TPC Commissioner Alan Gruschow Passes

We are very sorry to hear about yesterday’s untimely passing of Beverly Hills Traffic and Parking Commission member Alan Grushcow. In our experience working with transportation officials at City Hall, Commissioner Gruschcow distinguished himself as a near lone voice for bike safety in the city. And he was always a voice of reason on the commission dais.

A couple of years ago, riders and advocates worked with Mr. Gruschcow to identify ‘pilot’ bike routes for lanes and sharrows. Along with commissioner Jeff Levine, he was a member of the two-man ad hoc Bike Plan Update Committee. With their support we got those improvements (if not the actual plan update) and in follow-up conversations he continued to support the expansion of bike-friendly measures  – even while he expressed prescient concern that our city would have to move slowly.

We regret that the ad hoc committee (and the commission) has lost a sharp thinker and vocal supporter of multimodal mobility. And of course we’ll miss our neighbor here on the south side of the city. Funeral services will be held this Sunday, January 25 at noon at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park in Simi Valley.

Bike Share for Beverly Hills?

Santa Monice bike-share system promoIn study session this week, City Council deferred to February a discussion about our city’s possible participation in a regional Westside bikeshare program. (Ours would piggyback on the coming Santa Monica system.) It’s very early for a substantive discussion about our participation, but that the question even comes up might herald a new approach to multimodal mobility for Beverly Hills. With new(ish) bike lanes on Burton and Crescent and Mayor Bosse strongly behind a bike-friendly city, are we turning the page on our auto-centric past?

City of Santa Monica will be first out-of-the-gate with a LA-area bike-share system. With grant funding already in hand, the city gave the nod back in November to what could be a $10.4 million system of 500 ‘smart bikes’ and 1,000 racks. First in line, the city might well bring along in its wake other localities (like Beverly Hills). Santa Monica’s commitment to multimodal mobility reaches back more than a decade to the city’s sustainability initiative.

But it finds full expression in the city’s innovative Land Use and Circulation Element. That update to Santa Monica’s General Plan in 2010 envisions no-net-increase in car trips as the city develops. And to meet that (relatively) ambitious goal, the city has doubled-down on bicycle lanes of literally every conceivable stripe and installed innumerable bike racks citywide. A downtown ‘bikestation’ opened in 2011.

A Westside Regional System?

The prospect of a regional Westside system emerged from  the Council of Governments (COG) in 2012. The member-city organization meets every other month to exchange information and tackle regional problems (so it says). But mobility hasn’t been much on the agenda at the COG; indeed the substantive policy discussion was less the focus than the free lunch. (Join the COG for its next one January 22nd at noon in West Hollywood.)

Mobility was ushered back on the COG agenda under then-Chair Richard Bloom,* Mayor of Santa Monica. Under the COG umbrella, member cities collaborated on the development of a proposal for a shared system; Santa Monica’s issued a request-for-proposals to get the first city system off the ground. (While Bloom put a fire under the COG,  Santa Monica councilmember and present-day mayor Kevin McKeown co-moved local authorization for the city’s bike-share program.)

The COG effort predates Metro’s current proposal, and it’s very different. Metro would tie bike-share into its transit system by anchoring bike hubs at major transit stations and (one day) allowing the bike borrower to use the agency’s TAP card to authorize the transaction. The Metro system would not rely on sponsorship but instead envisions a agency-city cost split (35% for Metro, 65% local). Rollout is limited to Downtown Los Angeles at present.

The Metro’s bike-share system was just approved by the board but won’t go live until 2016. Most important, Metro reserves the right to pull the plug on what it calls a ‘pilot’ program, which is none-too-reassuring to any city that might want to buy into it.

So a Westside system makes sense because the region has an interest in moving congestion-causing local car trips to other travel modes. And bike-sharing is a regional mobility solution. More, regional interoperability maximizes utility. Imagine even traveling from Beverly Hills to West Hollywood by bike-share without a single, interconnected system. Where would you drop off the Beverly Hills bike?

Santa Monica Takes the First Step

Santa Monice bike-share system promoSanta Monica in November committed $5.6 million for a 500-bike system, which is the first phase of what is anticipated to be a $10.4 million 1,000-bike program (if all goes according to plan).  The city calls this system “a model for the region.”

Cost per bike under the Santa Monica contract is $2,190 and each rack will cost another $300. That’s regardless of quantity: there is no economy of scale in purchasing hardware. The city would capitalize and own it. But the city contracted with a private operator, CycleHop, for an initial 8-year operations period. (See the Santa Monica staff report for more detail on costs, contract bidding and vendor selection as well as proposed rate structure and more.)

The system will be funded by a combination of general fund money, grants, sponsorship and user fees. Getting the ball rolling are grants from Metro ($1.5M) and AQMD ($360k) to which the city will add $361k in already-budgeted capital improvement funds. So the city has already stepped up with a capital funding commitment!

