Beverly Hills: The Most Dangerous Little City in California

To read the Beverly Hills vision statement is to get a sense of the high regard in which civic leaders hold our city. “Beverly Hills offers the highest quality of life achievable,” we are assured. Our “world-class community” is known for “leading edge” thinking and “innovative” government. Those “alluring and distinctive hotels, retail stores, restaurants, and entertainment” make us exceptional. But Beverly Hills is exceptional in another way too: we’re the most dangerous little city in California.

At least the most dangerous small city according to the state’s Office of Traffic Safety. Its collision rankings comparison tool draws on CHP Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) data. The tool was designed with a noble purpose in mind:

The OTS Rankings were developed so that individual cities could compare their city’s traffic safety statistics to those of other cities with similar-sized populations. Cities could use these comparisons to see what areas they may have problems in and which they were doing well in.

So let’s go ahead and see how Beverly Hills ranks as a ‘safe city.’ That’s another of our city’s vision statement bullet points: “Beverly Hills is committed to being the safest city in America.”

A few clicks shows that between 2007 and 2011 Beverly Hills has ranked either 1st or 2nd among comparable cities (under 50,000 population) in the category of ‘total fatal and injury’ collisions. Depending on how you look at it, we’re either riding high among the worst-performing cities with regard to road safety, or we’ve fallen to the bottom of the heap relative to cities that do care about curbing collision injuries.

We’ve put the OTS tables clickable gallery. Scroll down or simply click this table to open a simple animated presentation. Below you’ll see that the most recent (2011) data puts our city’s claims of ‘safest city’ in an unflattering light. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for the methodology).

OTS small-city collision rankings (animated) Pedestrians Have It Really Bad

Breaking it down by collision type, for pedestrian collision injuries we were consistently among the worst three (out of almost one hundred). Always the over-achiever, Beverly Hills took first place dishonors in two of the five years. That puts us near the top one percent of cities that also take little or no care to prevent pedestrian injuries and/or fatalities.

With regard to older pedestrians (65+) we rank marginally better. Beverly Hills only places in the worst five among cities of fewer than 50,000 population. If you’re a senior, remember as you use one of our faded crosswalks or cross a poorly-signed alleys that statistically you’d be safer walking any one of 95 other small California cities.

What about children? We hear civic leaders talk about the welfare of our kids often. We love to see Scouts in Council chambers. But the reality is that we’re not keeping them safe when they cross our streets. Across the 5-year period we typically edge out two-thirds of all other comparable cities when it comes to collision injuries. Except for 2008 when we fell into the bottom (better) half, we tend to nibble at the top quartile of most dangerous cities in which to walk as a kid.

Bicycle Riders Have it Almost as Bad

Those of us who ride a bicycle fare little better than pedestrians. We’re not the #1 most dangerous small city for a bicycle rider, but we’re close to it. From 2007 to 2011 for example, bike-involved collision injuries put us among the top-5 worst cities in each of 3 years of the 5-year period for which we have data. One year (2007) we ‘slipped’ to 6th and in a true outlier we fell to 22nd place (2009). But we’re always in the top quartile of small cities for bike injuries, baby!

We’re also in the top (i.e., worst) quartile for under-15 bike-involved collision injuries, sadly. While we do seem marginally better able to keep children who ride bikes out of the police reports, is it because so relatively few children ride a bicycle in Beverly Hills? Or because those very few children are injured at a disproportionately high rate? We don’t know. Waht we do know is that the #1 reason cited by parents who won’t let their children ride a bicycle in Beverly Hills is that it is unsafe.

What About that ‘Safest City in America’?

It’s one thing to create a bullet point that brags about keeping us safe in Beverly Hills, but it’s another to take the steps to actually make us safe. And where road safety is concerned, our city has simply failed us. All of us: walkers, riders and even drivers.

