Qataris Behaving Badly? Let’s Focus on the Homegrown ‘Sheikhs’

Qatari scofflaw and his Ferrari

The infamous Qatari scofflaw and his Ferrari as ‘captured’ by Adam Bornstein.

What’s more ridiculous than wasting ink on the now-departed Qatari sheikh who hot-rodded around Beverly Hills this August? The fact that no ink is spilled about everyday reckless driving tolerated by city policymakers and police officials. Forget Mideast sheikhs behaving badly in their Ferraris and such; we’re got a homegrown haute bourgeoisie who feel entitled to spin around at high speeds on quiet residential streets in off-the-shelf sports cars. And they garner nary a glance from the cops. For come sunset, there is no traffic enforcement in Beverly Hills.

When was the last time you read in the local media about reckless driving here in Beverly Hills? You probably never have. And you wouldn’t until, say a Qatari national runs some stops signs in his eye-catching coach. And only then you’ll read about it if it’s captured on video. But get it on tape and you may well hear officials proclaim their “outrage” at such bad behavior. Here’s the new Beverly Hills Police Chief Dominick Rivetti’s statement from his press conference:

The City of Beverly Hills is outraged about recent incidents of reckless driving on our streets. The Police Department has zero tolerance for unsafe driving, which seriously endangers the lives and property of others. Regardless of who you are, who you know or where you are from. The Beverly Hills Police Department has a reputation of applying the law equally. – Dominick Rivetti, BHPD Chief

Now, as far as we recall, this is the first reckless driving press release (let alone a companion standalone press conference) to address the problem.

Yet this department statement packs no fewer than four disingenuous assertions into its first paragraph alone. The first is the “outrage.” Our police department rarely exhibits much concern about reckless driving or the toll taken by crash injuries. Every month, for example, the department dispatches a supervisor to brief the city’s Traffic and Parking Commission on police department performance. But faced with crash figures that won’t decline, everyone seems to collectively shrug. As the numbers are perfunctorily recited there is no outrage nor even a glimmer of curiosity about why crashes happen. Not even the occasional traffic fatality merits “outrage.” It’s business as usual for the commissioners and the cops.

Second, the police department appears to have a very high tolerance indeed for unsafe driving. Stand at any major corner in Beverly Hills and watch as drivers run the red light. It happens at every single change of the traffic signal. We bet that every pedestrian has a story about nearly being struck in a crosswalk as a car (or three)  plow through well after the red.

After a few near-death experiences of our own we communicated to City Council actual “outrage” about the dangers we face as pedestrians. But we never even received a response. Here’s an excerpt:

While walking home with an armful of groceries tonight at 6:10 I was nearly struck by an westbound driver running the red light at the Wilshire-Canon intersection. I was midway across the curb lane at this signalized intersection, having stepped off the north curb well into my green signal. Suddenly a driver passed though and swerved into the #1 lane to avoid me. I’d earlier discussed with councilmember Krasne the hazards at this very intersection after a similar close call. In both cases, it occurred on a weekday at about 6pm and the near-miss margin was about a foot or so. (Read more)

And third, Beverly Hills is all about who you know and where you are from. Read our local newspapers; they’re all about mapping the social networks that prop up the husbanding of privilege by the boldface names in our small town. Moreover, whatever your problem you are more likely to garner officials’ attention if you live north of Santa Monica Boulevard and come to them with a #NorthOfSantaMonica problem.

And last, I don’t think that Beverly Hills Police Department can seriously claim a reputation for an equitable application of the law. While the cops recently took flak for detaining in handcuffs an African-American man for six hours because, as a spokesman said, “he fit the description” of a suspect, things have improved. But Throughout the 1990s the department faced lawsuits over pretext stops of African-American and Latino drivers. One was a state senator; others were lower-profile. To settled one suit the city established a Human Relations Commission to receive complaints. As always, “The Beverly Hills Police Department deeply regrets the inconvenience” as the spokesman says.

Reckless Driving Gets a Pass

It seems like reckless driving and excessive speeding simply get a pass in Beverly Hills. It is viewed by policymakers, police officials and the media alike as akin to the air that we breathe: so ordinary as to demand no particular comment. You won’t find a word about it (or street safety more broadly) in either of our two local weekly papers. It’s as if we simply gave up the fight for safe streets!

For example, when the Traffic and Parking Commission receives each month the most recent crash injury and citation stats from BHPD, no commissioner follows up with a comment on, or question about, the continuing toll taken by crashes. None asks, How are crash injuries trending? Where are we relative to last year? Are we making progress?