Then there is the in-kind match, which is grant-speak for, We’re giving you the money; what are you throwing into the pot? Santa Monica will provide at least one full-time staff position to run the system. That’s intriguing: will Beverly Hills do that too? Santa Monica has the staff and experience to run a bike program while Beverly Hills does not.

Besides grants and city money, Santa Monica expects corporate sponsorship to provide $250k-500k annually. User fees should kick in a whopping 85% of operations, the city says. The user fees as broken out in city’s projections:

Santa Monica bikeshare costs chart

Will riders pay $2 for every 20 minutes or pony up $15 to $25 per month to borrow a bike? That’s an unknown. The current cost of a Metro trip is $1.75. And it will take you from Santa Monica to Sierra Madre.

Sobi-smart-systemAs for technology, Santa Monica will use a ‘smart bike’ system (rather than ‘smart-racks’) as the borrowing technology travels with the bike rather than be integrated into a bike hub or kiosk. Santa Monica’s contractor CycleHop will use NYC’s Social Bicycles (SoBi) for the ‘smart bike.’ According to the  staff report:

…each bike is capable of accepting payments and releasing the bike-locking mechanism independently via a mobile, web and administrative software that interacts with the smart-bike hardware… Once registered, users can initiate rentals by walking up to any bicycle. – Staff report.

Where a hub-kiosk approach might be practical in high-density and high-demand neighborhoods, low-density cities like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills make hubs less practical. (Hubs/kiosks power bike-share systems in New York, London, Chicago, Boston, and Washington.) “Without need for a kiosk, smaller stations, consisting of as few as four racks, are feasible,” the staff report says. That suggests a benefit could be the rapid reallocation of racks according to demand. The ‘smart bike’ system’s integration with smartphone apps might actually recommend it to Beverly Hills, which is fancied as a ‘smart city’ with an app of our own.

Beverly Hills

Three aspects of the Santa Monica’s proposed ‘regional model’ suggest some questions for Beverly Hills City Council. Let’s look at start-up costs, operating costs and funding, and management of the system.

Start-up costs. First-year implementation costs for equipment, installation, and operation ranges from $327k (50 bikes) to nearly $1m (150 bikes), according to the staff report. (The figures include a 20% padding for contingencies.) Operating costs would range between $110k and $329k “less offset from user fees.” These three size tiers will be presented to City Council in February:

Bevery Hills bikeshare costs chartYou can see here that the system’s flat cost-per-bike means that start-up cost scales directly with the number of bikes rolled out. (The only significant cost to be amortized across the system under this proposal is the two ‘solar kiosks.’) Flat costs could benefit a smaller city like Beverly Hills. On the other hand, as a system grows it realizes no per-unit cost efficiencies. Here the per-bike cost declines very modestly with a bump-up in system size. Doubling units from 50 to 100 bikes realizes a 4.5% decrease, for example, while tripling the size of the smallest system to 150 units realizes only a 6% per-unit decline in costs.

Without economy-of-scale as incentive, would a smaller city like Beverly Hills choose to roll out a ’boutique’ system with only a few bikes in a handful of central locations? That would undermine the utility of bike-share as everyday transportation, of course, because the practical mobility option must be available and accessible wherever people need it. As proposed for evaluation, however, the larger system (150 bikes) on a per-capita basis works out to only 3/5 the size of the Santa Monica system. Can we afford anything smaller?

And then there’s the funding. Where will it come from? Per the staff report, only $150k in Air Quality Management District funds are now available for the capital costs; no other available grant funding is identified. Staff will look for more grant support in a coming (outsourced) feasibility study.

With only $150k in hand, Council will have to dip into the general fund in the next capital improvement program. So let’s look at City Council-identified priorities for this fiscal year (July through June).

Every fall the city sets priorities. In the fall of 2013 City Council chose to maintain “enhancements to bike mobility” as a ‘B’ level priority (per the priorities staff report). And this past fall, Council again directed that bike mobility continue to be a ‘B’ priority:

Priorities FY 2014-15-bike excerpt But a ‘B’ priority either reflects long term objectives (beyond a single fiscal year cycle) or identifies initiatives that would be completed “with the same staff resources after current ‘A’ priorities are completed.” This is very different than an ‘A’ priority, which is funded. Keep in mind that an update to our citywide bike plan (1977) has languished for years despite being a ‘B’ priority. And what does this year’s capital improvements budget say about bike mobility programs? We’d like to know, but inexplicably the city doesn’t post the most recent budget on the hard-to-find financial documents webpage.

Operating costs and funding. Aside from year one costs, the staff report is vague about ongoing support beyond estimating $109k for the smallest, 5-bike system. User fees are mentioned – and are estimated to recapture 30% of operating expenses – but that’s a big unknown. Santa Monica is proposing relatively high fees to complement expected advertising revenues. Whether Beverly Hills can sustain elevated fees or even begin to recapture costs with user fees (especially if we roll out a smaller boutique system) is an open question.

