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.

Three Feet for Safety Act Goes into Effect Today!

Give Me Three posterAt 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 the law, visit our section on the vehicle code and local ordinances.) Until today, however, riders enjoyed no specific protection from careless drivers or roadway predators who simply didn’t regard the safety of two-wheeled travelers.

With a great assist from the California Bicycle Coalition, Sacramento finally passed a law that – while not perfect – is a stake in the ground to protect vulnerable road users that advocates can build upon. (Read more about it in this detailed KPCC post.) After rejecting two prior versions, the third time was a charm for this Governor, who had earlier seemed swayed by spurious arguments from CHP as well as the usual pro-motor concerns of the drivers’ lobbying group, the Auto Club.

What Does Three Feet For Safety Act Say?

Let’s look at the key provisions excerpted from the full text of the law:

(b) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall pass… at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle….

(c) A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle… at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.

(d) If the driver of a motor vehicle is unable to comply with subdivision (c), due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver shall slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent, and may pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator of the bicycle….

 

For the first time, state law makes ‘safe passing’ an enforceable standard  – a distance of three feet at a minimum – rather than leave it to a more fuzzy ‘reasonable test,’ which puts  interpretation on the driver. Instead the law gives riders and responding officers a reference.

We boldface not only that key provision in subsection C but also two key terms from the two other subsections because they reiterate what should already be universally acknowledged: every road user has a duty to regard the safety of other users according to their mode of transport, taking into account the vulnerability of pedestrians and riders; and a duty to behave prudently when behind the wheel or in the saddle. Ask any rider and they will tell you those softer standards are wholly missing on our roads today.

What Is the Penalty?

The law identifies two sanctions for drivers violating the Three Feet for Safety Act:

(e) (1) A violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d) is an infraction punishable by a fine of thirty–five dollars ($35). (2) If a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicycle causing bodily injury to the operator of the bicycle, and the driver of the motor vehicle is found to be in violation of subdivision (b), (c), or (d), a two–hundred–twenty–dollar ($220) fine shall be imposed on that driver.

So violators face a $35 fine. At first blush that seems not very much. (Running a stop sign sets you back $350 plus court costs in CA.) Should the rider be injured, however, the driver would be looking at only a $220 fine. Now that may not sound like much if you’ve been rear ended and sent to the hospital by a drunken or careless driver. And we’re sure it’s not going to pay your medical bills if the driver weasels out of culpability.

But the law is significant because it’s a stake in the ground: these new infractions give the rider a toehold in the courts where too often the most vulnerable road users get short shrift in a motor-minded society where, as Ted Rogers of Biking In LA notes, death by motor vehicle is often an excusable offense.

We would be nowhere without the tireless support and political arm-twisting of the California Bicycle Coalition and it’s lobbyists. (Unfortunately, that’s how the sausage is often made in Sacramento. Not for nothing was it vetoed twice.) Consider pledging your support to Calbike for their great work.

And the hard work doesn’t end with passage of this law. We have to educate all road users about the vulnerability of non-motor travelers. Excerpted from the Calbike page:

From day one of the long campaign for the Three Feet for Safety Act we realized that the key benefit of the bill was education. CalBike’s Three Feet for Safety Outreach Plan has three components and we need your help. The California Bicycle Coalition will provide media packets to our affiliates so that they can take advantage of media interest in the issue and educate motorists in their communities….Do you have a car? Get a bumper sticker or a window cling…. [And] CalBike is working with the California Traffic Control Devices Committee to get a sign approved as soon as the law goes into effect so that local agencies can install them wherever they’re needed.

So the next time you’re on the road, remember your  rights to safe travel under the state’s new safe-passing standard and carry with you an imaginary yardstick to hold drivers to their responsibility to take due care. Haven’t heard about it from City Hall? While Beverly Hills has not promoted the law by issuing a press release, say, BHPD did announce it on October 7th.)  Give-me-three Logo

Beverly Hills Chamber Addresses SM Blvd Bike Lanes

BH Chamber GAC logoThe Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee is inviting for a discussion debate representatives from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the pro-bike community, and northside neighbors opposed to lanes for tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard. Scheduled for August 21st at 8am, the GAC meeting will also fold in a discussion of this fall’s ballot propositions. But the sparks will likely come from the pro and con views on the bicycle lanes. We hope you can make it! Scroll for details.

Because proposed lanes would negatively affect no businesses, and because park ‘preservation’ is not generally on the Chamber’s agenda, we’re wondering why the Chamber would make this issue part of its government affairs meeting. After all, the Chamber is not taking sides on the issue, according to Andy Sywak, Director of Economic Development and Government Affairs for the Chamber.

We’re presuming that lane opponents in City Hall called on the Chamber to help marshal influential business opposition to lanes before Council hears the issue again in September (update: likely 9/23). We recall that a similar preemptive statement was included in the Beverly Hills Municipal Club’s newsletter just prior to this issue going back to Council in July (where nothing substantive was decided). That same newsletter promoted the Muni League’s membership meeting, which seemed to give the City Hall imprimatur to the League’s anti-bike lane viewpoint (at least we thought it did).