Fatalities in Beverly Hills highlighted in a table of crash injuries January to August 2014

Data compiled by the Beverly Hills Police Department as provided to the Traffic and Parking Commission in the monthly report.

This year to date, our small city where 35-mph and 25-mph speed limits is the rule witnessed no fewer than two auto-occupant crash deaths (one each in May and June) and in August a pedestrian lost his life in a fatal hit-and-run on Crescent (just a block from City Hall). But no commissioner has asked what can be done to mitigate the harm of 435 crash injuries or the 146 (!) hit-and-runs logged by police in 2014. Instead this commission (as always) is more focused on parking permits and tour buses.

Table of cyclist injuries in Beverly Hills 2008-2014

Data compiled by the Beverly Hills Police Department as provided to the Traffic and Parking Commission in the monthly report.

Proportion of cyclist injuries chart (2008-2014)You’ll never hear the Traffic and Parking Commissioner Chair Lester Friedman ask about the 48 injured cyclists who last year filed a police report, or wonder whether the number of cyclist injuries is on the increase. (It is.)

It is not that nobody is talking about it. We’ve appeared before the commission several times to draw attention to the magnitude of the harm. We’ve even aggregated seven years of BHPD data and analyzed the trends because no city staffer ever has. But nobody has come calling for the analysis.

Call it willful disinterest: neither City Hall nor the media seem much interested in this story unless a Qatari is behind the wheel. While cities around Beverly Hills make ‘safe streets’ a rhetorical objective if not a policy pivot, here in Beverly Hills the silence about the harm inflicted by reckless drivers is deafening.

Faded crosswalks at Wilshire and SM Blvd in 2015

It is not only reckless driving that gets a pass. Degraded facilities like these faded crosswalks at Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevard only increase the danger for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. This is one of the region’s worst intersections for safety, according to the Los Angles Times. Yet the city is in no hurry to repair it.

Hazardous Intersections That Need a Safety Upgrade TODAY

Crossing guard on Wilshire at Santa Monica Blvd

According to BHPD, at this 9th most dangerous intersection in Beverly Hills you take your life into your hands. Better to cross with a crossing guard!

A couple of weeks ago we reported on a genius LA Times interactive called Walking in L.A. that mapped 817 of the “most dangerous” intersections in the county. As we noted with no surprise, several of most dangerous county intersections (and clusters) are right here in Beverly Hills. Despite the long histories of crashes, not one of them has been made more safe. City of Los Angeles several years ago acknowledged the problem, though, with a plan to stripe 53 problematic crossings for high visibility. Three years later, KPCC asks listeners, Are there others in need of a fix? Continue reading

BH Traffic Report for 2013: Little Progress on Road Safety

Traffic report thumbnailWhen we learned that Office of Traffic Safety ranked Beverly Hills worst among small cities for bike and pedestrian safety, we wanted to deep-dive the data* to understand how our city could do more to make streets safe. After digging into collision and enforcement data we come to the conclusion that city officials aren’t even trying to improve our low standing. The 36 bike-involved collision injuries reported to police last year even exceeds our 5-year annual average.  Shouldn’t we be making progress in reducing the harm? Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Victoria Chin’s Day in Court: Anticlimactic

Livingston's BikeOn June 12th 2011, Paul Livingston was riding his white Bianchi eastbound on Santa Monica Boulevard when he was struck from behind by motorist Victoria Chin right at Beverly Hills City Hall (Crescent Drive). She fled the scene. This serious collision not only totaled the bike – taco wheel, bent frame, cracked saddle – it sent Mr. Livingston to the hospital with a cracked pelvis and factured vertebra. Fortunately he’s not totaled and Paul and a handful of cyclists attended today’s preliminary hearing to – for the first time – hear the defendant face up to her crime. Continue reading

Beverly HIlls 2012 Log: Collisions Hold Steady, Enforcement Declines

chart of BH traffic data for 2012

Injury collisions hold steady while enforcement takes a nosedive.

Beverly Hills Traffic & Parking Commission received their usual monthly update from the Police department last week. According to last year’s data, injury collisions in Beverly Hills have held steady throughout 2012 with monthly fluctuation. But steady nonetheless. Police enforcement shows a decline throughout the year in three of four citation categories, however, and they seem to take a curious dip at the height of the summer in June (reference the light grey behind the trendlines). They also dip during the holiday season. While a decrease in collisions suggest less traffic on December roads, and possibly fewer violators, what could explain the sudden rise in citations so early in the year?

Getting Right with the Law: BHPD Pay Attention!

