Hazardous Intersections That Need a Safety Upgrade TODAY

Crossing guard on Wilshire at Santa Monica Blvd

According to BHPD, at this 9th most dangerous intersection in Beverly Hills you take your life into your hands. Better to cross with a crossing guard!

A couple of weeks ago we reported on a genius LA Times interactive called Walking in L.A. that mapped 817 of the “most dangerous” intersections in the county. As we noted with no surprise, several of most dangerous county intersections (and clusters) are right here in Beverly Hills. Despite the long histories of crashes, not one of them has been made more safe. City of Los Angeles several years ago acknowledged the problem, though, with a plan to stripe 53 problematic crossings for high visibility. Three years later, KPCC asks listeners, Are there others in need of a fix?

First, more about the harm. “Los Angeles has a higher rate of car accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists than the rest of the nation,” KPCC says of the crash data. How big is the disparity? Over a seven-year period ending in 2009, pedestrian fatalities accounted for 11% percent of all national traffic fatalities; bicyclists represented another 1.7% (which is disproportionately high given low rates of cycling). But in Los Angeles, according to a study by the University of Michigan, pedestrians accounted for a whopping one-third of traffic fatalities during that period. That’s three times the national rate. And 3% of fatalities were bicyclists, which nearly doubles the national rate.

Why the disproportionately-high fatality rates? Clearly something needs to be done to improve street safety in the metro area. For decades riders’ advocates had complained that negligence by local governments threatened public health. And nearly ten years ago some crafty DIY engineers took it upon themselves to stripe a faux bicycle lane on a Los Angeles River bridge. In the meanwhile the fatalities piled up.

Then something of a fix. Three years ago, Los Angeles identified 53 intersections for a safety upgrade: these selected intersections would be striped with highly-visible ‘continental’ crosswalks. Call it a first step toward the city’s new Vision Zero policy. “No level of fatality on city streets is inevitable or acceptable,” the city says in its program description. “Vision Zero Action Plan is the City’s foundation for ending traffic deaths and injuries on our streets.”

Los Angeles is following the Big Apple’s lead. Under Bloomberg’s transportation chief, Janette Sadik-Kahn, the city’s approach to street safety shifted. For the first time, really, transportation officials mandated planning for all road users…at least in high-profile city precincts like Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The program marks a break for Los Angeles. It was the first acknowledgment that traffic officials needed to take a systematic approach to ensuring street safety, beginning with engineering. Merely widening streets would no longer cut it; the city mandated that for years but in hindsight it only increased traffic speeds and volume.

The humble crosswalk would seem a small fix; low-hanging fruit perhaps. After all, we’re talking about thermoplastic on pavement. But a key federal study shows that crosswalks like the ‘continental’ are more visible to drives at all hours. They make crossing safer for pedestrians.

Now the map. Consider LA’s 53 intersections chosen for ‘continental’ crosswalks the ‘green shoots’ of improved street safety. KPCC’s interactive ‘Dangerous Intersections in Los Angeles‘ maps them:

KPCC Dangerous Intersections interactive map for greater LA

City of Los Angeles intersections identified for crosswalk upgrades.

Of course, 53 intersections is a mere drop in the bucket; they’re spread rather thinly across a city of 460+ square miles. So KPCC invites visitors to add problem intersections to the map. When we first saw it there were a few user-added intersections in Beverly Hills already (including the notorious Wilshire-Santa Monica deathtrap). But these few hardly get at our intersection safety problem. (Where Los Angeles struggled with fatalities, in Beverly Hills the incidence of injury is much more prevalent.)

KPCC Dangerous Intersections interactive map Beverly Hills section

User-added intersections in Beverly Hills haven’t caught up to the real-life hazards!

But there intersections more injurious to health then those few mapped in Beverly Hills, so we’re adding our own to the KPCC map. How did we decide which Beverly Hills intersections warranted the red flag? We turned to the data generated by our own Beverly Hills Police Department. In a review of crashes in the city between January and September (inclusive) in 2014 we see ten of the worst intersections emerge. These showed the highest number of crash calls to BHPD.

BHPD crash data report for Q1-Q3 of 2014

Reported crashes at ten Beverly Hills intersection according to police (page 1 shown). As provided in response to a public information act request, it’s not even machine-readable.

We obtained the data report through an information request when we saw the findings referenced in a brief police statement. We counted the reported crashes and ordered the intersections from worst to not-as-worse.

Intersection Crashes
Wilshire & La Cienega 45
North SM Blvd & Wilshire 34
Olympic & Beverly Dr. 27
Wilshire & Robertson 26
South SM Blvd & Beverly dr. 18
Wilshire & Beverly Dr. 18
North SM blvd & Bedford 17
North SM Blvd & Beverly Dr. 13
South SM Blvd & Wilshire 9
South SM Blvd & Bedford 6

Here’s what every city transportation official should see every time they boot up the office computer. And Traffic and Parking commissioners should receive a map like this along with the BHPD crash injury data every month. But they don’t, of course. So it’s business as usual. To nobody’s surprise, the rate of crashes and injuries fails to decline year after year.

Worst ten Beverly Hills intersections by 2009 crash frequency mapped

If Los Angeles Can Do It…

If Los Angeles can do It, so can Beverly Hills, right? A crosswalk upgrade is just a first step. ‘Vision Zero’ implicates other changes too, like a reduction in the number of travel lanes (aka ‘road diet’) as well ensuring that engineers and law enforcement reduce prevailing traffic speed. It will take a shift in the professional and political culture in order to begin to value street safety in practice – and not just rhetorically.

Sunset and Crescent Heights crosswalks

Witness this sorry intersection at Sunset and Crescent Heights. Safety-wise, the continental striping is all it has going for it!

We aren’t even close to that culture change in Beverly Hills. For example, the baby step of continental crosswalks has not even been undertaken by the city for these problem intersections. (Only the business triangle and civic center have gotten this kind of pedestrian upgrade. The rest of the city’s designated pedestrian zone is still stuck with faded old-style transverse crosswalks.)

And it’s worse for riders. We mix it up with the motor traffic daily, yet the city has never upgraded any intersection for bicyclists. And that’s despite our hounding of City Hall for five years! Do your fellow riders a favor: call City Hall and ask about street safety. Report a problem Beverly Hills intersection. And pin it to the KPCC map!

And remember: never say ‘accident’ when it comes to a crash. Very few are accidents; most involve carelessness or negligence (or worse). Per New York’s Vision Zero policy statement: “The City of New York must no longer regard traffic crashes as mere ‘accidents,’ but rather as preventable incidents that can be systematically addressed.” Are you listening KPCC?

* Remember that the crash data reflect only a subset of all incidents. And probably a small subset! Drivers may choose to exchange information without a call to police, for example, while riders or walkers, injured or not, may simply choose to go on their way rather than file a report.

