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.

A more detailed update will follow shortly, but let’s get to the good news straight away: 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.

What happened in today’s study session? Council listened…and listened. And then listened some more as 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 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 posterCalifornia’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 before it even took effect. The Blue Ribbon Committee that reviewed design concepts for the Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction project recommended a wider corridor and striped bike lanes precisely because the new law’s safe standard of   3-feet could allow riders to slow motor traffic. (We recommended a wide boulevard and bike lanes for safety too.)

Existing law also required drivers to take due care when passing, of course. Prior to the Three Feet for Safety Act the state’s vehicle code described ‘safe passing’ this way:

The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle or a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle…. (Sec. 21750)

While the law didn’t identify a ‘safe passing’ distance, drivers were obligated to pass with some margin for rider safety. But the lack of a ‘safe passing’ standard made it difficult to enforce the law. And how often did drivers actually take the care necessary to pass safely? Not often enough. When we leave ‘safe distance’ to the judgement of a driver piloting a big steel box from the left-hand side as he hurtles down the road at speed, there will be close calls and, no surprise, many would-be riders are frightened of sharing the road with drivers.

(Keep in mind, however, that the law allowed, and still does allow, riders to use the entire lane if it’s too narrow to share with larger vehicles. Read more about your rights under the state law and local ordinances.)

Revision of the vehicular code to set a ‘safe passing’ standard was long overdue. Consider that only a few paragraphs after Section 21750 we see this passage that calls for a higher degree of care when passing livestock:

The driver of any vehicle approaching any horse drawn vehicle, any ridden animal, or any livestock shall exercise proper control of his vehicle and shall reduce speed or stop as may appear necessary or as may be signaled or otherwise requested by any person driving, riding or in charge of the animal or livestock in order to avoid frightening and to safeguard the animal or livestock and to insure the safety of any person driving or riding the animal or in charge of the livestock. (Sec. 21759)

It will come as no surprise to any of us who ride in Los Angeles that a farm animal is probably safer on a city street than is a cyclist. (We’re animal lovers, but we think that parity at a minimum is appropriate.)

The new law also implicitly acknowledges that disproportionate harm is suffered by those who bike: riders are injured in collisions at a disproportionately higher rate than are motorists considering the relatively small number of riders on the road. But still this law was no slam-dunk for the Governor: two bills prior to AB-1371 died with a stroke of Jerry Brown’s veto pen despite relentless advocacy for the safe-passing standard by the California Bicycle Coalition. (This year, Brown vetoed a raft of hit-and-run laws he didn’t like.)

How Three Feet Affects (or Doesn’t Affect) Transportation Planning in Beverly Hills

The Blue Ribbon committee back in January heard that the new law provided a means by which riders could claim that 3′ of blacktop in order to pass safely, and committee members feared that riders in the travel lane would slow traffic inordinately. So the committee recommended a wider boulevard and the striping of lanes.

More recently, in December, Beverly Hills transportation staff presented a new set of concept options for tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard. And the staff report included a cursory supplementary analysis in light of the Three Feet for Safety Act. And what it found was that a boulevard less than 63′ would pinch the #2 lane to make safe passing impracticable. For example, maintaining a 60-ft width would allow only 8′ to pass, according to this city diagram:

Though the city wants to keep the narrow section of the boulevard at 60 feet, it acknowledges that even restriping the section wouldn't offer riders safe passage in both directions (per the state's 3 foot passing law).

Though the city wants to keep the narrow section of the boulevard at 60 feet, it acknowledges that even restriping the section wouldn’t offer riders safe passage in both directions (per the state’s 3 foot passing law).

By contrast, a 63-feet wide blacktop would provide sufficient room for motorists to safely pass a cyclist in the #2 lane, which we feel is demanded on a busy regional corridor that serves 50,000 vehicles a day. That’s why the Blue Ribbon had earlier recommended an even wider, 66-ft wide boulevard with striped lanes: that’s what’s necessary to maximize safety, it agreed by a wide margin, and nearly 200 road users who commented agreed.

Even our staff, led by Susan Healey Keene, Director of the Community Development Department (which has responsibility for transportation planning) agreed – and recommended the wider boulevard (albeit without striping lanes).

So why would our transportation staff now now recommend constructing this key regional corridor at only 60-ft, rider safety be damned? Simply because it’s more politically palatable to our City Council.  (Stay tuned: a final decision on boulevard width will come on January 6th.)

No Net Loss Proposal: 62-Feet Allows Bicycle Lanes

We need not sacrifice rider safety on the altar of political expedience. A proposal to standardize (or rationalize) the entire boulevard at 62-ft with narrower lanes and striped bicycle lanes will be soon be presented to Council. As a bonus, those narrower travel lanes will slow traffic too. Win-win! We’ll discuss this proposal at a Monday (12/22) meeting at 7pm in the south meeting room of Beverly Hills Public Library (444 N. Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills).

Santa Monica restriped at 62 feet

Santa Monica at 62 feet restriped for bicycle lanes is possible!

The Three Feet for Safety Act provides street safety advocates with leverage we didn’t have prior. Before AB-1371, ‘safe passing’ was not defined; now it is defined as a three feet buffer around the rider. Transportation planners must take the new standard into account when, say, planning new roads or reconstructing existing ones (like Santa Monica). The law demands that rider safety be put on par with concerns like traffic throughput.