We follow up on our recent discussion about new laws signed by Governor Brown with a look at how our existing laws are sometimes mistakenly interpreted by law enforcement professionals. Beat officers don’t always have an intimate knowledge of every corner of the vehicular code, and perhaps those sections that do apply to those who choose to bicycle may not get a frequent workout. The problem is that when they do get a workout often it is to the disadvantage of those cited. Sometimes clearly biased or vindictive action by an officer that raises hackles. More often it’s simply unfamiliarity with the nuance of the code. Whatever the cause, the burden of proof is on the poor soul who is cited. It pays to know the state laws and local ordinances! Continue reading

Let’s Make Safe Passing a Reality Here Too!

State safe passing laws map

Courtesy the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Let’s return to our recent post about the National Conference of State Legislatures analysis of safe passing laws across our 50 states (and the District of Columbia). Their survey of legislation showed that nationwide our laws vary considerably to create a patchwork of protections (as reflected in the map). Coming out near bottom is our very own State of California with no 3-foot passing law and only a general ‘due care’ provision on the books. We can do better! Let’s take a look at some of the states that do better as we look ahead to safer streets for cyclists. Continue reading

When Riding to the Right is Not Practicable

Santa Monica Boulevard pavement irregularitiesHave a look at Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills. This corridor presents every kind of challenge to the cyclist, including poorly striped intersections and the occasional sheared-off lamppost  waiting to impale a rider gone astray. This road varies in width, is crossed by many streets, bears heavy traffic (50,000/day) and is plied by several bus lines. And yet the poor cyclist also has to dodge grates, broken pavement and potholes. Continue reading

Breaking News: Worst of SM Blvd. Gets a Touch-up

Santa Monica Boulevard pavement irregularities

Though Beverly Hills Dept. of Public Works has been adamant over the past year about NOT fixing Santa Monica Boulevard until fully reconstructed (sometime in 2015), the corridor got some much-needed care when a crew came out today to lay down some new blacktop. Regular riders remember how the hazards compromise travel for them while offering motorists a nice ride (at right). Finally cyclists may enjoy this segment too. And it’s gratifying to see something finally happen here after hearing no, no, no to our pleas for help. Perhaps it comes just in time to prevent a car-bike collision, but not too soon for the pileup just last week on this spot after a westbound driver braked hard upon approaching … Continue reading

Beverly Hills CCTV Network: Your Collision Black Box

CCTV cameras in Beverly Hills

We’ve just received a map of Beverly Hills CCTV cameras. These are very high-def cameras posted at key intersections and they come in very handy if you’re seeking visual evidence after a collision with a motorist. Take a look at this growing network of cameras! The data is retained for 6-9 months and is available via public records request. So don’t be shy: when you’ve been harassed or struck in the vicinity of one of these eyes-in-the-sky, don’t hesitate to chase down the tape!

Summer is a Time to Ride, a Time to Crash

bike jump

Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day holidays are the traditional signposts of summer. Each respectively marks a change in the national mood, from optimism at the opening of the season, then the high point of leisure & recreation, and finally that abrupt return to our regular rhythms. But each is a reminder to causal riders and committed cyclists alike that it’s time to get out and ride. These long days and warm nights of summer are made for cycling whether to the grocery or the beach or simply to run that errand in town. But Summer is also the season when America’s favorite pastime is more likely to result in bike-related injuries. Let’s take a look at the trends.

Update on our Motorist Battery Case

BHPD logo

We now mark 13 weeks since we provided the BHPD with an accurate plate # in a harassment, threat and battery case. Two weeks ago we looked at mug shots. If you file a traffic-related collision or batter report with BHPD, please let Better Bike know! < That was our original post. Now we have an update on our attempt to hold a hostile motorist accountable, but unfortunately to no satisfactory resolution. Read on!

Never Say Accident

Aside

A recent story on fed investment in bike facilities from Public Radio International repeated the canard that “accidents” keep people from cycling. If carelessness, negligence, depravity reign, a collision owing to reckless operation of a motor vehicle is not an “accident” so let’s not call it one.

Next Time it May Be You

When Traffic & Parking Commission declined to recommend safety improvements for cyclists on Beverly Drive, one of our heavily traveled streets, commissioners argued that cyclists don’t obey the law. They said that sharrows might give cyclists a “false sense of security.” They even said that sharrows might cause drivers to panic. I had this in mind when a careless Cayenne driver broadsided me right on Beverly Drive on Saturday near the Art Fair, even as I was riding legally and prudently and without the harm of sharrows. What does the commission say to that?