Beverly Hills Intersections May be Hazardous to Your Health

Crossing guard on Wilshire at Santa Monica Blvd

The most dangerous intersection for pedestrians in Beverly Hills requires the assistance of a crossing guard with a sign to remind drivers of the law.

To our list of distinguishing features Beverly Hills policymakers can now add another: our intersections rank among LA County’s most dangerous. At least according to a detailed mapping of state injury data by the Los Angeles Times. It mapped intersections where pedestrians were more likely to be injured or killed and found those proximate to the business triangle, and particularly along Santa Monica Boulevard, most dangerous. We hardly need empirical evidence: here you know you’re taking your life into your hands!

You know it by the seat of your pants so to speak: you’re in a losing battling with motorists when you ride a bicycle across North Santa Monica Boulevard at Wilshire. It’s one of the worst intersections in Beverly Hills. That it’s a gantlet for riders is no accident, however; that’s by design. The intent here is to maximize the throughput of vehicles. And despite that effort, this juncture retains its LOS grade of ‘F.’ It cannot accommodate traffic demand given its vehicular capacity. In fact, our city steadfastly refuses to re-stripe this intersection to facilitate safe passage for those on a bicycle. You can see here the poor rider has no guidance through a nightmare:

no pavement markings at Santa Monica Blvd at Wilshire

Only road warriors should cross the Wilshire – North Santa Monica Boulevard intersection. It’s designed to fail all users, but the most experienced at least have a fighting chance.

As a pedestrian, too, you know you’ve entered the danger zone because simply crossing either North or South Santa Monica at Wilshire begs the assistance of a crossing guard. That’s because because no crossing here has been improved. The highly-visible ‘continental’ style crosswalks used in other cities simply find no home here.

Wilshire-Santa Monica intersections unimproved

Intersections in need of an upgrade! Wilshire – Santa Monica just begs for highly-visible ‘continental’ style crosswalks like our neighbors in Los Angeles and West Hollywood enjoy.

The city’s failure to improve these intersections for both riders and walkers despite clearly dangerous conditions is evidence enough of official disregard and indeed negligence. yet the legacy of harm here has never been addressed by the city’s Traffic and Parking Commission. Every month commissioners receive the tally of rider, pedestrian and auto-involved collision injuries in the city. But seldom do they ask a question like, “Where are these crash injuries happening exactly, and what can we do to prevent them?” Instead the commission busies itself with parking districts and valets.

Should officials want actual empirical data, though, they can just turn to the LA Times, which has examined crash data as part of its focus on street safety. Contrast that with the reticence of the two Beverly Hills newspapers (the Weekly and the Courier) which hasn’t the gumption evidently to touch a topic like street safety (despite our entreaties).

The Analysis

The Times analysis looked beyond the top-line numbers (total reported collisions per intersection) to identify intersections that are not only dangerous in absolute numbers of crashes but disproportionately dangerous for pedestrians relative to intersections across the county. The Times called these “statistically dangerous” because they emerged in the analysis as outliers.

The analysis began with crossings where more than ten pedestrian-involved collisions occurred over the eleven-year period (583 in total). That was an indication of frequency. Then the analysis identified intersections where pedestrians were involved at a disproportionately-high rate. For example, the Times found 309 intersections with just three incidents but all of them involved pedestrians. That suggested conditions particularly unsafe for walkers (if not for motorists). And of course the analysis looked for fatalities as an indication of extreme danger: the places where a pedestrian if hit was more likely to be mortally injured.

The Times then mapped those 817 “statistically dangerous” intersections (out of 25,821 total that registered a crash in LA County). “More than 15% of all pedestrians accidents occurred at or near these locations” over the eleven year period examined, says the Times.

But the analysis went further to include intersections with at least one pedestrian-involved collision. While not of high frequency, when mapped these could suggest problem corridors or danger hotspots.

Then the “statistically dangerous” intersections were layered atop a heatmap that illustrated the degree to which intersections departed from the mean in terms of overall hazard. So the map shows specific outlier intersections; danger hotspots; and then problematic corridor segments and clusters that should warrant attention from policymakers and transportation planners.

What did the LA Times find? To nobody’s surprise, perhaps, Beverly Hills is distinguished by the Times analysis of local collision data as home to no fewer than six of the 817 “problematic intersections” County-wide. (These outliers themselves constitute just one-third of one percent of all intersections that counted at least one crash during the study period, and Beverly Hills is home to six of them!)LA Times analysis spreadsheet

Beverly Hills: The Problematic Intersection Outlier

LA Times dangerous intersections map: Wilshire at South Santa Monica

Faded crosswalks throughout the city only add to the pedestrian’s safety concerns.

The analysis identifies a Wilshire – Santa Monica cluster of intersections as among the most dangerous in the County, with the Wilshire – South Santa Monica crossing in particular as one most dangerous for pedestrians. At this crossing, one-third of all collisions involved a pedestrian. That’s in the top half of all problematic intersections according to the Times analysis.

(More incredibly, in one-fifth of the total crashes here, the culprit hit-and-run. Keep in mind that this is no rural road; Beverly Hills congestion ensures that someone fleeing the crime might not get far. Still they run.)

Why is this intersection so “problematic” for pedestrians? Perhaps the perennially-faded crosswalk markings here (at right) contribute to the safety problem. The city will go years without repainting the markings and for some unknown reason won’t use thermoplastic for enhanced durability.

LA-Times-ped-injury-heatmap-Wilshire-SMFurther down the South Santa Monica corridor is the city’s third most dangerous intersection. At Bedford nearly half of all collisions involved a pedestrian. The LA Times analysis ranks this one in the top quintile (20%) of outlier intersections for its overall hazard.

The North Santa Monica corridor emerges as a problematic corridor in the analysis too. And it is not just the Wilshire intersection (at right), which, like the adjacent South Santa Monica crossing, is also poorly-marked. (Nearly one-quarter of all collisions here involved a pedestrian.)

No, this intersection is part of a problem corridor according to the Times analysis. Farther east, between Bedford and Canon, where tourists tread, the data show a string of lower-frequency but “statistically dangerous” crossings (per the analysis) that create a kind of linear cluster of harm-causing intersections.

What Should City Officials Take From This Analysis?

The prevalence of problematic intersections throughout the city should be instructive for Beverly Hills officials: fix these crossings before more walkers and cyclists get hurt. Yet the city, armed with the same data – the data generated by our own police department it’s worth pointing out – has taken no action. In fact, North Santa Monica Boulevard is in the exact condition in which we received it ten years ago from state control (along with a pot of millions in fix-it funds we never spent).

If you think the city disregards the safety of cyclists, consider how they’re putting in danger the many tourists who cross between the business triangle and Beverly Gardens Park to have their picture made with the famous sign.

AKA Hotel proximate collisions map

When the AKA hotel announced its own bike-sharing amenity for guests, we had a feeling it was smack in the center of a cluster of bike-involved collisions. So we mapped it!