But experience from other cities shows user fees wouldn’t cover operations and, further, other systems have rejiggered fees once ridership numbers came in under projections. (As a transportation option, bike-share isn’t unique in this regard: the farebox hardly covers any transportation capital investments whether road, rail or bus.)

What about sponsorship of operations? Would city consider branding our system for a corporate partner? Will our municipal code even allow that kind of branding in the right-of-way? (That’s been an impediment to bike-share systems in other cities.) This staff report is light on specifics: there is no reference to other systems that are currently run by CycleHop, so we don’t see how such systems are supported. And there is zero data pulled from other cities to inform a Council discussion about user fees. The staff report defers much of this to “further study.”

Last there is the issue of management. The system envisioned by Santa Monica (and structured with participation from COG member cities) identifies CycleHop as the long-term private operator. But Santa Monica will devote a full-time equivalent (FTE) employee to manage the city’s end and add an additional .5 FTE for undefined ‘administration.’ Beverly Hills, however, identifies only a half-FTE for those jobs. Is that realistic?

Looked at another way, Santa Monica already has transportation staff knowledgeable about these issues, and we need that level of staff support too. We’d propose the city to hire a full-time equivalent multimodal mobility coordinator with half time devoted to bike-share management if implemented and the other half to mobility-related tasks that today fall through the cracks. Like that long-awaited bicycle master plan update, for example. Or the need to incorporate mobility concerns into our land use policies. We also need to revisit the municipal code to eliminate antiquated or inappropriate regulations that affect riders. That should keep a full-time coordinator busy.

City Council’s February Discussion: What to Expect?

Without much hard data on the table, City Council’s discussion about this bike-share system will likely suggest more about our mobility concerns generally than reflect concerns about this bike-share program specifically. A positive discussion would go some way toward walking-back some of the more parochial Council comments during consideration of Santa Monica Boulevard bicycle lanes. It might even build on the relatively optimistic debate about lanes this past January, when some members of Council seemed to keep the option open. Heck, even this clause when included in a Beverly Hills document warrants some optimism: “As bikeshare is a form of transit….”

On the other hand, our plans say the right things about the role of multimodal mobility in reducing congestion and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but officials in the past seemed loathe to acknowledge them though they are stated city policy goals. Bike-share might pull into the foreground questions such as: Do we see ourselves as part of the Westside congestion problem? Are are we prepared to recognize that we have obligations to the region to ameliorate it? A positive bike-share discussion could be a significant step forward.

And last, in Beverly Hills City Hall, the tendency is to frame initiatives as marketing or branding opportunities. For councilmembers looking to rationalize any system, the smaller boutique system when presented as a hospitality service (for tourists) might overcome their hesitation. We can imagine that program run not out of Community Development/Transportation but rather the Convention and Visitors Bureau – and that would be a mistake. We’ll know more when we hear councilmembers talk generally about bike-share for Beverly Hills.

We don’t expect much in the way of concrete commitment from City Council though. It’s  early in the process and there’s too little hard data provided to Council on which to make any definitive decision. Besides, the multiple unknowns present many opportunities for the skeptical councilmember to simply refer it on for “further study” if not shut it down. And perhaps one or more councilmembers might balk at accepting the contract as presented; not because they’re not workable, but because Council didn’t have a say in fashioning it.

Keep in mind that this proposal hasn’t even been presented to the Traffic and Parking Commission, which as a courtesy would be given an opportunity to advise Council. (The commission does have a dormant ad hoc bike plan update committee.) And of course City Council could simply wait to see how Santa Monica fares. As the staff report says, “staff will benefit from Santa Monica’s implementation process and lessons learned from their bikeshare model during planning, start up and actual operations.” That alone suggests a long and winding path for bringing bike-share to Beverly Hills.

Update: Mayor Lilli Bosse appears to be a bike-share fan!

bosse bike-share tweet*As our Assemblyman, Richard Bloom has backed bicycle lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills throughout our city’s boulevard reconstruction discussion. He even dispatched a district representative to address our Blue Ribbon Committee and City Council. Which begs a question: given Santa Monica’s lead on multimodal mobility, why is that municipality doing more for alternative mobility policymaking here than our own Beverly Hills officials?

Santa Monica Boulevard Meetup This Monday

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? 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!

Santa Monica Boulevard with bike lanes visualized

Santa Monica Boulevard visualized: bicycle lanes make this street ‘complete.’

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 south meeting room of Beverly Hills Public Library: 444 N. Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills (map)

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.

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 … Continue reading

Three Feet for Safety Act Goes into Effect Today!

Give Me Three poster

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

Beverly Hills Chamber Addresses SM Blvd Bike Lanes

The 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 … Continue reading

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.