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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 Since 2010 we have pressed City of Beverly Hills to leave behind our outdated transportation policies and join our Westside municipal neighbors to support safe, ‘multimodal mobility’ alternatives to the automobile.

Today we don’t have practical transportation options in Beverly Hills. While each of us expects to arrive safely at our destination regardless of whether we travel by bike, foot or car, too often choosing to walk or ride a bicycle summons fear of injury. These travel modes simply must be safe and practical options too.

As our own city plans recognize, multimodal mobility for Beverly Hills is the best solution to problems like increased congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. And our General Plan’s Circulation Element talks  about making streets safe for road users. But it’s just talk if no policy supports it. Indeed collisions injure too many non-motor travelers on city streets. Bike-involved collisions account for ten percent of total collisions, for example, which is too many since people on bicycles make up less than 1% of all road users. Worse, in Beverly Hills nearly 300 collisions every year are hit-and-run. Where are the policies to address these problems?

We know from other cities that bicycle lanes and similar state-approved safety improvements not only make cyclists safer, they make cyclists feel safer too. And that encourages more of us to take a bicycle instead of a car – particularly women who often say they feel particularly vulnerable sharing the streets with harried drivers.

Yet facilities like bicycle lanes, bike ‘boxes,’ and bike-priority signaling find no welcome in Beverly Hills. Though we have a Bicycle Master Plan that calls for a bike route network, the plan dates from 1977 (as in ‘disco’ era 1977) and has yet to be revisited in the five years since our General Plan called for an update.

The First Step to Safer Streets is a A Real Bike Plan

Since 2010 Better Bike has called for the creation of a plan and implementation of programs and improvements that would 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 that signals a bike-friendly environment – but to no avail. Why can’t we create streets that are safe for kids and adults biking to school, work, and shops?

Well we can. We need only look back to that 1970-era plan for guidance. From it we can begin to discuss what could be the citywide bike route network that we need. Here’s our first draft of what a comprehensive bicycle network should look like:

Bike routes Bevery Hills proposed map

A bike network in the making: Santa Monica Boulevard and Charleville provide east-west through routes while Beverly and Crescent drives afford north-south travel. Major points of access to surrounding cities come at the western gateway, Burton Way in the east, Sunset to the north and Beverly to the south.

We believe that at a minimum a Beverly Hills bike route network should include:

  • Routes that connect our five city schools and our key business districts;
  • Pavement markings and signage that show motorists and cyclists alike how to safely traverse major intersections;
  • Marked bike lanes on key corridors and shared-lane markings called “sharrows” on all secondary streets;
  • Bicycle racks where people need them and bike rack ‘corrals’ at high bike traffic points;
  • City-sponsored riding skills & road safety classes for all age groups and integrated into our Summer recreation program; and,
  • Changes to transportation and development policies to discourage auto commuting and encourage mass transit with the bicycle providing the proverbial ‘last mile’ connection between work, home, and transit.

Where Are We Now?

Four 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, but it has made no recommendations. Three years ago, staff began to talk about more bicycle racks, but the fewer-than-25 to be installed haven’t yet found a place on our our sidewalks. No sign advises riders and drivers to share the road. Not even a simple city webpage offers safe-riding tips. We haven’t come a long way baby.

By calling attention to the safety hazards of cycling in Beverly Hills, we hope to highlight the challenges of simply choosing to ride a bike here. In the face of intransigent city officials and a population unschooled in the joys and practical benefits of cycling, have you any suggestions to offer? Let us know.

Recent Posts

Celebrating Geography Awareness We Look at Bike Maps

Existing and Planned lanes leading to Beverly Hills map

Beverly Hills has no plans to meet most of these proposed and existing bike lanes.

To mark the close of Geography Awareness Week (which began Monday) we’re offering a few maps that highlight the varying commitment of local governments to ensuring safe, multimodal mobility.* Each highlights bike lanes and designated bike routes that we know make riding more safe, but also tend to increase the appeal of cycling as a mode of transportation. Let’s start with Beverly Hills as a reference point.

Under a ‘pilot program‘ a couple of years ago, the city striped class II bicycle lanes along several blocks of North Crescent Drive and a few blocks of Burton Way. The city also installed several blocks of shared-lane markings (aka sharrows) south of Burton. But City Council stopped way short of what bike advocates asked for: instead of the five rider-recommended signed and/or protected routes, staff recommended just one of them – and then added a second one which politically was the easiest lift of them all.

Of course, the pilot, by definition, is a temporary program, so the city allowed the paint to fade on these installed lanes and sharrows. And sometimes it simply installed sharrows incorrectly but took months to rectify it.

Here is our map of the two final routes (note that the city produces no bike routes map on its own).

Pilot routes map illustration

Not quite the citywide bicycle network envisioned in our 1977 Bicycle Master Plan!

MUTCD bicycle signs 2014That is the extent of the city’s bike route network! Just two routes – and neither of them highly trafficked or even a key business district street. The irony is that these improvements made little difference in terms of increased safety for riders.

It gets worse. Beverly Hills has hung no share-the-road or may-use-full-lane sign (right); or created a publicity program to remind motorists to look out for riders; nor has it sponsored a bike safety class (or even created a website) for rider safety education. Perhaps that’s why riders flout stop signs, as our policymakers like to remind us when they turn their back on bike-friendly improvements.