And looking ahead to bike-share operating in Beverly Hills by the end of the year, we will also see many two-wheeled tourists attempting to navigate these same dangerous crossings. We mapped past reported bike injury collisions for a one-year period a couple of years ago when one of our hotels inaugurated its own bike-share amenity. The findings weren’t good!

So no wonder City Council is concerned with city liability: if you don’t fix street hazards, just be sure you’re insulated from the harm generated by them. That seems to be the prevailing view in City Hall.

Most frustrating is the way the city puts in harm’s way a defenseless pedestrian. Consider the city’s designated ‘pedestrian-oriented area.’ The LA Times map shows that three “statistically dangerous” intersections (Brighton Way at both Beverly Drive and Bedford, and Roxbury Drive and Wilshire) lay within the pedestrian area. Add in the three other danger hotspots (near Wilshire & Beverly Drive) and you have a cluster of probable harm.

LA Times analysis pedestrian with district map overlaidThe city will get right on this, right? Our transportation planner has probably already looked at locations where collisions most often occur and focused remedial attention on the hazards. Wrong. The city will likely take no significant step to address these issues. We know one well-intentioned stakeholder who has begged the city to address the intersection at Beverly Drive & Olympic for two decades because of a high incidence of car crashes there. But there’s been no indication from City Hall that the city will ever reconfigure it. Two decades and no action!

Former Mayor Lili Bosse recently signed-on our city to the US DOT’s Mayor’s Challenge to improve street safety. Does that augur some positive action? We’re not optimistic: when we asked what the city might do to meet the challenge, we received this anodyne boilerplate: “Transportation Planning will work closely with our Policy & Management team to clarify and identify future goals and strategies for citywide improvements.”

I know I’ll rest easier knowing that City Hall is doing all it can to make streets safe for walkers and riders!

Santa Monica Boulevard Lanes Returns to Council

Santa Monica Boulevard visualization

Santa Monica Boulevard may yet be a street complete if City Council makes room for bicycle lanes. (Photo-illustration: Better Bike & Ryan Snyder Associates)

My gosh, are we still campaigning for bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard? On Tuesday, City Council again discusses Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction project (which kicked off in January of 2010!) to provide direction on boulevard options and design. At the top of the agenda is the question of whether or not to expand the boulevard the few feet. Will councilmembers ensure we have the width necessary for bicycle lanes? Will Council even say that lanes should be included in this project?

When Beverly Hills City Council last discussed Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction this past January, it kicked the can down the road where bicycle lanes is concerned: the decision was simply deferred to the later design phase. Attribute it to political friction. The boulevard would need to be expanded to about 63′ in order to accommodate Class II bicycle lanes (the state-recommended width is a minimum of 5′).

But bicycle lane opponents opposed giving up ground beyond the north curb face in order to accommodate lanes. Evidently they’re still chafing at a decades-old proposal to add two additional traffic lanes to the corridor. But really it seems they don’t want bicycle lanes on the boulevard at all.

But supporters wanted to find the few extra feet necessary so that lanes wouldn’t be forever precluded, so in January we suggested a land swap: add one foot of grass to Beverly Gardens park on the north side between Canon and Doheny in exchange for an additional two feet of boulevard width along the shorter stretch between Canon and Wilshire. That would allow a uniform 63′ wide boulevard for bicycle lanes yet result in no net loss of park land.

We called it the ‘Beverly Hills Greenway,’ and the concept gained traction in the media (and among the public) because it made sense. Indeed, supporters packed Council chambers, and, in written comments along with advocacy organizations and neighboring cities’ officials, urged Council to stand behind it. Here’s what it looked like:

Beverly Hills Greenway profileBut our Greenway concept put councilmembers in a tough spot: should they choose multimodal mobility for the corridor or cave to bicycle lane opponents – the folks who cried “not one blade of grass lost!”?*

“We Found that Few Feet After All”

No doubt after some diligent study, consultant Psomas found room to tinker after more than a year of insisting that there was no room to expand the boulevard to the south. As summarized in a notice to stakeholders:

At the January 6, 2015 Study Session, Council directed staff to return to City Council at 50% project design with recommendations to widen the roadway on the south side in the 60-foot section between Wilshire and Canon Drive up to 3 feet and/or configuring the lane widths to potentially accommodate multi-modal uses (vehicles, buses and bicycles). The design team is prepared to proceed with designing a 62’-4” roadway in this section pending City Council’s direction. As a comparison, the existing roadway between Doheny Drive and Canon Drive is currently 63 feet. – Study session emailed notice

As summarized by the staff report, this Tuesday afternoon City Council will decide whether or not to expand the boulevard by that extra couple of feet. It is important that we take this step now rather than to lock in a future corridor too narrow for bicycle lanes. You can let City Council know that you support a wider boulevard.

Where Will the Additional Room for Boulevard Expansion Come From?

Why the change of heart? And where will this extra space come from? Let’s take a look at the situation.

The entirety of the North Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction project corridor stretches from Wilshire to Doheny, but the section we’re concerned about here stretches from Wilshire to Canon – about seven blocks where boulevard width is only 60.’ It is too narrow to fit four travel lanes plus a median and dual bicycle lanes. See this segment map:

Santa Monica Blvd project corridor map from Wilshire to Canon

Segment of Santa Monica Boulevard from Wilshire to Canon is only 60′ wide today. Expansion to 63′ is limited by the five garages (in yellow).

While councilmember Nancy Krasne long urged the city to look for space beyond the south curb, our consultant Psomas thought it impractical. Bicycle lane supporters seemed to agree.

Said Aaron Kunz, Deputy Director for Transportation, just an additional 2 feet 4 inches would allow for a 63′ wide roadway that “can accommodate 4’6″ bicycle lanes.” While state law requires five-foot bicycle lanes (a 4’6″ lane would be considered substandard), deviations are allowed with permission from the state DOT. How would it work in practice? We would put the bicycle lane up against five parking garages west of Canon.

Check out our animated graphic to see how a a bit of space might accommodate a bicycle lane:

Santa Monica Blvd bike lane illustrated

This animated image shows how additional space, recovered beyond the south-side curb and hard up against our traffic garages, might be able to accommodate bicycle lanes.

Placing a bicycle lane so close to the parking garages may not be ideal, but practically speaking this half-loaf of bread is better than having no bread at all. We will be in Council chambers this Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. to support the expansion of Santa Monica Boulevard to accommodate bicycle lanes. (Consult the agenda.)

But A Wide Boulevard Alone Won’t Ensure That We have Bicycle Lanes!

Even with the necessary width now available, safe passage along this key regional route depends on installing a bicycle lane too. This is a designated truck route, and multiple bus lines ply it daily. Not least, North Santa Monica accommodates an average 50,000 autos on any given weekday. It is critical that Santa Monica be reconstructed with bicycle lanes to ensure the safety of bicycle travelers on this busy corridor.

