santa Monica Boulevard North Homeowners Association prevailed with their threats of a lawsuit and effectively torpedoed a key mobility initiative. Back in the March meeting the northside NIMBYS slammed the door on the 63′ option even though the additional width would have eased lane sharing for both drivers and riders.

A third takeaway is that the 4 out of 5 of our northside-resident council members will sacrifice the good of the larger community for its own local, parochial interests. That’s plainly evident in the disparate treatment that neighborhoods north of Santa Monica receive relative to the flats. Whether it’s beautification efforts, traffic enforcement, or stakeholder communication, the north side gets the preferential treatment every time – rest of the city be damned.

Discouraged? You should be. But you can still provide your own input to City Council. Reach councilmembers by email at mayorandcitycouncil@beverlyhills.org or give your input in person on Tuesday, December 2nd at 2:30 pm in Chambers. It’s item #2 on the agenda. Note that you won’t find this proposal or even this meeting mentioned on the city’s own so-called ‘bicycles’ webpage.

Our view is that the fix is in. Two of the three votes necessary to direct our consultants to rebuild this corridor at the narrow width will undoubtedly come from the Mayor and Vice Mayor who together ginned up this recommendation in the first place. The third and/or fourth votes will likely come from councilmember Krasne, who’s expressed contempt for those who bike (calling us “organ donors”) and councilmember Willie Brien, who’s never imagined the far side of a creative proposal.

If you’re unhappy about this state of affairs, why not use our handy city contacting cheat sheet and drop our good city officials a line. Or contact the Mayor directly. She will like to hear from riders who share her concerns that Beverly Hills be the safest city™ in America.

[Errata: We regret that we mistakenly assigned Vice Mayor Gold to the ad hoc; in fact it was a two-person team of Mayor Lili Bosse and councilmember Willie Brien. The text has been edited to reflect the correction. As The Times says dryly, “We regret the error.”]

*That variable width is an irregular alignment that evolved haphazardly over time under state DOT management. No road engineer today, not even one from our consultants, Psomas and Iteris, would recommend maintaining it. Indeed in every presentation to the city the consultants described a single, uniform width for this corridor.

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?

Update: on Tuesday, 11/18 City Council will hear the staff recommendation to make these two paltry bike routes permanent and, if that’s approved, Public Works will presumably restripe them. After all, it allows the city to say they’ve done something for rider safety. Stay tuned.

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 verso

Amid 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. … Continue reading

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 To recap, Beverly Hills planned to roll out city-installed custom … Continue reading

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 … Continue reading