Bike Lane Issue Background

Recall that this past winter, the Santa Monica Boulevard Blue Ribbon Committee, which was appointed by City Council to advise on boulevard design options, gave the thumbs-up to incremental boulevard expansion.  The committee (to which the Mayor appointed yours truly to represent the pro-bike interests) also OK’d a striped bicycle lane as part of the corridor’s reconstruction. And that really rubbed neighborhood NIMBYs the wrong way. And they gave Council an earful in March.

Since then there hasn’t been much action on Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction. As of that last March meeting, there has been no Council decision on final boulevard width or the question of bicycle lanes. The project has fallen way behind schedule as faulty cost estimates from staff, and intimations of less-than-good faith from Council, bedeviled its progress. In fact, reconstruction hasn’t even gotten off the design table yet. (Read more about the process on our own project page because the city’s project page hasn’t been updated since March!)

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t yet be surprised. Council in September  could very well provide direction to our consultants to plan a boulevard too narrow in width to include bicycle lanes. So instead of joining existing lanes in West Hollywood and Century City, we’d be the ‘biking black hole’ of the Westside. The upcoming Council meeting in mid-September may well decide the issue. (Read more about the project itself in the city’s presentation.)

Squeezing out lanes appears to be the opponents’ strategy. And they already count as a success the defeat of Metro tunneling for the Westside extension a generation ago. They also helped to put the kibosh on once-proposed Beverly Hills freeway. Now they are gunning for multimodal mobility even though our own city’s Sustainable City Plan (2009) calls on us to bike more. Moreover, our own Bicycle Master Plan (1977!) envisions Santa Monica Boulevard as a key bike corridor.

But you’ll hear nothing in support of bicycle lanes from our transportation division officials. They’ve come out against striping bike lanes for tomorrow’s SM Blvd. And our advisory Traffic and Parking Commission seems too busy with tour buses and parking permits to actually discuss the safety implications of a major regional connector without lanes. Indeed when a Council majority essentially waved away the comments of more than 200 lane proponents and leaned against giving bike lanes the nod in March, there was no voice internal to City Hall that could remind councilmembers that our neighboring cities do support multimodal mobility.

See You on August 21st

Meeting details: Chamber at 9400 S. Santa Monica Blvd. 2nd Floor. Note that the Chamber requests registration (which appears to be no-cost once you proceed through the process). And two hours of free parking is provided, but you’ll wisely ride in and avoid that hassle. For further information contact Andy Sywak, Director of Economic Development and Government Affairs for the Chamber. The Chamber’s GAC meeting won’t be definitive by any means, but we’ll at least have a chance to make our case and sense the wind currents before the next Council meeting.Chamber GAC meeting notice

Give Me Three for Safety

Aside

We’re looking ahead to mid-September when California’s Three Feet for Safety Act takes effect. You won’t need the details of AB 1371 to know that under the law, safe passing means giving riders three feet of room on the road. California Bicycle Coalition took the lead on the issue; have a look at their FAQ to know how you can hold drivers accountable.

Cities are Lowering Speed Limits!

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City of Beverly Hills may be inclined to speed traffic through our city, but others are reducing speed limits to safeguard walkers and riders. Two years ago, City of Portland reduced the limit to 20mph on streets adjacent to greenways. City of New York’s Mayor De Blasio signed a new law to reduce the default limit to 25mph. Santa Monica too is looking to lower limits. When it comes to street safety, we’ll be alone in cheering-on speeders.

Who’s Paying to Play with Gil Cedillo?

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The challenge of making North Figueroa safe for road users became more formidable when Councilman Gil Cedillo tanked bike lanes there as already planned (and funded). Why? For backstory we looked at election contributions in 2013 to see who pays-to-play with Cedillo. The answer? Real estate firms and unions. What about North Fig locals and transportation advocates? More contributions came from Beverly Hills than all three of Cedillo district’s Northeast Los Angeles zip codes.

Proof that Law Enforcement Needs Pro-Bike Training

Laura Weintraub video headshot

Have you been involved in an injury collision only to find that the responding officer didn’t take your story seriously? Or that the report understated your account and you don’t recognize the basic facts of the crash? Or perhaps the officer let the offending motorist off without a citation because, well, you assume the risk of injury when you ride? Ventura County police reservist Laura Weintraub embodies the misconceptions that often make it difficult for us to get a fair shake from public safety. Laura Weintraub is not only a lifestyle blogger and body stylist (left) she’s also evidently an avowed foe of those who choose to bike. In her video ‘cup holder commentary bicyclist edition,’ she tours the suburban … Continue reading

Santa Monica Boulevard Update

Backbone missing piece map

If you have been eagerly awaiting a City Council decision on Santa Monica Boulevard bicycle lanes, you may be disappointed (or perhaps heartened) to know that no decision is forthcoming soon. The item originally scheduled for last Tuesday is now rescheduled for this coming Tuesday’s study session and only provides information to Council about an upcoming traffic mitigation study. The next decision will wait until September. So, is this extended delay good news or bad news? Time will tell. But there is no question that the timeline has indeed slipped. Council was to already have decided a conceptual design by now, with consultants working away on the engineering. (Read more about the project here.) In fact, we concluded the public … Continue reading

Misalignment of City Employee & Resident Interests

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The LA Times reported that only 5% of Beverly Hills employees actually live in the city. Seems reasonable: the interests of City Hall staffers are not necessarily aligned with those of residents. And because fewer than 2% – two percent! – of recent new hires live here, that gap will widen. We agree with Mayor Mirisch: let’s ‘hire local.’