Yet bicycle lanes on Santa Monica is hardly a fait accomplis. City Council may well choose to expand the boulevard but instead of striping lanes the city may simply create extra-wide 15′ right-hand lanes. Make no mistake: this approach has nothing to do with rider safety but everything to do with getting riders out of the motorists’ way. That’s because under state law a ‘substandard’ width lane (accepted as less than 15′ wide) would allow riders to claim the entire right-hand lane. And that makes City Hall nervous for it may slow motor traffic.

What are the odds that Beverly Hills will put the brakes on bicycle lanes? We think the odds are good that the City Council will direct our consultants not to stripe bicycle lanes. After seeing the staff report for the Tuesday meeting we’re confident. Why? The report makes only one passing reference to bicycle lanes. And it adds a caveat: “if desired.” When 15′ lanes were last discussed back in January of 2014 during the Blue Ribbon Committee process, staff proposed that bicycle lanes be left out.

Why create the conditions for lanes but not stripe them? We heard no good argument to support the choice then, and it makes no sense now. According to federal transportation policy guidance, an extra-wide right lane without a separate bike facility is not safe and US DOT advises against it.

Visualizations of options from the staff reportSecond, the staff report talks a lot about design choices like medians and landscaping, but in illustrating the various options it never depicts a bicycle lane on the boulevard (at right). To put a fine point on it, one illustration depicts garage landscaping exactly where a bicycle lane would go.

One doesn’t need a crystal ball to foretell the future: City Council wants no bicycle lane on Santa Monica boulevard. Indeed we have no ‘complete streets’ principles or such language in any of our city plans. But If we don’t stripe bicycle lanes now, we surely won’t be striping them later – perhaps not for another decade or generation.

If you want to advocate for striping bicycle lanes as part of the reconstruction project you can join us this Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. for the City Council study session. Or contact City Council and make known your interest in safe streets in Beverly Hills.

What About Ensuring Rider Safety During Construction?

That is another reason to contact City Council: it should not turn its back on rider safety during the lengthy construction phase. Yet from the mitigation discussions to date in the Traffic and Parking Commission, which focused exclusively on resident inconvenience, it appears that in City Hall is not much concerned with riders.


State DOT is concerned, and it identifies “considerations in planning for bicyclists in temporary traffic control zones” in chapter 6 of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. These include:

  • A travel route that replicates the most desirable characteristics of a wide paved shoulder or bikeway through or around the TTC zone is desirable for bicyclists.
  • If the TTC zone interrupts the continuity of an existing bikeway system, signs directing bicyclists through or around the zone and back to the bikeway is desirable.
  • Unless a separate bike path through or around the TTC zone is provided, adequate roadway lane width to allow bicyclists and motor vehicles to travel side by side through or around the TTC zone is desirable. (6D.101CA Bicycle Considerations)
  • When the roadway width is inadequate for allowing bicyclists and motor vehicles to travel side by side, warning signs should be used to advise motorists of the presence of bicyclists in the travel way lanes.

We sent our own letter to the Traffic and Parking Commission to remind them. Have a look at this stretch of Santa Monica west of Wilshire (adjacent to the Waldorf Hotel construction site) to understand what it means to the rider navigating a construction zone. Motorists routinely travel this stretch at 50 mph yet there’s no opportunity for a rider to escape.

Santa Monica Blvd at the Waldorf construction site: no mitigation for riders!

Santa Monica Blvd at the Waldorf Hotel construction site: no mitigation for riders!

We’ve asked again and again since January: Can’t we at least see a single ‘may take full lane’ sign? But we’ve yet to receive a satisfactory answer from Aaron Kunz. “Our building department is evaluating your suggestions for bicycles during construction of the Waldorf,” he replied to our most recent query. “We’re also checking on applicable signage. Am hoping to get an update within the next couple of weeks.” That was the reply in January too!

With the mitigation discussion moving to City Council on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. in City Council study session, have a look at the staff report and come prepared to comment!

*Turns out that “one blade of grass” slogan from bicycle lane opponents rings hollow. Given the drought, Beverly Hills is taking unprecedented measures to reduce the irrigation burden, which will likely mean a trim to many blades of grass at Beverly Gardens Park. And how’s this for irony: members of the same “not one blade of grass” community north of the Boulevard signed onto a campaign to get the city to remove forty – forty! – mature ficus trees from park-adjacent Park Way. Why? “They drop berries,” said the homeowner leading the effort. And the city agreed to create a tree replacement plan to cull forty mature ficus trees!

[This post has been updated to include material from the just-released staff report.]

LA Sizzles But Beverly Hills Sees Scant Tech-Sector Interest

Beverly Hills iphone appFortune magazine has posted only the latest piece branding our region a SoCal version of Silicon Valley. Trading on the genuine article’s well-earned reputation for bootstrapped innovation, Fortune attempts to shine some of that new-economy spotlight on our own town. We call ourselves the ‘smart city,’ after all. City boosters never pass up an opportunity to tout our leadership on technology (and many other issues). But when it comes to the tech-sector, we just don’t have the buzz. Are we not as ‘smart’ as we think we are?

The Smart City?

Yes, we fancy ours the ‘smart city.’ We’ve got ‘flex-pay’ parking meters, online bill payment, ‘smart’ irrigation and even our own mobile apps like ‘Ask Bev,’ a “high-tech citizen request system.” City Council has implemented ‘smart traffic management’ too. But on the wish list remains ‘e-Gov’ (check out the program website!) and an expanded wireless network. It all comes under this umbrella:

Expand the use of technology to improve efficiency in all initiatives including communications infrastructure and safety programs. (Priorities 2011-12 & 2012-13)

Such so-called ‘smart city’ initiatives have been ongoing for nearly ten years, but have they delivered a smarter city? In the communications arena, the city has yet to lay broadband fiber, for example, and whatever our boast about e-Gov, we’re still in the last century when it comes to civic engagement. (Our conventional methods poorly applied tend to discourage it.)

What about ‘open data’ and the civic hacker initiatives we hear about? Beverly Hills makes virtually no data available (the new water tracker tool is an exception to the rule). Even our monthly BHPD data report to Traffic and Parking Commission runs a full month behind. In any case, the police department and our transportation planners perform zero analysis on crash injuries – a step that could help policymakers address unsafe intersections, say.

Beverly Hills vision statement: technology programs

Are we so known? Though we’d like to steal a bit of that tech-sector limelight, the reality is that innovation in the digital arena happens somewhere else. Fortune’s ‘Silicon Beach’ analogy may find footing in areas like Santa Monica, Venice and Playa, but it won’t reflect the reality here in Beverly Hills.

