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 The city kept an outdated bike plan on the books for four decades and made no other multimodal concessions aside from a few bike lane segments.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.

Political Accountability Takes a Holiday in Beverly Hills

Scale of justiceThe usual mechanism for holding officials accountable in a representative democracy is the ballot: if we don’t like how we’re served by our representatives, we can simply “vote the bums out.” But what happens when elections come around and nobody steps up to challenge incumbents? Beverly Hills should be holding a municipal election this March for two Council seats, but the only two candidates to step forward are incumbents. So we simply cancelled the election. Here the practice of governing falls short of theories about governance, and political accountability for unsafe streets takes a holiday. Continue reading

Santa Monica Greenway Passes Council

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Thanks to a big push from sister bike org Santa Monica Spoke, that city’s Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway (aka MANGo) passed City Council unanimously last week. This neighborhood was long-ago bisected by the 10 Freeway, and by way of too-little, too-late amends, the city’s now calming traffic and improving connectivity though to the Civic Center & beach. Good for residents, great for riders. Congrats Spoke!

Complete Bike Book by Chris Sidwells

Sidwells Complete Bike BookChris Sidwells delivers on his promise in the Complete Bike Book: almost nothing escapes this professional rider’s purview. From the most fundamental questions (“Why cycle?”) to the literal nuts and bolts of bike maintenance, this all-around guide has it covered. In an era when the printed book seems antiquated, or in search of ever-more specialized niches, Complete Bike reminds us of the value that well-illustrated handbooks still can offer! Continue reading

Bicycling’s Complete Book of Road Cycling

Bicycling Magazine's Complete Book of Road Cycling coverBicycling’s Complete Book of Road Cycling delivers what it promises: a broad overview of issues related to road cycling from health & safety to road handling to racing and endurance tips. As an edited volume of short chapters, it’s shorthand in style. So rather than a collection of ideas organized as a narrative, the reader will instead find bullet lists and quick takes – which sacrifices a bit of depth to breadth but it makes for a good introduction to the many facets of cycling nevertheless. Continue reading

What to Do in a Collision? Bob Mionske Tells All

Mionske-coverBike attorney Bob Mionske is out there working for the safety and protection of all cyclists. He’s the author of the book Bicycling and the Law [see our review] and a prolific poster over at his own site, covering all aspects of cycling safety and preparation. The site is a must-read for anybody taking to our mean streets on a human-powered contraption with one or more wheels. Continue reading

Mastering Cycling by John Howard

mastering cyclng book coverMastering Cycling by John Howard is a useful overview of cycling that offers a user-friendly tour though all the key areas from bike fit to post-ride stretch. In between are helpful chapters on nutrition and workout variation so that we aging cyclists can keep up that bone density. ‘Aging cyclists’? Yep – this is one of the few cycling books to look at the sport and recreation from the ‘experienced’ rider’s perspective. Continue reading

Never too Mature to Bike!

AARP Healthy Habit mailer

The Dutch and other Europeans may have no difficulty getting folks of all ages to bike. After all, street there are bike-friendly: segregated bike lanes, calmed traffic, dedicated signaling, and perhaps most important, a culture that gives cyclists parity with motorists. And often even more privileged accommodations on the public roads. We could do more, much more, so it’s good to see AARP on board with a recent mailer.

NY Times links

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The New York Times last weekend published not one but two bike-related articles in the new Review section. Russell Shorto muses about the bike as a culture-transforming means of transportation in the Netherlands. From policies to everyday behaviors, he finds that accommodations came relatively swiftly and pervasively. For Angelenos, who seem to bear no resemblance at all to the Dutch, this could be an inaugural lesson in how to be European. A few pages later,  Maile Meloy talks about the seminal role of her childhood bike in her development as a write. Is the Times softening up on bikes & infrastructure?

Subway to Sea: 50 Years of Rail Planning

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Metro backbone route map 1961The ‘Subway to the Sea’ promises to bring a station right to the heart of Beverly Hills at Wilshire & Beverly. That would be the first time since our burgh has been served by rail since the early 1950s.

In fact, following the dismantling of the Pacific Electric light rail line that coursed through our city (stopping near the old post office) a succession of regional transit agencies (antecedents of Metro) have envisioned passenger travel both below and above Wilshire. In the case of helicopter-lifted buses, far above Wilshire!

Metro archive’s Primary Sources blog covers the metaphorical terrain in  50 Years of Rail Planning with very interesting backstory on the political and practical struggles to bring a grand rail plan back from the dead.  One has to wonder whether rail will ever again come to Beverly Hills given the failure of so many grand plans….

It’s All About the Bike

Robert Penn’s purchase of the ultimate midlife-crisis toy, a custom bicycle built around a bespoke frame, is the premise for his joy-filled ‘It’s All About the Bike,’ a journey though the history, characters, and innovations that have produced what we know as the modern bicycle. This story is above all an expression of his own joy of cycling, one that will be shared by readers inclined toward two-wheel transportation.

Shifting Gears in Patch

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For a little back-and-forth about bike planning with a BH policymaker, see the comments in ‘Shifting Gears to Make Beverly Hills More Bike Friendly’ on our local Patch site. Article penned by our own member Ellen Lutwak!

Bicycling & the Law Review (Part 2)

In his cogent review of the legal history of cycling, Bicycling and the Law: Your Rights as a Cyclist, Bob Mionske reminds us cities have a long history as chaotic crucibles for competing vehicles and devices. But cyclists have been under-prepared to negotiate the scrum  of walkers, horsemen, and horse carriages (on rail and otherwise) that competed for priority on the roads. Add electric railcars and motor carriages to the mix, and well you’ve got the potential for carnage!