Beverly Hills will not have heard that message if City Council decides to construct Santa Monica Boulevard to a 20th century standard. At 60′ our segment of the boulevard will be too narrow to ever include bicycle lanes. Then we’ll not only have the impediment to traffic flow that Blue Ribbon committee members had feared; we’ll have a standing example of how our city, faced with the task of accommodating to new modes of mobility, simply disregarded our own plans and stuck our heads in the sand despite knowing better.Give-me-three Logo

LOL

Aside

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?

Approved Pilot program bike routes map

The pilot program as approved by City Council: just two routes out of five under consideration.

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 of two-wheeled road users in Beverly Hills as revealed by councilmembers this past summer? In short, are these pilot improvements a metaphor for the slippage of bike improvements from a Council ‘B’ priority to off the agenda entirely?

Consider the bicycle lanes installed on several block segments of Burton Way. They were striped with ordinary paint. As a result, the pilot program bicycle lanes have faded – really faded – to the point of disappearing before our eyes.

Beverly Hills and Los Angeles bike lane striping on Burton Way

Witness the difference between the faded bicycle lanes on Burton Way in Beverly Hills (left) and the markings on that same corridor in adjacent Los Angeles (right).

Faded crosswalk at Wilshire & Santa Monica South

Pity the poor pedestrians who cross every day at this major juncture of Wilshire & Santa Monica Boulevard South!

Yet the city appears to have no appetite to restripe them. And to be fair, it’s a citywide problem: many of our crosswalks have faded to the point of putting pedestrians in danger. They take on a ghostly quality, which is surely not appropriate for a traffic control device. So you see it’s not just cyclists that get the back of the hand. That’s why Beverly Hills leads small cities in California in pedestrian collision injuries.

Will our bike lanes be restored to their original luster? Our deputy director for transportation was non-committal when asked. (Stay tuned for an update as we have another query into the division.)

Another problem area with regard to the pilot program is the sharrows implementation on Crescent Drive (below Santa Monica Boulevard North). Heading northbound on Crescent approaching Brighton Way, the sharrow is correctly positioned in the right lane. North of Brighton approaching Santa Monica South, however, the sharrow has been relocated to the #2 lane adjacent to the double-yellow. That puts passing motor traffic to the right of the rider crossing over the next intersection. But then north of the Santa Monica South intersection the sharrow again shifts back to the right lane, forcing a rider merge with that passing traffic.

Sharrow placement on Crescent Drive infographicAdd to the obvious safety implications the fact that passing traffic has an incentive to speed along this segment in order to make both the Santa Monica South and Santa Monica North green lights and you have a recipe for serious rider injury.

This was brought to the attention of Aaron Kunz, Deputy Director for Transportation, in early August. Of course transportation staff should have recognized the problem; for many months these sharrows have been misaligned But neither the plain evidence or even our communication has made the slightest bit of difference: riders still navigate this hazard as city hall takes no action to correct it.

City Hall: No Passion for Action on Road Safety

This pilot program in our opinion was too little, too late anyway. It was not intended to be much more than a gesture toward a bike-friendly claim. Indeed it doesn’t bolster our confidence that councilmember Julian Gold has appeared anxious for this pilot program – by definition it’s not permanent – to come back before Council for reevaluation. But to approve it and then wholly neglect to maintain it? That’s spitting into the eye of every rider who would follow our own city plans’ advice to opt whenever possible for bicycle travel over auto travel. You know – to reduce auto congestion and emissions!

Santa Monica's thermoplast bicycle lane markings

City of Santa Monica not only embraces thermoplast but pays more for pre-templated bike lane markings.

Thankfully we do have better examples on offer in neighboring cities. Both Santa Monica and City of Los Angeles, for example, are rolling out bike facilities citywide. They’re installed to be permanent – not as part of a pilot – and they’re installed according to Caltrans requirements. Moreover, these cities use thermoplastic, not regular paint, to ensure that such state-approved traffic safety measures stick around for more than a year. Santa Monica goes one better: new bike lanes there are high-visibility and some of them even buffered from adjacent motor traffic.

Calling ourselves bike-friendly and making Beverly Hills streets safe and welcoming to cyclists are not the same thing. We find the faded lanes and misplaced sharrows on Burton and Crescent to be an apt metaphor for city hall’s fading concern for rider safety as well as the future of the pilot program.

So often in Beverly Hills we like to talk the talk because it’s easy and cost-free.  But we prefer not to actually walk the walk because it’s harder and it costs money. Other cities make the investment in facilities and plan for a multimodal mobility future. Why not Beverly Hills?

Update: on Tuesday, 11/18 City Council will hear the staff recommendation to make these two paltry bike routes permanent and, if that’s approved, Public Works will presumably restripe them. After all, it allows the city to say they’ve done something for rider safety. Stay tuned.

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

How NOT to Make a Street Safety Video

dangerstoppers video title

We watched the new City of Beverly Hills video ‘Watch Your Walk,’ part of the Dangerstoppers series co-produced by the Beverly Hills Police Department and the city’s Health and Safety Commission, because we were curious what kind of safety advice City Hall dispenses. And true to this trouble-titled video, pedestrians are admonished to take extra care because drivers are off-the-hook for their bad road behavior. We wondered, why has Beverly Hills suddenly gotten into the street safety business? For years the city has turned a blind eye to driver aggression streets (especially when it’s directed at those who ride a bicycle). Perhaps officials were prompted to act by the average six pedestrians injured every month on Beverly Hills streets. That rate … Continue reading