Keep our poor road safety record in mind when you talk to a member of the City Council or address the Traffic and Parking Commission. Ask why we’re doing such a bad job of keeping our walkers and riders safe. And if you bump into our City Manager, Jeff Kolin, evidently a cyclist, ask him why we’re not asking more from our transportation staffers in the Community Development Department (which is tasked with transportation planning). And ask him why he’s not more sensitive to rider safety needs in particular.

* From the OTS comparison tool methodology: Victim and collision rankings are based on rates of victims killed and injured or fatal and injury collisions per “1,000 daily-vehicle-miles-of-travel” (Caltrans data) and per “1,000 average population” (Department of Finance data) figures. This more accurately ensures proper weighting and comparisons when populations and daily vehicle miles traveled vary.

High Cost of Free Parking Indeed!

City Council budget Session overviewCall us local government enthusiasts: we like when light is shined on the black box that is City Hall. Then we learn how past policy decisions shape today’s challenges and potentially constrain opportunities tomorrow. In City Council’s budget session on Monday [mp3], we gained a clear picture about how the decision to offer two hours of free parking in city garages not only “drained” (the Treasurer’s term) our general fund of $16 million, but put us on on the hook for almost $5 million more every year. The ‘high cost of free parking’ indeed! Continue reading

Bike Routes AND the Pilot Come Before Council

beverly hills city hallHere’s a news item! City Council on November 13th is scheduled to hear two bike-related items. First in the afternoon study session, Public Works & Transportation will present for councilmember consideration a bicycle rack program. Then in the evening formal session, Council will discuss specific improvements to be made to two city streets under the newly-approved Bike Route Pilot Program.

Continue reading

Wolfpack Hustle Turns ‘Em out in Beverly Hills

Cyclists visit Beverly Hills City Council

Stepping up to the mic in Beverly Hills! (Courtesy Don Ward)

After an afternoon spent discussing the Bike Route Pilot Program yesterday, Beverly Hills City Council got an earful from about twenty cyclists about poor safety on city streets. Don (@WolfpackHustle) Ward tapped cyclists from as far away as Panorama City and Bell Gardens to remind councilmembers that our city has an obligation to make roads accessible to all users regardless of mode. Putting a fine point on it were two hit-and-run victims, neither of whom found justice here because police didn’t dig deep enough. Continue reading

City Council Recommends Proceeding on Two Pilot Routes [Recap]

Pilot feasibility study map for CrescentBeverly Hills City Council today recommended a limited set of improvements today for two candidate corridors under the city’s Bike Route Pilot Program. Per direction provided to staff, sharrows and signage on Crescent Drive and Burton Way will be installed once implementation particulars are brought back to Council for approval (at some unspecified date). While the recommended measures on two routes are less than cyclists really need, we must note that this is the first time a policy-making body in Beverly Hills actually gave the nod to bike facilities. This could be the beginning of a bike-friendly city network, or a distraction from the real planning we’ve yet to do. Time will tell!  Continue reading

Action Deferred but Opportunity Awaits in Beverly Hills

City Council meeting July 26, 2012Beverly Hills City Council in study session today deferred action for the second time on the Bike Route Pilot program. Again the item was preempted by prior agendized items (notably Roxbury Park) that took much Council attention. To us that’s fine. We’d rather proceed judiciously than embark on a half-baked Pilot. The breather allows us an opportunity to recommend to City Council that we revisit the process and in the meantime proceed with cyclist-friendly improvements today. Read our letter to City Council or read on for our idea for Crescent Drive. Continue reading

Council-Interruptus at Today’s Study Session Meeting [Recap]

2012 New Mayor InstallationOn today’s Beverly Hills City Council study session (2:30 p.m.) agenda was item #5: Review Proposed Pilot Bicycle Routes. In many other cities, that could suggest another step in bike improvements implementation. In Beverly Hills, it barely scratches the surface of bike planning. Indeed it is the first time that City Council has substantively discussed improvements in open session, and we were very interested to know where the Council would come down on the agendized proposal as well as bike planning in general. Continue reading

