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

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.

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