Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction

Our Vision for Santa Monica Boulevard

Santa Monica Boulevard is one of the busiest crosstown streets on the Westside. Not only is it part of the region’s ‘backbone’ bicycle network, but four Metro bus lines serve it and more than 50,000 vehicles traverse it every day. Regardless of our choice of travel mode, this road gets us where we’re going. But because our Beverly Hills segment of Santa Monica Boulevard is engineered primarily for motoring, it puts non-motor road users in harm’s way.

Santa Monica Boulevard looking east to WilshireWe now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remake Santa Monica Boulevard into a bike-friendly ‘complete street‘ for Beverly Hills – one that accommodates walkers, riders and drivers. And we could call that better road a ‘Beverly Hills Greenway’ because our proposal would expand adjacent Beverly Gardens Park along two-thirds of the length of the reconstructed boulevard!

Our proposal would achieve the boulevard reconstruction project’s objective – to create a world-class boulevard for Beverly Hills safe for all road users – while finally realizing a boulevard of uniform width. Win-win.

About the ‘Beverly Hills Greenway’ Proposal

Developed with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, our proposal envisions a boulevard 62′ wide that exacts no cost to the adjacent park. That’s because today’s corridor is irregular and measures as much as 63′ wide in some sections – wider than we need. So we actually add green space to the boulevard in order to compensate for any that might be used to include bicycle lanes for safer two-wheeled travel along a short Wilshire-Canon segment.

Indeed this proposal is a no-net-loss concept: grass needed to make this street ‘complete’ is replaced by grass where today there is blacktop. That is, two feet is added to boulevard’s width on that single segment while we reduce the width of the boulevard by one foot on two other segments. Voila! No net loss of green space.

Beverly Hills Greenway profile

© Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition

The resulting boulevard profile accommodates the same traffic volume for motorists while bike riders can use state-approved bicycle lanes. On tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard, everybody will benefit! If drivers dread sharing a lane with bicyclists today, the Greenway will separate non-motor traffic to maximize traffic flow while mooting the required three-foot buffer under the state’s new safe-passing law. And bicyclists who ride the corridor will feel safer outside of the vehicle flow. We have found that’s the #1 reason people cite for not biking in Beverly Hills. As we see it, 62 feet is just perfect for a world-class street!

Support the Beverly Hills Greenway!

We believe this proposal offers a the best compromise between the need for bicycle lanes on a key regional corridor and the community’s concern about the loss of green space. It is a concept that Beverly Hills residents, business owners and other stakeholders should be able to embrace.

We presented the Greenway proposal to City Council on January 6th and received guarded recognition for the idea. City Council via its ad hoc project committee will likely decide the fate of bicycle lanes in the spring, but for now we’ve succeeded in keeping bicycle lanes for tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard on the table.

It’s not too late to email City Council (or call 310-285-1013) with your comments about the Greenway concept. We hope to work with staff to improve it. Contact us with any questions you have about the proposal We welcome press inquiries too!

More About the Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project

Santa Monica blvd project thumbnail mapWhat is it? This $12 $35 million Santa Monica Boulevard project will reconstruct the boulevard between West Hollywood to Century City. The redesign will retain today’s four travel lanes (accommodating 55,000 cars on average daily according to traffic counts) and will probably include a landscaped median.

How could the corridor be made safer? To make this corridor safe for all who would use it regardless of mode, the new design should reflect the principles of ‘complete streets,’ which means crosswalks safer for pedestrians, intersections engineered for safe passage by bicycle, and, most important, state-approved bicycle lanes along its full length. City Council last September created a Santa Monica Boulevard Blue Ribbon Committee of 15 appointed residents to receive public input. The committee was charged with receiving public input and nearly 200 members of the public addressed the committee. More than 90% supported adding bicycle lanes to the boulevard. (Read our meeting recaps.)

When will this project commence? It’s already underway. We are well into the first of three project phases: development of the design concept. Next comes engineering with construction in phase III to follow. Find project documents in our project documents library or consult the city’s project page (warning: there you’ll find scant documentation and outdated information; that’s what a million-dollar outreach budget buys these days).

SM Blvd tour: 3-feet staked

Stakes illustrate the width necessary to provide every rider with a margin of safety: bicycle lanes.

This is a critical moment. On January 6th at 2:30 pm, City Council will make a final decision on boulevard width. That will make or break bike lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard! Should we expand the most narrow section of our boulevard a few feet to make room for bicycle lanes? Yes.

Here’s why: today the boulevard is irregular in width and ranges from 60-ft between Wilshire and Canon to a full 63-ft to the east. That narrow section is the choke point as 60-ft cannot accommodate bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. Opponents want to hold the narrow section to 60 feet, however, and make a ‘save the park’ argument to do it. “Not one blade of grass should be lost,” they say. But local advocates like Better Bike and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, as well as neighboring cities of West Hollywood and Los Angeles, offer our Greenway proposal to address that concern.

Beverly Hills Greenway: The Right Compromise

The  Beverly Hills Greenway will be 62-ft wide boulevard that is created by adding one foot of additional park along two segments of the boulevard (east of Canon Drive) for two feet of grass  for transportation along only one segment (between Wilshire and Canon). Do the math: that means no-net-loss of green space. And it standardizes the boulevard at a uniform width.

Help support multimodal mobility for the region. Sign the Beverly Hills Greenway proposal petition. Attend the City Council meeting on January 6th at 2:30pm. (Find the agenda here.) Contact City Council by email or call 310-285-1013. Be sure to let them know if you’re a resident or business owner in Beverly Hills! And let us know how they respond. With bicycle lanes for safety and drivers less-inconvenienced by sharing the right-hand lane with bicycles, it’s a win-win, right?