Let’s Stop the Clock on Bike Routes in Beverly Hills [Editorial]

Stop the clock on bike routes? For two years we have urged City of Beverly Hills to move with dispatch on new bike routes because our streets are simply not sufficiently safe for cyclists. When the city finally put in place a process and identified three possible bike routes (before City Council for discussion today), we’re faced with either plowing ahead or applying the brakes. We chose the latter: we can do better. Rather than make a significant misstep, we urge Council to stop the clock and revisit the process in order to come up with a better bike route proposal. Continue reading

Gateway Goes to Council Tonight

Planning Commissioner Rosenstein gives an overview

Planning Commissioner Rosenstein gives an overview of the Gateway conundrum.

With the hoopla surrounding the Sustainable Parking Standards Act of 2012 (AB 904), we note that the Beverly Hills City Council tonight [agenda] will hear a proposed high-density overlay zone for the city’s western gateway. This timely because the proposed state legislation would require all California cities to adopt reduced parking minimums in “transit-served areas,” while the ‘Gateway’ overlay is crafted in no small part to require developers to over-provide off-street parking – that is, even more parking than is required by the current code. How do we accomplish that? By trading too much height & bulk and by upzoning the old railroad right of way while asking for too little in return. Continue reading

City Council Gives Tacit Nod to Bike Pilot

The City Council’s marathon study session last week (3/6) ended on an anticlimactic note: Councilmembers gave a tacit nod to Transportation to move ahead with the Bike Route Pilot Program, and the bike racks and rack-on-request program will move ahead too. But in approving these consent items, our City Council didn’t take the opportunity to discuss bike improvements generally – much less express support for safer streets. What we were looking for was a sign of commitment to cyclist safety from our decision-makers, but we didn’t get it in this study session meeting.

Planning Commission Discusses the Gateway

Planning Commission in action

On Feb. 9th the Planning Commission met to continue an overlay zone discussion that was continued from January’s meeting. The overlay zone, if enacted, would be a newly-formulated land use designation specifically tailored to the city’s western gateway, where Santa Monica Boulevard enters the city and where a proposed project for the Starbucks corner (at Wilshire) is currently under review. This is no academic discussion, however. How the Commission formulates this policy will have a lasting impact on the future transportation uses of the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor.

Bicycle Plan on City Council Priorities List

Aside

Good news: bike planning has made it onto the City Council priorities list. The ‘B’ priority item, ‘Citywide Bike Plan,’ envisions by 2014 a “comprehensive plan to create bicycle paths throughout the City.” (Let’s hope for actual facilities, and not just a plan, by then.) And as we work with the city we’ll hip officials to the difference between paths, lanes, and routes as Caltrans defines them to stress that bike facilities must be about transportation and not merely sport and recreation.

Update: Where Things Stand in Beverly Hills

Better Bike over the last week has met with three of our five City Council members (including the Mayor) and touched base with our contacts in Transportation, at the school district, and at Library to assess progress toward a more bike-friendly city. During these dog days of August (and aren’t we grateful it’s not been very doggy?) we can report that progress is not very positive to date, but can turn on a dime with policymaker support. Here’s a rundown of our initiatives and an overview of where we are (or aren’t) starting with the good news.

Highlights from the 9/21 Study Session

Better Bike BH members turned out for the City Council’s study session where Transportation presented City Council with general options for planned SM Blvd. improvements. The purpose of the meeting was early scoping: to get some overall direction on where the Council wants to go with the boulevard. reconstruction. Given that the boulevard is up for a bottom-up redo, it’s critical that Class II (on-road) bike lanes to connect with those that exist today in Century City and West Hollywood. Our members, Ellen Lutwak, Jennifer Hughes, Mel Raab (arriving on scooter!), and Mark Elliot, made that point clearly!