Indeed in our very limited tech community we count two heavies – Netflix and Relativity Media. But they are likely on their way out anyway: the former will move to Los Angeles, according to reports, and the latter just filed for bankruptcy. Will Beverly Hills be able to fill their spaces with other tech firms? Can we attract new startups to locate in Beverly Hills?

We’re not optimistic about Beverly Hills the ‘smart city.’ You see there is little here that would appeal to the tech-minded besides double-digit priced mansions. Through-and-through we’re a distinctly 20th century city. Consider our our auto-era mindset, for example, or our over-reliance on hospitality and tourism to pay the bills. Hotels practically control City Hall. In so many ways we’re not the forward-looking visionary city we think we are.

The Visionary City sloganThe Visionary City?

We like to talk about ‘vision’ here in Beverly Hills. But our vision is relatively short-sighted. We’ve not gazed to the horizon of possibilities but instead focused on what we can get done today, before the staffers head back to the suburbs. Let’s take a look at some ambitious initiatives that really didn’t meet the vision.

We’ll start with fiber. City Council has talked about bringing fiber broadband to the masses for years. Indeed it is all the rage because cities from Santa Monica to Chattanooga find some competitive advantage (lower costs, freedom from proprietary control) in providing municipally-owned broadband services.

But our city has taken no step toward fulfilling the promise of broadband via fiber. Even our brief flirtation with outsourcing fiber broadband to Google fizzled, leaving our ‘smart city’ committee wishing we could catch up to the likes of Chattanooga.

Google fiber announcement via In Focus March 2010While we gave up on fiber rollout, what about municipal Wifi? We have only a very limited public network according to the city’s map:

WiFi coverage map

The larger map shows the only hotspot in the hot South Beverly Drive area while the inset map shows hypothetical coverage, which should – but doesn’t – extend through the 200 block.

If there’s anything that today’s tech-minded folks for granted it is the omnipresence of WiFi. But Beverly Hills does not deliver on this crucial leading-edge pubic infrastructure. Our system hardly covers the entirety of the business triangle, much less service the commercial districts beyond. Even for these relatively few hotspots the connectivity isn’t very good. Let’s just say that our system is no threat to Time Warner.

What about E-Government? To civic engagement folks it’s a precondition for governing in the 21st century. But real ‘E-Gov’ (as we say) doesn’t play much of a role in governing in Beverly Hills. We’re an old-school institution that doesn’t even count online as a designated posting place for public meeting agendas. (Check the bulletin board at the library, staff say, when we point out that some or other meeting wasn’t even noticed on the city’s website.)

And the initiatives that we have put in place simply tinker at the margin. We’ve got the online bill pay, sure, and our ‘Government Efficiency 2.0’ effort “streamlines” development by allowing us to pull development permits remotely. But these are transactional tools. What about real public engagement?

Consider the city’s website. It should be our gateway to E-Government. But our site lags far behind other cities in design and functionality. (It was beyond its shelf-life even years ago when it was last upgraded.) Check out these nested menus!

Beverly Hills city website menus smallAnd while we hear about City Hall efforts like “electronic presentation of agenda materials,” the truth is that we still like our paper: just last month a city committee elected to keep receiving the thick paper packets. Moreover, the electronic agenda materials that are posted online are often PDFs scanned from paper documents anyway (rather than generated from native files) and they are sometimes are not searchable because there’s no OCR layer.

Other city efforts we see as distinctly small-ball too. Our so-called ‘smart traffic management’ scheme? Council priorities perfunctorily touch on “demand/flow models or other tools” but what does that mean in practice? Evidently not much: vehicular congestion is as bad as ever. Heck, the city has not even re-striped faded pavement markings, and those are the foundation of traffic control. When was the last time you saw a newly-repainted lane marker or crosswalk in Beverly Hills?

Beverly Hills website on iPhone

Talk about non-responsive web design!

Mobile is very hot these days, of course. Some cities use mobile apps to engage the citizenry and encourage participation. But the city falls short of a ‘smart city’ promise here too. Just have a look at the way the city’s website renders on a smartphone. #FAIL!

The city’s mobile apps are not much better. The explorer-type Mobile Beverly Hills app feels like a proof of concept: it is slow, buggy and the listings are incomplete (none of the city’s smaller parks are listed for example). It hasn’t made much progress since we first reviewed it in 2012. Some cities have found mobile apps to be a valuable means of helping people report problems (potholes, etc.) but our own Ask Bev Mobile requires password sign-in every time you open it. That discourages impulse reporting. Should I want to report a pothole, do I want to log in every time? And when I use the app without login, it’s not clear from the feedback that a case was even filed.

Smart iPhone App via In focus August 2010Like the city’s website, these apps are in need of user interface improvement, yet neither app has been updated in the past 18 months. So neither is tuned to take advantage of the newest iPhone operating system (iOS 8). But when these apps were announced by the city, boy, there was ‘smart city’ promise wafting through the air. Three years on it’s more of a dodgy scent!

What a Real ‘Smart City’ Should Do

We see thoughtful civic innovations like ‘open data‘ rolled out in other cities. We should copy their lead. Open data, a tech movement that has revolutionized the way some local governments keep the public informed, make public information more, well, public. Crime data helps everyone better understand the safety of the environment in which we live and work, for example. But it also informs City Hall by providing fodder for tinkerers who want to put the voluminous information we collect to use. Armchair analysts come up with new ways of looking at urban problems that were likely never envisioned by staffers.

Citizen analysts sift the policing data to examine the effectiveness of police resources management, for example; or use it to surface social factors that affect public safety. In that same vein we see ‘hackathons’ wherein open data evangelists come together to  incubate civic projects. City of Santa Monica does it:

From the event announcement:

You are invited to join us as we make available new real-time data for Big Blue Bus scheduling (GTFS-rt), real-time on-street and lot parking, Fire Department Calls for Service, and citywide water usage data. During the meetup, you will be provided with the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the City’s open data program, including providing input to help shape future events.

Why isn’t there a place for open data and hackathons in Beverly Hills? Well, for one thing our departments make very few datasets public. Maybe you want to use budget data to illustrate change in departments’ funding or staffing over time. How would you do it? Today you would scrape annual budget reports (PDFs) to get those numbers because the structured finance data isn’t available. Though we boast about our ‘transparent’ budgeting process, the city has never even posted its final FY 2014-15 operations budget, so you’d have to request it.

The data that we’d most like a crack at working with is BHPD crash data. As Beverly Hills-based bike advocate, Better Bike would map bike-related injuries and analyze the factors that contributed to them. But the police won’t release collision information to the public; they also claim there’s no automated way to even search it by criterion.

The police department does tally crash injuries monthly for our Traffic and Parking Commission, but city analysts don’t chart the data so policymakers have no idea how injury rates are trending.