After all, Santa Monica Boulevard has a distinguished history of facilitating multimodal transportation, so why not continue that legacy into the 21st century? None of this is rocket science: cities all around us are embracing complete streets to reduce the harm that flows from car crashes. Beverly Hills can literally do our small part by making our 1.8 mile segment of Santa Monica Boulevard safe for those who walk, ride or drive.

Project Documents

Here you will find the relevant project documents and supporting material that you won’t find on the city’s own project page. Let’s start with our own meeting recaps (and related posts) and then work down to documents that suggest the policy and history contexts for this project.

Our Project Meeting Recaps

Our Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction project-related posts

City Project Documents

City Staff Reports (most recent first)

Policy Context

Key Contacts

Other Resources

Afterward: The Boulevard’s History

Santa Monica Boulevard conditionsLet’s understand how Santa Monica Boulevard moved Angelenos over the past century. Most recently it was State Highway 2. Long before Beverly Hills took control of it in 2005, however, the corridor had languished under the state’s DOT. Quick patches sufficed for maintenance and potholes proliferated. City stewardship has proven no better: potholes and storm grates pose regular collision hazards for those who ride.

Prior to its ignominy as a bike-unfriendly Hwy 2, Santa Monica Boulevard was known as the terminal segment of the famous Route 66 that once linked Chicago to Santa Monica. All that remains of that old road in Beverly Hills are a few commemorative signs, but there is a movement afoot to memorialize that history.

Pacific Electric at Beverly Hills Station #2

Pacific Electric station at Beverly Hills circa 1925.

The Pacific Electric’s Western Division once ran streetcars down the future boulevard. In fact, our city thrived as the junction of two lines that together anchored Beverly Hills into a regional Southern California rail network.

The first station occupied the northwest corner of Crescent & Little Santa Monica, across from City Hall. Once post office construction commenced, the station was moved a block west, to between Beverly and Canon, as seen here from Santa Monica North looking southwest.

These streetcars moved two million passengers annually through Beverly Hills before passenger service was stopped in the early 1950s!

Los Angeles Pacific Baloon Route map smallLong before Route 66 and the PE, the Los Angeles Pacific, a predecessor rail corporation, ran a ‘balloon’ excursion train (“four double tracks to the Pacific Ocean”) through what was then called ‘Morocco Junction’ (as depicted in the map to the right). It is known today as Beverly Hills.

But Santa Monica Boulevard today betrays none of that distinguished history. We see a multimodal boulevard as our “once in a lifetime” opportunity to honor its rich transportation history. Remember, multimodal mobility is not just an historical footnote for this corridor; it can be our future too.

Recent Posts

File Under ‘Crap Facilities': Dangerous Crescent Dr. Sharrows

City of Beverly Hills was warned many months ago about this improper placement of sharrows on Crescent Drive:

Crescent Drive sharrows placement

Is this any way to make our streets safer for those who choose to ride a bicycle?

As explicated in this graphic, these sharrows guide northbound Crescent riders into the left-hand lane, which allows motor traffic to pass on the right. After the South Santa Monica intersection, however, riders are then guided back to the right-hand lane which requires a merge back into faster-flowing traffic. This remains an eye-catching road engineering #FAIL six months after we notified the city about it.

Crescent Drive is a well-traveled N/S street that finds northbound motorists rushing to make the stoplights at North and South Santa Monica boulevards. So putting riders literally in the middle of this scrum is at best a mistake and, more likely, is a result of professional incompetence or ignorance.

While the misplacement of a sharrow marking may seem trivial to a driver, this state-approved traffic control device is important to riders as it offers official guidance as to where to ride. It is intended to make roads safer for those who ride a bicycle, not put them in harm’s way.

What is a Sharrow?

According to the state’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), sharrows can be used to:

Assist bicyclists with lateral positioning in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel side by side within the same traffic lane; alert road users of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way; and encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists…. (MUTCD Section 9C.07 Shared Lane Marking)

sharrow markingAccording to the manual, the marking “shall only be used on a roadway which has on-street parallel parking.” But Crescent northbound here has no parallel parking, of course. And even if it did, the MUTCD offers this bit of specific guidance: Where used to direct riders to a lane adjacent to a traffic lane, it should be only to the left of a right-turn-only lane. (Section 4D.104 Bicycle Signals).

As the manual suggests, it is better to use no sharrows at all than to implement unsafe sharrows.

We’ve Tried and Tried to Get This Fixed

I first contacted the Beverly Hills Deputy Director for Transportation Aaron Kunz in early June after noticing the unsafe sharrows placement:

Sharrows on Crescent (south of little SM) make an ill-advised jog around a non-turn lane as I recall (not the best practice).

Then I suggested that our city fix it. After seeing no action, though, I followed up in early August:

I’ve been puzzled by the hazardous placement of n/b Crescent sharrows. I wonder if the city has a plan to fix it?

Kunz acknowledged the problem and said a fix was in the works. But no fix came. So I followed up again in early October:

Can you remind me if the city will be fixing the sharrow alignment problem on Crescent at SM South? (We spoke about it in early August.)

Kunz replied, “I will check on the status of moving the sharrow as we discussed and get a date.” Hearing nothing back about it (of course) I then followed up a third time in late October:

I’m wondering if you’ve been able to nail down the date?

Aaron replied, “The moving of the sharrow will be a priority but unfortunately I do not have a date yet.” Optimistically I said I would look forward to having the problem corrected.

But evidently I was too optimistic! Here we are approaching February and there is no fix yet. Where in the transportation planner’s handbook does it say that a mistake like this can go unaddressed despite highlighting the problem and following up three times? It cries out for a lawsuit!

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