Yet other cities do continue to invest in multimodal mobility, and it  does make a difference: streets feel safer to ride and that leads to greater enthusiasm for cycling. These cities reap the benefits. Let’s have a look!

Santa Monica Takes the Lead

City of Santa Monica offers the most pointed contrast. The city has rolled out bike lanes and sharrows like its multimodal transportation policies depends on them. (It does.) Look at this bike map! Beverly Hills riders can only dream of this kind of citywide network.

Santa Monica bike map illustrationNot only does Santa Monica walk the talk, it codified it too in the Land use and Circulation Element (LUCE) – which actually identifies as a policy goal the generation of no new motor trips in the downtown area. To reach that goal, it has been first out of the gate with a bike station, a 500-bike bike-share program, and of course these miles of bicycle lanes and routes. Bravo!

Culver City

Not all cities can have Santa Monica’s mojo. Our neighbor Culver City is a bit slow out of the blocks like Beverly Hills, and it too didn’t immediately embrace bike lanes. But Culver City is a very different city than either Beverly Hills or Santa Monica in that it hardly revolves around its downtown; instead it serves as a crossroads for key arteries like Culver, Washington, Robertson, Jefferson, and Venice boulevards.

Aside from City of LA’s bicycle lane on the north edge, Culver City is not yet well-served by protected facilities like a bicycle lane. But the map suggests that it is beginning to roll out routes along the corridors.

Culver city bike map (2010)

Culver City’s incipient network will prioritize the key through routes.

With so much pass-through traffic, and now an Expo Line station too, policymakers have gotten the message. Former Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells really got it, and she positioned the city to make positive changes to embrace multimodal mobility. That’s another key difference compared to Beverly Hills. The city adopted its Bicycle Master Plan in 2011.

West Hollywood

City of West Hollywood is not only farther along in its bike planning than Beverly Hills or Culver City, it takes the whole concept of multimodal mobility more seriously. City Council some years back formed a bicycle task force to make recommendations about which corridors to prioritize for facilities. And more recently the city undertook a process to update its new mobility plan. So we’re seeing an elaboration of new bike facilities and the beginning of a true citywide network of protected lanes and designated routes.West Hollywood bike map

Burbank and Glendale

Hard up against the Verdugo Mountains, the cities of Burbank and Glendale are well on their way to creating their own citywide bike route networks. Burbank adopted its Bicycle Master Plan in 2011 and appears to be laying the foundation for a citywide network.

Burbank bike mapBut Glendale got the earlier start. In the mid-2000s the city partnered with the LACBC to undertake their Safe and Healthy Streets Plan (2009). Funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health under its PLACE Program (Policies for Livable, Active Communities and Environments) the plan anticipated a city where “residents live safer, healthier lives by walking and riding a bicycle for both transportation and recreation.” (Read the Action Plan for more information.)

The plan puts at its center the complete streets vision of transportation “that meets the needs of all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit passengers, and people of all ages and abilities,” says the plan. (“As well as motor vehicles.”) That philosophy is borne out by its rapidly-expanding citywide network of bicycle routes.Glendale bike map

Given the challenging topography of the City, Glendale is making rapid strides toward knitting together the whole!

So What Does This Comparison Say About Beverly Hills?

Beverly Hills is dead last in the installation of bicycle facilities and it pulls up the rear when it comes to intent to make our streets safer to ride. That’s because Beverly Hills policymakers continue to grasp at auto-era solutions to our post-auto era problems.

Consider congestion. Today, crosstown boulevards handle nearly 50,000 vehicles on an average weekday; and our major intersections can’t handle the capacity we throw at it (most are level-of-service ‘F’). It strains our streets and will only get worse as more intensive development comes tomorrow.

Consider multimodal opportunities. We’re a compact city for the most part. With excellent transit connections. Of course that suggests we shift more trips to transit and bicycles. Yet policymakers stubbornly resist. Our Bicycle Master Plan dates from 1977 and there is no intent to update it. Our transportation officials are largely unacquainted with the new, multimodal thinking, and staff declined to recommend to City Council that we include bicycle lanes when the city reconstructs Santa Monica Boulevard next year. So we won’t be including them.

Consider the potential of the bike-friendly business district. Our small business task force seemed unfamiliar with the concept of ‘bicycle-friendly business district’ when it issued its findings to City Council. No surprise: our city still demands (now discredited) excessive, code-required off-street parking. We simply prey a developer will come along to dig down deep – in the ground and in the pocket – when building anew so we’d get a few additional parking spaces. Spaces that will never satisfy demand, which only increases with our continuing policies that facilitate reliance on the auto.

Beverly Hills has all of the advantages. Our city of 35,000 is the smallest in population and the second-smallest by land area (after Culver City) among the cities we’ve reviewed here.  Off the hills we’re a compact city, and we are not grappling with a challenging periphery (as does Glendale) or a non-grid center city (like Culver City).

And we’ve got the money: Beverly Hills households have the highest median income of all these cities. Led by our ‘golden’ business triangle, we ring up more retail sales than any other city (fully one-third more than runner-up Santa Monica). If we didn’t dump $5 million every year into marketing, why we could have the gold-standard facilities instead of grubbing a few bucks from clean-air grants for fewer than 30 bicycle racks. We clearly have the resources to invest in multimodal mobility but we simply choose not to make the investment.

*City of Los Angeles is the region’s big gorilla, of course, but here we look at smaller cities (populations under 200,000).

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