Turns out they’re trending mostly upward. We scraped the data from seven years of department reports and plugged them into a spreadsheet. And we found pretty much zero progress over time in reducing the number of crash injuries. Worse, bike injuries, in fact, are way up since 2008. We presented these general findings to our Traffic and Parking commissioners (who likely had no idea about those trends) and received a polite ‘thank you’ but no follow up for our charts. Imagine what we could do with data on crash locations!

Beverly Hills Water Tracker

The city’s water tracker is fine for checking your own wastage, but not much help in shaming your neighbors.

But wait, there’s more we would like to do. We want to take a crack at displaying water consumption data by household to map the biggest water wasters. We would also assess its consumption pattern over time. But Beverly Hills City Hall isn’t interested in these measures. For good reason, the data searched through the ‘water tracker’ tool is available only to an account holder. So there is no bigger picture of consumption that any of us can piece together.

If we’d had that data years ago we could have charted the trends to guess how little progress the city would make on conservation. And maybe saved the effort of regular exhortations and instead moved right to sanctions.

City of Santa Monica is making their water usage data open and available to the public for civic hackers and whomever. Why not Beverly Hills?

Will We Ever Become a Technophile’s City?

Few startups will form here and few established firms will see an incentive to relocate if they don’t regard Beverly Hills as leading-edge or even competitive with other areas in the realm of technology and innovation. Just check out Fortune’s ‘Technologist’s Guide‘ map. We see branch offices of the best-known technology firms – Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter, and Facebook – and high-flying app-makers like Snapchat, Tinder and even Whisper. Where is Beverly Hills represented here?

Fortune Magazine's technology map

Fortune Magazine maps plenty of tech action, but none of it is happening in Beverly Hills.

Of course it’s not. We have no major tech firms here except an outlier: a small frontier outpost of YouTube. We’d like some of that tech gloss to be sure, but let’s face that we’re just not that hip to tech folks. We’re so ‘old economy,’ in fact, that our budget is practically shackled to industries like retailing, hospitality, and medical, law and finance. Tourism and commerce run this city.

Even if we don’t suck in the smarts, boy do we attract the capital! Fortune notes that Beverly Hills is a bedroom community of choice for the richest of the ‘Silicon’ elite. Jeff Bezos paid $24 million for his home here. Minecraft’s founder bought a $70 million spread. Irrational exuberance has evidently been great for our real estate sellers and city coffers, but we aren’t seeing the trickle-down in tech jobs and knowledge workers. Capital just doesn’t lend the same glow as a critical mass of technologists. It smells alright, but it doesn’t have the same luster.

Will Beverly Hills bask in the glow of the tech economy? Or are we consigned to be the bedroom community for elite who prefer to work in Santa Monica and Los Angeles? Those cities are investing in broadband fiber and WiFi networks as well as life-enhancing safe-streets and alternative modes of transportation because it appeals to today’s techies. Will we ever roll out those innovations here? Bike lanes and the like?

That’s the only way we’ll drag our city into the 21st century. Living up to our self-assigned reputation will take a much more visionary City Council than we have today.


Tracking Hazards and Collisions: Maps and More Maps!

Bikeside bike map overviewThe infamous ‘mashup’ that plotted Bay Area rental apartments on a Google map a decade ago was just the beginning. Within reach of every armchair cartographer today is city data and the tools (like Google fusion tables) to bring complex datasets to life. We riders are among the beneficiaries! Because some smart folks have shown some ingenuity to map road hazards and crashes. Let’s take a look at some of the maps.

First let’s think about the importance of recording the collision. Jot details down at the scene before you forget them. Local bike attorneys sometimes provide branded pocket forms that remind us what needs to be noted; these cards prompt you to simply fill in the blanks. However you note them, details help you inform a crash official report (if taken) and later can provide an attorney with valuable information. The smartphone camera, a pen & paper may make the difference between bearing uncompensated property or injury losses and compensated damages. Remember: it’s all about documenting fault.

Santa Monica Boulevard hazards

Pavement heaves and moguls are obscured by shadow and sometimes camouflaged by debris because the city never sweeps this segment of Santa Monica Boulevard.

This is doubly important when it comes to a solo crash owing to unsafe street conditions. It it critical that you document the scene and any particulars should your attorney later want to approach the locality with a claim. Imagine you’re riding this hazardous stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard – which our city does absolutely nothing to repair – and you take a spill. Document it!

Then get the word out that there’s an unsafe road hazard or a dangerous intersection. And that’s where online interactive bikemaps come in!

Interactive Maps that Display Fixed Data

Boston Cyclists Union bikemap overview

Mapping was once reserved strictly for professional mapmakers with access to GIS. But with public crash data widely available (here via SWITRS database for example), we can use online tools to display sortable & searchable crash incidents.

A slew of maps have been produced. The Boston Cyclists Union has mapped incidents as reported by EMTs (right) while cyclist and planner Steven Vance has been plugging City of Chicago data into his own interactive map (designed by Derek Elder). These advocate-generated maps wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.

Jackson Heights crash hotspot map detailThe advantage to mapping crashes is that we gain an overview not only of the magnitude of the safety threat on today’s roads, but real insight into the particulars of the crash. New York’s Crashmapper well-illustrates the magnitude of the danger by showing a ‘heatmap‘ of crashes through which we can drill down to unearth the crash data for a given location. So not only do we see how widespread are bike crashes across the city, but we can see how repeated crashes reflect a danger hotspot. Check out the crash heatmap (above right) of a largely-immigrant and bike-dependent neighborhood around Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens, for example.

Transportation Alternatives CrashStat bikemap overview

As for crash particulars, one of the better examples of filtering comes via NYC’s Transportation Alternatives CrashStat map (at left). The CrashStat map likely takes its name from the CompStat system used by the NYPD to track crimes citywide. So maybe it’s no surprise that this is a power tool for crash data.

Using incident filters we can view a variety of crashes by condition. In a city where 200,000+ pedestrians and bicyclists are injured every year, and over 2,000 deaths are recorded in the fifteen years of displayed data, the CrashStat map becomes a crucial tool for both advocates and everyday riders searching for a safe route.

The project is notable for its funding model: a grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration helped to put this valuable tool online.

Interactive Maps that Log New Incidents

Another species of crashmap not only displays official data but allows riders to post their own crash experiences. Take the example from local transportation advocate Bikeside. It has created an LA Bike Map (pictured at the top) to both display reported hazards and to collect new incidents. As for display, the map not only gives a geographical overview of collisions and other hazards, but goes father than some maps by including bike thefts. And reporting a collision is as simple as using the report form.

Likewise, other cities have the benefit of similar mapping & reporting tools. New Orleans bike advocates, for example, have produced the Bike Easy interactive map.

But unlike other interactive maps, the LA Bike Map allows for viewing posted police reports (where uploaded) via the incident inspector. And for advocates who might want to view crashes in the aggregate, we can view incidents as a list report. If we have a hazard or collision to add, we can use the Bike Map’s It’s a valuable tool for our Los Angeles-area bike community.

