As we reported back in October, City of Beverly Hills asked residents without context or introduction whether they would favor trading away Beverly Gardens Park for bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. No surprise: 49% didn’t want that deal (44% said yes) – a ‘finding’ we’ll have to question in the boulevard’s Blue Ribbon Committee meeting next week.
This item caught our eye when reviewing the upcoming City Council agenda: “Summary Report – City Council November 5, 2013 Retreat.” The report includes a section called the “bike rack” where discussion items are parked for future consideration. The staff report explains:
‘Bike rack’? This is amusing because bike advocates have pressed Beverly Hills officials for the past three years to install bicycle racks in our business districts to encourage folks to ride a bicycle for their local trips. But our transportation officials have not installed a single sidewalk rack. And that’s despite the obvious need: more bicycles than ever are locked to parking meters and lamp poles in our commercial districts. We have the racks already. The city paid more than $500 each for them yet they sit in a warehouse.
Yet we create a metaphorical bike rack for parking discussion items at a City Council retreat?
Perhaps we’re not recognizing progress when we see it. Retreat facilitators often create a ’parking lot’ to sideline thorny issues. Here in Beverly Hills we’re calling it the ‘bike rack.’ Is that progress or a cynical gesture from a city that can’t be bothered to install an actual bike rack? Those of us who take the trouble to ride a bicycle for local errands can’t lock up to a metaphor, after all.
US DOT brings us some bad news: bike-involved collisions claimed 726 lives nationally in 2012. That’s an increase of 6.5% from 2011and triple the increase of reported injuries during the same time (2.1%). Passenger vehicle deaths rose only 1.6%. Read the research note.
Maybe shouting into the wind does get something accomplished. Metro reports that the I-405 project is 85% complete. More important, on the crossing streets some of the bike-related safety issues (like obstructed lanes on Ohio and hazardous jersey barriers on Wilshire) have been addressed.
Will bike sharing finally come to the Los Angeles area? That’s the question rolling off the tongue of observers who have seen other major cities (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver and Long Beach) move ahead with the grab-a-bike initiative while here at home in the Southland electeds simply jawbone about it. When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s poorly thought-out Bike Nation deal collapsed as his term came to a close, it opened a new opportunity for a regional approach (which it should have been all along). Now Metro steps up to lead with a transit-centered regional bikeshare proposal for the Southland.
Metro could be the catalyst to finally bring a bikeshare program to the Los Angeles region. Individual municipalities like Santa Monica and West Hollywood have taken initial steps by securing grant funding and examining how a sponsored program (e.g., Bike Nation) plays with local ordinances. But to scale up to a regional system will take coordination, and what better regional partner than a heavyweight transit agency like Metro? After all, San Francisco already offers a model of regional transit-agency coordination.
Why regional? We need any bikeshare program to span across local governments. For example, imagine living in West Hollywood and working in Beverly Hills. These neighboring cities make bike commuting very convenient. The occasional visitor might only need a bike once in a while, though. Were each city to use different systems, it would be impossible to pick up a bike here and drop it off there. That may be OK in a city the size of Los Angeles, but our smaller, fragmented municipalities need a jurisdiction-spanning program.
Why Metro? The regional transportation agency has the geographic reach, deep pockets, and political heft to make regional bikeshare a reality. The agency serves nearly 10 million people throughout a 1,500 square mile service area, for example. Through Measure R funding, we voters have given Metro very deep pockets to build out tomorrow’s transit system (and bikeshare is a proverbial drop in the bucket compared to megaprojects like I-405). Metro will go back to the voters for more, of course, and bikeshare should be on the menu of future investments.
Then there’s the political heft. The Metro Board of Directors is composed of political heavyweights. All of the LA County supervisors sit on the board, as do LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Mike Bonin and Paul Krekorian (LA City Council) and Pam O’Connor (Mayor of Santa Monica). The latter city has taken the lead to promote cycling by creating a bike station and securing funding for bikeshare at the municipal level.
