About Our Safe Streets Campaign

Congestion on Santa Monica Boulevard

Our Campaign for Better Transportation Choices

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Beverly Hills: Rollin’ like it’s 1977!

Better Bike is all about making our streets safe and accessible for all travelers. Since 2010 we have pressed City of Beverly Hills to leave behind our outdated transportation thinking to join our Westside city neighbors in supporting multimodal mobility. We can start by making travel by bike a  safe and practical alternative to traveling by car. After all, that’s exactly what our plans say we need to do!

Today, traveling by bike or on foot means risking injury. Riders and walkers are the most vulnerable road users, of course, and over the past decade in Beverly Hills the number of road users injured in crashes has increased 50%. (See our handy chart.) That means our choice to walk or ride a bicycle, as urged by our Sustainable City Plan, carries a greater risk of injury than ever.

Our roads must be made safe for all road users. We look forward to a complete streets plan one day that will make that obligation explicit to city officials.

The First Step to Safer Streets: A Real Plan

Multimodal mobility is the best solution to problems like increased congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed our General Plan’s Circulation Element talks about making streets safe for all road users. But that’s just talk if no policy supports it and no program implemented to make it real to road users. We know from experience that bicycle lanes not only make cyclists safer, they make cyclists feel safe too.

Since 2010 Better Bike has called for the creation of a bike plan and the implementation of programs to make cycling safe. We’ve asked for dedicated bike lanes, intersection improvements, safety signage, and bike parking – all measures that we see in other cities – and all pretty much dismissed out-of-hand for Beverly Hills. “We’re not Santa Monica,” we’ve heard our councilmembers say many times. “We’re not West Hollywood.”

We don’t have to be any other city to keep our residents safe regardless of their mode of travel. And it’s not rocket science. At a minimum Beverly Hills should designate a citywide bicycle network. It could look something like this:

Bike routes Bevery Hills proposed map

A citywide bike route network would supplement a few blocks of Burton Way lanes with protected lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard and Charleville (east-west) while Beverly and Crescent offer safe (north-south) travel to Culver City and beyond.

Our streets should incorporate these measures to make the safe for cycling:

  • Class II bike lanes on key corridors;
  • Signage throughout the city alerting road users to the presence of riders; and,
  • Intersections designed for cyclist safety, which may include bike boxes, dedicated signals, and appropriate pavement markings.

Getting From Here to There

Eight years ago our Traffic & Parking Commission created an ad-hoc Bike Plan Update committee to bring our 1977-era Bicycle Master Plan into the modern era. That committee never met nor made any recommendations to City Council. A more heartening sign came in 2016 when City Council agreed to make a priority of safer streets, including an update of the 1977 Bicycle Master Plan. Our City Council is more bike-friendly than ever today.

Now Beverly Hills is undertaking a complete streets planning process. That is both a necessity (the state’s Complete Streets Act, signed into law in September of 2008, requires local complete streets plans) and a prudent move (Metro grant funding is contingent on a certified complete streets plan).

 

These are all reasons for optimism after a very long delay in embracing what other cities already have: safe streets to encourage safe mobility regardless of mode choice. By calling attention to the opportunities for safe cycling in Beverly Hills, and calling out our city’s poor progress on street safety, Better Bike hopes to suggest a path forward. Have you any suggestions to offer? Let us know.

Recent Posts

Beverly Hills City Council UNANIMOUSLY OKs SM Blvd Bike Lanes

In an incredible turnabout tonight, all five Beverly Hills councilmembers agreed to include bicycle lanes on our segment of Santa Monica Boulevard. The unanimous vote demolished the specious claims put forth by NIMBY opponents. And it recognized the solid arguments brought forth by forty speakers and scores more comments from proponents of safe multimodal mobility. In sum, bicycle lanes not only make riders feel safe, they actually make us more safe.

In what amounts to a total victory, we not only gained five votes for lanes; we also have support from three councilmembers for high-visibility lanes. On that point, the only discussion concerned just how conspicuous we could make them. Councilmember Mirisch suggested a very specific shade of blue to pop out; even better, he said, let’s make any colored treatment self-illuminating. (Is this Beverly Hills?!)

Third, and most incredibly, it looks like we have Council approval to actually make an incremental reduction – yes, reduction – in the #1 (inside) vehicular lanes. Staff had inexplicably recommended 11-foot inside lanes, much wider than necessary, while whittling down our bicycle lanes to a bare-minimum 4’6″. Councilmembers asked, Why so wide? With some support from our transportation consultant, Iteris, it now looks like the boulevard’s #1 lanes may shrink to 10.5 or even 10 feet. (Pinch me. Where am I?!)

In a perverse bit of irony, that too-wide #1 lane recommendation included in the staff report might have allowed opponents to have their cake and eat it too. Three years ago they throttled the boulevard’s width and almost squeezed out bicycle lanes. (We barely got the necessary width back in January 2015). Yet now lane opponents claimed that the only bicycle lanes that would fit on a boulevard they worked so hard to narrow are simply not safe to ride. The balls of it.

But their argument was dispatched tonight with alacrity because, unlike opponents, our councilmembers actually reviewed the prevailing design guidance and agreed: 11 feet is too wide. Moreover, the Council majority embraced the notion that narrower lanes would calm Santa Monica Boulevard traffic. (Seriously, in Beverly Hills?!)

The incredulity expressed by councilmembers regarding our opponents’ flimsy arguments against bicycle lanes suggested two things as the evening progressed:

  1. Complete streets is a concept whose time has finally come in Beverly Hills. We’re embarking on a complete streets plan process now, and the embrace of safe, multimodal mobility makes all the difference between ginning up a pro-forma, check-the-box complete streets plan; and a real policy statement and implementation framework that would actually make our streets safe for all road users. It’s the difference between cynicism and optimism.
  2. The NIMBY zombie that has come back, time and again, to loom like a black cloud over every discussion of bicycle lanes in Beverly Hills has finally been banished. Not only could the opposition forces not muster the enthusiasm (let alone numbers) of years past; their arguments were transparently disingenuous.

For this we can thank Mayor Lili Bosse for her leadership. She made the bike plan a priority; then she literally put bicycle lanes back on the agenda; and finally, tonight, she proclaimed, “bike lanes everywhere!” John Mirisch, likewise is a solid ally and a complete streets supporter. He always has been. And rounding out the loudest voices for multimodal mobility, councilmember Robert Wunderlich is all about making our city bikable. (C’mon, man, this is Beverly Hills?!)

That’s just three votes, of course, but we got five for lanes. I trust that Vice-Mayor Gold and councilmember Friedman will come around.

If there was one outcome worth the many-years wait, it is that we in Beverly Hills have conclusively put to rest the fictions that have long-driven our transportation planning. That we could remain an isolated suburb in the center of a sprawling urban region with serious mobility and quality-of-life challenges; and that we could cling tight to a 20th-century car culture even as we enter the second decade of the 21st century.

Thanks be to all of our friends and supporters who have been there from the beginning – and those that joined us tonight for the first time. You will get your due when this is updated with a full-on report! Onward!

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