Lastly, even the media is on this bandwagon. The Bay Area’s Bay Citizen won an award for producing an interactive map that lets the viewer dice and slice five years of data by violation type and by fault (with an added bonus of toggling the hotspots). The Bay Citizen bikemap also includes a crash report feature. Interestingly this interactive map is not advocate-generated but media-generated – anticipating the move of newspapers and online news organizations into the storytelling-with-data space.

What these maps have in common is reach out to respond to the need to inform the public – and policymakers – about just how widespread are bike crashes with their related injuries and occasionally deaths.

Are You a ‘Team Player’? Traffic Commission Has Two Vacancies

TPC-openingDo you savor cracking down on tour buses in Beverly Hills? Can you see yourself jawboning about handicapped placard abuse year-after-year? Do you thirst for control over parking valets? Do you relish the chance to break the chops of our taxi franchisees?  Then does the city have an opportunity for you! The Traffic and Parking Commission has a couple of open chairs just begging to be warmed. You could be the lucky next commissioner!

The Traffic and Parking Commission “shall act as an advisory agency to the council in all matters which relate to parking and traffic,” says the municipal code. Its remit includes to “advise and counsel as to ways and means to improve general traffic conditions” and prepare “a comprehensive long range plan relating to transportation, traffic, and off street and on street parking in the city.” The traffic and parking commission also approves the installation or removal of stop signs, the code adds.

And boy can Beverly Hills use the commission’s counsel! Congestion is legion; our own plans even call for encouraging other modes of transportation to reduce it. We have problem intersections like Olympic & Beverly and  Santa Monica & Wilshire that are seemingly designed to cause crashes. And not surprisingly, Beverly Hills sees more collision injuries than most every other small city in California.

As a commissioner you will be one of only five city commissioners who will receive a police stats report showing the number of crash injuries and traffic citations written every month. You’ll question the department and transportation staff and make motions and vote on policies that can make a difference where safety is concerned.

You will have a lot of company should you take an inordinate interest in regulating tour bus activity. That’s a perennial favorite because tour buses ply the northside residential streets that celebrities and City Council call home. You’ll find fellow inquisitors who, like you, are interested to know whether one or other restaurant has sufficient valet staffing. And by gosh if parking permits are your thing, you’ll find the commission the perfect home for your regulatory zeal.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that you, an engaged and enthusiastic new commissioner, will sit aside four commissioners who generally don’t question the police data and whatever they may suggest about the city’s concern for safe streets. Take up that discussion and your performance will be a monologue. And don’t count on digging in too deep that “a comprehensive long range” transportation plan as promised by the municipal code. Outside of the periodic updates to our circulation element as required by state law, we don’t do much so-called advance planning when it comes to mobility.

But hey, the city’s not asking much from you as the successful candidate need bring no particular experience or knowledge to the task. If the last round of commission applicants is any indication, you need not even ever have attended a commission meeting. Just attend one before you take your seat; the learning curve isn’t too intimidating.

But you are a team player, right? As in Team Beverly Hills? According to the ‘How to Become a Commissioner’ webpage, “City Council recommends individuals interested in serving on a City commission first participate in the Team Beverly Hills Residential Educational Program to become acquainted with the City operations.”

You can read between the lines here: fancy yourself a critic of Beverly Hills City Hall policies? No need to apply. Instead you’ll enjoy a couple of minutes at the mic at the beginning of the commission’s meeting for your public comment. That’s the first Thursday of every month at 9:30 a.m.

Our 1977 Bicycle Master Plan: Will It Ever Be Updated?

Bicycle-Master-Plan-coverWhile we wait for word about North Santa Monica Boulevard bicycle lanes, we’re wondering if there’s any effort to make Beverly Hills as a whole more bike-friendly. One sensible first step is to update our 1970s-era Bicycle Master Plan. It needs a refresher. And since the 2010 General Plan process left that bike plan behind, City Hall has talked about revisiting it. Yet we’ve seen no action. Before we embark on bike-share or install bike lanes, why don’t we properly plan for citywide bike routes like it says in that old plan?

The city knows that our Bicycle Master Plan is out-of-date. It dates from the great bicycle renaissance of the 1970s. Despite the four decades that have passed, it says all the right things about making our community bike-friendly: we should connecting the parks to neighborhoods and make sure that kids can bike to school. It proposed a citywide bike route network to integrate cycling into the city’s transportation system. It’s a great foundation to build upon.

Nearly five years ago, the city’s Traffic and Parking Commission created the ‘bicycle ad hoc committee‘ to begin that update. The committee was to collect material, meet with the community, and make recommendations to the commission. But aside from a few early meetings (in 2010-2011) there’s been precious little action on that update, and little has been heard from the committee otherwise over the past couple of years.

So we visited the Traffic and Parking Commission’s website to check on the plan update and to learn more about the committee’s work to make cycling safe in Beverly Hills. Spoiler alert: the committee, and this commission generally, is not doing very much to make cycling more safe.

For one thing, the content on the committee’s webpage is stale and insubstantial. The most recent posted documents date back to 2013. Likewise the referenced City Council priorities date to the 2013-14 fiscal year (which closed last June).

In the continued effort to meet the FY12/13 and FY13/14 City Council Priorities for a Citywide Bike Plan, in November 2012 the Beverly Hills City Council approved the development and implementation of pilot bikeways on Burton Way and North Crescent Drive, and a bicycle rack program.

The pilot bikeways referenced on the ad-hoc committee’s webpage were installed back in 2013. As for more recent developments, there is no mention of the ongoing discussion about North Santa Monica Boulevard bicycle lanes. The page is silent on the city’s study of a bike-share system too. The webpage seems not to have been updated in more than a year. Stale!

As for substance, the page doesn’t note the changed roster of ad-hoc committee members. All three members then serving on the committee (in 2013) are no longer Traffic and Parking commissioners. Which is unfortunate, because two of them – Alan Grushcow, Chair of the ad-hoc, and Jeffrey Levine – were responsive to riders’ concerns where the entire commission isn’t. Even worse, this past January Alan Grushcow passed away,  but he is still listed as the committee’s leader.

Ad-hoc webpage screenshotThe remainder of the webpage serves as the city’s bicycle rack program request form (where one can request that a free rack be installed at a sidewalk location like in front of a shop, say). The form duplicates material on the Transportation Division’s ‘bicycles’ webpage.

Changed Priorities, Missed Opportunities

With an update of that 1977 Bicycle Master Plan, our city would have an opportunity to rethink how we want to move ourselves around Beverly Hills in the future. Our Sustainable City Plan (2009) tells us to bicycle more and drive less, for example, in order to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Our General Plan’s circulation element (2010) envisions ‘multimodal mobility’ for tomorrow’s Beverly Hills. But there the progress stops, short of an update of that old bike plan.

