Venerable podcast Bike Talk recently rebroadcast an interview with City of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. Hear him enumerate his bike priorities and let’s hold him to implementing his good ideas now that he’s executive-in-chief. Then check out the rest of the Bike Talk archive. We ask City Manager Jeff Kolin: Why can’t Beverly Hills do ‘bike-friendly’ too?
Reminder: join us at the Beverly Hills Chamber tomorrow 8/21 at 8am for a discussion about Santa Monica Boulevard bike lanes. Your chance to talk directly to lane opponents and tell them why they’re wrong.
Recently we spoke with Aaron Kunz, Deputy Director for Transportation, about Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction and what to next expect in the process. Recall that back in March, the Council majority seemed unwilling to concede an extra foot of width to accommodate them. But the ballooning cost estimate stalled the project, and the Council deferred action pending more information about costs and traffic mitigation.
Santa Monica Boulevard: Quick Recap of the Timeline
The reconstruction of Santa Monica Boulevard has proved to be a much greater challenge than expected when the project was put on the city’s agenda in September of 2010. Back then, construction was anticipated to begin mid-2013. But that timeline began to slide in early 2012 when, prior to distribution, the draft project RFP was referred back to staff because it specified no ‘complete streets’ measures as part of the project.
(The inclusion of complete streets principles is entirely discretionary, yet, as we recommended to the city, would be forward-looking. In 2009, a new state law directed localities to include complete streets principles in plans and policies by 2011. The intent was to ensure that making streets ‘complete’ or safe for all users would guide local transportation planning and infrastructure construction. But Beverly Hills got under the wire with a general plan update in 2010, and of course our city has passed no local complete streets ordinance to mandate such safety measures.)
As a result of our own inattention, complete streets treatments (like continental crosswalks and traffic calming measures such as curb extensions) are rare in Beverly Hills anywhere outside of the polished diamond of the business triangle.
When the draft RFP came up for Council review, then-Mayor John Mirisch argued that complete streets principles should frame expectations for this key transportation project and Council agreed. But even with that revised RFP, the project contract wasn’t signed until a full year later.
What should tomorrow’s corridor look like? City Council in the fall of 2013 appointed a Blue Ribbon Committee to consider conceptual design options. The committee’s work concluded in January of 2014. Between the Blue Ribbon and City Council meeting in March of this year, over 200 members of the public commented in support of bicycle lanes…public input which the Council majority seemingly opposed to lanes simply waved away. Since then, the entire project has been (figuratively) parked.
While city staff & consultants prepare traffic mitigation options and revised cost estimates, Council is pondering the politics of boulevard widening and the prudence of dual-phasing the project with the western segment coming later. As we earlier observed, the problem for riders is that the lanes option could slip away unless we keep our focus on the project as a larger piece of the regional bicycle backbone network (right); and that much-needed safety improvements to the Santa Monica-Wilshire intersection may be deferred indefinitely.
On September 23rd the project comes back to City Council. Will Council then address the bicycle lanes question? Aaron Kunz from Beverly Hills was not committal; he described the agenda item it as more of a discussion about cost and traffic mitigation. But the traffic mitigation issue is directly related to the bicycle lanes question: if Council decides to unduly limit the width of tomorrow’s boulevard (to 63 feet or less, for example) it will forever preclude bicycle lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard.
In effect, Council could decide the lanes question simply by choosing a specific mitigation option that boxes out the possibility, without ever directly addressing the merits of a bicycle lane.
We’ll know more about the contours of the Council’s discussion when the staff report is released the Friday before.
Before that Council meeting, however, the Beverly Hills Chamber has scheduled an August 21st government affairs committee meeting to discuss the bike lanes option. As presented in the announcement, the Chamber will receive pro & con positions on the lanes, with high-profile NIMBYs like Robert and Bob Tanenbaum and Thomas White speaking out against them. You are urged to attend. More information can be found in our earlier post.
Don’t you can email members of City Council to remind them that you ride in and around Beverly Hills and that safe passage along this corridor is not discretionary – it is an obligation for the city to provide. Use our handy contacts cheat sheet and remind city officials that bike riders matter too.
This next iteration in the popular LA closed-streets mobility festival returns to Downtown Los Angeles on October 5th with a new route spur deep into the Eastside, for the first time reaching East Los Angeles. Mark your calendar to join the greatest bike fest on the west coast!
Just weeks after new Courier owner Paula Kent Meehan took control, she died at age 73. A loss for philanthropy in Beverly Hills, yes, and also a missed opportunity. In which direction would she have taken the paper? At this pivotal moment we offer a suggestion in our letter to publisher Marcia Hobbs.
THIS SUNDAY join the LACBC for a fun-for-all River Ride! Thrill to twists and turns along the LA River on a 100, 70, 50, 36-mile (and more) leg-stretcher from Griffith Park. Enjoy short detours though historic near-downtown industrial cities and a wrap-up fest at the Autry. A great way to support our county’s only pro-bike coalition!
City of Beverly Hills can take many steps to encourage safe cycling, but no step would be as formative as making sure our school district plans for safe cycling align with our city’s vision for multimodal mobility. Today our school campuses are hardly bike-friendly: only a few K-8 plants include a bicycle rack, and our high school (right) is a worst-practice example in how to discourage riding to school. But City Council could leverage our joint-powers agreement with BHUSD to ensure that the school board makes campuses much more bike-friendly. As we’ve said before, the schools might just be the best opportunity to get folks riding. In the face of policymaker indifference to a citywide bike network, and outright hostility to … Continue reading
We’re looking back at Beverly Hills Traffic and Parking Commission meetings over the past year and finding not much concern at all for street safety. Plenty of concern about tour buses and commissioners’ pet peeves, however.
Nice little animated infographic depicting the eight best cities for cycling. We’d love to see this elaborated to show the changes in infrastructure over time that positions these cities for goodness today.
If you want to be a Beverly Hills ‘team player’ and forget about making change from outside City Hall, sign up for Team Beverly Hills. You’ll glad-hand officials and stand in the queue for work on one our less-important commissions. Or just call yourself a Team BH alum!