And then there’s efficiencies of scale. Metro is a huge agency with great purchasing power that can to some extent dictate the terms of any bikeshare program agreement. That means lower costs for hardware that could accept a metro farecard, say.
Perhaps the best reason to have Metro take the lead is that we need to close that last-mile gap (the trip from transit to office or destination, for example). Bike share is a natural complement. If one-third of California residents live or work within Metro’s service area, we’ve got to give them a reason to take transit by making the last leg of their journey convenient. Bikeshare can fit that need.
Why not a smaller system? For a while the Westside Cities Council of Governments bluffed about coordinating bikeshare system for the greater Westside. But that was never going to happen. This organization, a joint powers authority for Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Los Angeles and the County, has made scant progress on any problem that affects the Westside. It’s bike rhetoric has rung hollow. (We were skeptical from the beginning anyway.) And for most of the past year the Westside COG was moribund anyway. One could always count on the Westside COG for a delicious lunch but that won’t get us from here to there.
Much Left to Discuss
It’s too early to say what role Metro will take in regional bikeshare. Metro leadership under Garcetti at the Executive Management Committee (10/17) meeting took a first key step by touching on some of the challenges ahead. Namely, how a bikeshare would be funded, how it would roll out, and what role Metro would play. The committee directed that Metro lay the groundwork for a countywide RFP by beginning with a bikeshare industry review (i.e., survey of existing programs and vendors) and assess local government policies and how they would be affected by an advertising- sponsored system.
Coordination is another issue. How would rollout proceed? Santa Monica has funding in hand to start its bikeshare program. Can the city defer its grant until Metro can create an coordinating structure? Should it? At the meeting, LACBC’s Eric Bruins suggested that equity needs to be a key concern in any rollout. A sponsor-funded system may focus on high-revenue areas but not reach all potential users, he said. Bikeshare should reach every neighborhood.
Read more about the motion in Metro’s Source blog, about the whole bikeshare story in Streetsblog, and the merits of regional bikeshare coordinated by Metro in the LACBC blog.
Perhaps as significant, the Metro Board Executive committee recommended that Metro “adopt as policy” the support of bicycles as a formal transportation mode. That’s a posture that could prove very instructive to cities like Beverly Hills where even our transportation officials don’t recognize that cycling is transportation. It’s not merely a recreational pursuit. Without that recognition, however, it will be a challenge indeed to persuade policymakers to create the bicycle lanes and other safety facilities that we need to encourage greater uptake of cycling. Maybe here Metro really leads the way!
For only the second time, Beverly Hills held a bicycle safety class organized by Metro+LACBC. The late-September class imparted ride-safe guidance and distributed helmets to about 12 cyclists (most from outside of BH). Let’s hope we can persuade our city to include ride-safe classes as part of our city’s summer recreation program!
This Thursday, November 7 at 6pm the city’s new Blue-Ribbon Santa Monica Boulevard Committee will hold its first meeting. This is every cyclist’s best opportunity to advocate for bicycle lanes on tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Why? We may think a safe corridor for all road users is a no-brainer, but opponents disagree: they won’t lose a few feet of adjacent Beverly Gardens Park for our safety. In between are elected officials and transportation staff on the fence. They need to hear from you!
Why create a blue-ribbon resident committee to advise on the conceptual design for tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard? Because we want a better corridor when after work wraps up late in 2015. Read the agenda for Thursday’s meeting and be prepared to speak up. Look over this list of committee members. Do you know anyone you can contact?
Whether you’re a rider or a driver (or both) there is ample reason to separate bicycle traffic from motor traffic. For one thing, it’s actually safer than mixing modes in travel lanes. Also, dedicated bicycle lanes feels safer to those who might ride but who find today’s corridor too unsafe. Not least, corridor lanes will plug the existing gap in lanes to our east and west.