If we were to take a cue from the 1977 plan, we’d think about a citywide bike route network to safely connect neighborhoods, parks and schools. Here’s how extensive that proposed network was (or ‘is’ because the plan is technically in force):

1977 bicycle master plan map with parks

There are many good suggestions in that plan that can be simply carried over into a new bike plan. Like a southside crosstown bike route on Gregory Way, for example. That’s pictured on the map above. When City Council considered nearby Charleville for the route it was rejected as a nonstarter. Yet the need for crosstown travel between parks and our high school keeps the old bike plan’s vision relevant 35 years later.

Perhaps it’s the City Council that needs to re-think its vision. Turns out that changed City Council priorities will keep the 1977 Bicycle Master Plan from getting the facelift it so desperately needs. Back in 2013 Council identified as a B-level priority the creation of a new bike plan.

City Council Priorities 2013-14 excerptThe next year Council had other concerns, however. The firm commitment to a new plan was degraded into vague language about “acceptable enhancements.”

City Council Priorities 2014-15 excerptWe presume that means politically-acceptable enhancements. Whatever the intent, the term “enhancements” itself is puzzling because there’s not much implemented to actually ‘enhance.’ Does it mean additional identified bike routes; marked bike lanes or sharrows;  safety signage; or new policies to promote multimodal mobility? What about an updated and more informative website at least? These are opportunity areas for City Council if it made safer streets for cycling a priority.

The good news is that we sometimes hear councilmembers say they support cycling. our Mayor Bosse hails progress-to-date. A few on Council even seem open to including a bicycle lane on tomorrow’s North Santa Monica Boulevard. And we’re expecting a feasibility study for bike-share this spring.

The not so good news is that stalled progress on the 1977 bike plan update doesn’t suggest any real commitment to bike safety in Beverly Hills. And the downgraded B-priority for bike planning generally only formalizes that lack of resolve.

We can’t say it’s not for lack of awareness. We’ve attended many City Council and Traffic and Parking Commission meetings to highlight the language in our own plans to campaign for safer streets. We even spoke up at the latest priorities meeting last fall to advocate for this plan update. But progress comes slow to Beverly Hills (when it comes at all) and if it never arrives, we can likely trace it not to the language in our plans or the words emanating from the Council dais, but to the shortage of political will to do the hard work of making streets safe to ride.

News Flash! City Council Keeps Bike Lanes on the Table

Greenway organizers at City Council

Co-organizers (L-R) Kory Klem, LACBC’s Eric Bruins, Better Bike’s Mark Elliot and Rich Hirschinger in Council chambers.

Bike lanes are still on the table for North Santa Monica Boulevard, according to City Council. Just before Council sent the $24M reconstruction project on to the design phase, councilmembers heard from no less than 33 bike lane supporters that this multimodal mobility opportunity is too important to squander. Safety for those who choose to ride a bicycle is too important to sacrifice, we said, particularly on the symbolic “not one blade of grass” argument heretofore made by lane opponents.

We presented our last-minute compromise proposal called the Beverly Hills Greenway and a veritable parade of 33 speakers supporting bicycle lanes followed on. In fact, Councilmembers effectively cleared the rest of the afternoon’s agenda to talk about the agenda item – construction mitigation – but with a healthy dose of discussion about how we could eek out another half-foot (or more) out of this relatively narrow corridor to fit bike lanes. (Talk about safe mobility consumed three-quarters of the meeting if not more.)

In the Council discussion (read the staff report that preceded the meeting) we saw hardened positions soften a little and a metaphorical space was found to talk about the prospect of lanes. And if ambiguity about the ultimate outcomes remains as councilmembers discuss design over the coming months, we believe that progressive mobility solutions can happen in Beverly Hills. As the Mayor said, “We can get there – we can find a way.” And we’re prepared to work with the city to make that happen.

Beverly Hills Greenway profile

Our proposal: The Beverly Hills Greenway. We can have bicycle lanes yet lose no green space!

Make no mistake, the clear winner today was street safety. But we are all victors too in a sense: the quality of the public process today reflected the best City Hall has to offer.

We want to thank our fellow advocates and lane supporters of all stripes who worked together to bring this Greenway proposal to Council: Drew Baldwin, Eric Bruins, Kevin Burton, Ron Finley, Mahala Helfman, Rich Hirschinger, Sharon Ignarro, Lou Ignarro, Lou Karlin, Kory Klem, Tish Laemmle, Greg Laemmle, Barbara Linder, Ellen Lutwak, Taylor Nichols, Alison Regan, Richard Risemberg, Danielle Salomon, Samuel Spencer, and Eric Weinstein.

We also want to thank those who took their time today to persuade City Council to keep this option on the table. In addition to the above, they include Susan Eisenberg, Jay Slater, Bruce Phillips, Susan Gans, Josh Padget, Marisa Schneiderman, Jim Pocras, Zachary Rynew, Kevin Winston, Paul Hekimian, Josh Kurpies, David Eichman, Jeff Jacobberger, Jon Weiss, Mel Raab, Kate Rubin, Jerry Sue Ginger, Nina Salomon, and Jennifer Wright.

We also want to thank institutional supporters Assemblyman Richard Bloom, the City Council from the City of West Hollywood, Mid City West Community Council, Finish the Ride, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and others. And a special thanks to Blue Ribbon Chair Dr. Barry Pressman, who listened to reasoned argument when few did and came to be a key boulevard bike lanes advocate.

Photo: KristaNicole Carlson

Photo: KristaNicole Carlson

Passing Safely: It’s the Law!

Give Me Three poster

California’s Three Feet for Safety Act went into effect in September. For the first time a law codifies what ‘safe passing’ means for those who ride a bicycle: drivers now must allow a minimum of three feet when passing a rider (or else slow to a “reasonable or prudent” speed when passing. [FAQ] While disregarding it may incur only a $35 fine, should an injury crash result then the penalty jumps to $220. If sanctions are rare, this law is at least proving its value in one key arena: it sets a standard for local governments when they build new roads. Here in Beverly Hills we’ve seen the new law, AB-1371 Three Feet for Safety Act (Bradford, D-62), invoked long … Continue reading



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.

Are Fading Beverly Hills Bike Facilities a Metaphor?

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 … Continue reading

CicLaVia Returns Sunday, October 5th

Ciclavia 2014-10-5 map small

The vaunted closed-street bike parade known as CicLAvia returns to Los Angeles city streets this Sunday with a ride from Echo Park though Downtown and into East Los Angeles. This exciting route not only offers a window onto our region’s complex urban fabric; it also bids Westside riders to explore areas to the east which we are less likely to seek out. We’ll be there on Sunday and may even catch a feeder ride to Echo Park. Join us! What Is CicLAvia? What needs to be said about our region’s foremost celebration of the street as a public space? This Sunday morning, feel-good shutdown of traffic that otherwise rules is not only an opportunity to see our region from a … Continue reading