And the best reason to include bicycle lanes in the design of tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard? Because the available right-of-way already exists! And it’s already dedicated for transportation purposes. The rub is that the additional few feet necessary to accommodate lanes is under grass. We only need a few feet, according to the city’s engineering study, to put those bicycle lanes in.
We’re not obligated to include lanes or any complete streets improvement, however, because no strings are attached to the funding. Beverly Hills will take no state or federal money for this project. Bicycle lanes (and any other such ‘enhancement,’ as they are called) will only find a place on the boulevard via a political process. And that means getting involved.
As we previously reported, City Council created this resident committee for the purpose of opening a broad discussion about what tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard should be. And that is our opportunity. Come to one of the committee’s three meetings (on 11/7, 12/10 and 1/8) and take advantage of one of the city’s two mobile tours (11/13 and 11/17). You can also submit your written comments via Better Bike (we will relay them) and to transportation staffers via the city’s contact form.
Most importantly, just keep yourself apprized of this process via Better Bike and the committee’s dedicated webpage and spread the word. The committee will wrap up with recommendations for Council later this winter. Time flies, so be sure to be heard.
From WSJ comes this: Goldman Sachs’s commitment to low- and mid-income communities included a $41 million loan to float New York’s (Alta-run) bike share system. But ‘Goldman’ and ‘social benefit’ are strange bedfellows, right? Turns out that the Treasury’s overnight conversion of Goldman into a bank holding company came with regulatory strings: a mandatory disadvantaged-community lending program. Skeptics might ask, How does midtown & downtown New York and hipster Brooklyn, communities where bike share has rolled out, qualify as low- or mid-income?
We’ve long been skeptical about Westside Cities COG advancing pro-bike programs, so we’re relieved that Metro (under LA Mayor Garcetti’s leadership) is taking the lead on creating a truly regional bicycle sharing system. Metro has the scale, the deep pockets, and of course the transit integration. A good step forward!
Governor Brown has finally signed the safe passing bill (AB 1371) after vetoing two earlier versions. The new law mandates a $35 fine (upped to $233 with fees) to discourage careless drivers. Kudos to the California Bicycle Coalition for spearheading the campaign! Read their press release and AB 1371 FAQ and join today!
Active transportation enthusiasts may recall that a lawsuit filed in San Francisco in 2005 put the brakes (so to speak) on making bike-friendly improvements in that city. It was a five-year pause as SF conducted a full environmental review of the anticipated environmental impacts posed by treatments identified in its Bicycle Plan. For bike advocates, that was a costly lesson in our quest for safer streets. A bill before the Governor, AB 417, would exempt bike plans totally from environmental review under CEQA and it awaits the governor’s signature. Let’s take a look. The process of piecemeal environmental reform (at least as affects cyclists) started with the San Francisco experience. There a lawsuit filed by blogger and gadfly Rob Anderson, who … Continue reading
Ride the Westside on Santa Monica Boulevard and you’ll know that something’s missing when you pass through Beverly Hills. Somehow the dedicated on-street bicycle lanes that deliver riders to our city from east and west disappear completely at our city’s gateways. With this corridor undergoing a down-to-the-gravel reconstruction by 2015, what potential will it hold for bicycle lanes in order to fix this missing link? Come next Tuesday, Beverly Hills City Council will decide how to manage this important project. At the top of the Council’s 2:30pm study session agenda next week is this key question: What kind of oversight body should manage the critical first phase of reconstruction? Phase I involves project preparation and public outreach, so how Council answers this … Continue reading
Will the third time be the charm? On the Governor’s desk sits AB 1371, the ‘Three Feet for Safety Act,’ which would create a new standard for unsafe passing that specifically addresses the needs of those who ride a bicycle. Part of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s legislative agenda, two earlier versions of this bill went down by Governor’s veto. How ironic that the California Highway Patrol worked against it. The prospect of yet a third veto has riders again on edge. Will this Governor sign the state’s first safe passing law? California is coming late the the party with a good safe passing bill, one that mentions bicycles and defines a safe margin for passing. AB 1371 would provide … Continue reading