Concerns About our Complete Streets Process

Here I present my letter to our Traffic and Parking Commission about the state of our complete streets planning process as I see it. There will have gone ten weeks between the last event (the walk audit) and the upcoming workshop on August 22nd without any substantive communication with the public. Has public input to date effectively informed the process? Has the participation component been just a check-the-box exercise that hews to the city’s request-for-proposal? The RFP wasn’t a particularly imaginative document and it seems like we have a singularly unimaginative complete streets process on our hands.

July 12, 2018

Chair Nooshin Meshkaty
Vice-Chair Jay Solnit
Members of the Traffic & Parking Commission

Dear Commissioners:

Thank you for your continuing attention to the complete streets plan process. I appreciate your participation in the workshops and walk audit. I hope this commission will continue to play an active role through the adoption of the final complete streets plan this fall.

The Traffic & Parking Commission appears to be an outlier among commissions, however. No other commission seems to have actively engaged in what should be a broad civic conversation about the future of mobility. The General Plan Circulation Element (2010) and the Sustainable City Plan (2009) recommend we encourage active modes of transportation but it seems like most of our commissions have yet to find the means to help us reach that goal.

At least as far as engaging in the complete streets process goes. These commissions are not discussing issues relevant to complete streets. Most commissions have dispatched no participant to the plan process events as far as I can tell. I suspect it is because ‘complete streets’ appears as an information item and not an action item.

I believe that our commissions should have been explicitly invited to join this civic conversation about the future of mobility. Perhaps our commissioners could have benefitted from some help to recognize the relevance of complete streets to their commission mission.

For example, the Health & Safety Commission could have been asked to suggest measures that would raise public awareness; or invited to recommend the continuation of city-sponsored bike-safety classes in partnership with the school district. Recreation & Parks, too, could have been asked to reconsider the ban on bicycles in city parks. The commissioners could have reprised their discussion a about whether larger parks should feature a separate bicycle path. (Unfortunately, just as the complete streets plan process was kicking-off the commissioners elected not to make bicycling issues a priority.)

Likewise I’m sure the Planning Commission was not invited to review the city’s Transportation Demand Management program. TDM has long mandated nonresidential developments larger than 15,000 sq. feet to include bicycle maps and related information. Developments over 25,000 sq. feet were required to provide bicycle racks and enclosed secure bicycle parking. Has TDM yielded any benefit in that regard? Should it be expanded to residential developments too? (The coming 9200 Wilshire Boulevard project – 54 condominium units – presents an opportunity to have that conversation.)

The City Council’s standing committees also could have had a role to play in the complete streets plan process. Consider the Green City and Autonomous Vehicles committees. Wouldn’t they have something to talk about? Our consultants are talking about connected vehicles, after all, and it may be time to revisit our green building standards too. The Next Beverly Hills committee should have received a formal invitation to participate too, in my view. Kory Klem and I talk-up complete streets to those relatively young committee members but I’m not sure many have even completed the online survey.

Your commission also has a role here. I wish I had suggested that you revisit the bicycle rack-on-request program. Inexplicably the program always focused on business needs; shouldn’t it have targeted end-users – the riders who use the racks? I also should have suggested the commission discuss a ‘bike valet’ program. Bike valets promote attendance at city events while encouraging attendees to leave the car at home. It is in your wheelhouse: your remit includes oversight of valet car parking of course.

All of this comes to mind when I ponder the gap between what our complete streets plan could be, and the limitations of the process that will ultimately generate it. Many weeks will have gone by between the walk audit and the presentation of the draft plan. And maybe our capable consultants have it in hand. But it feels like the process and purpose has receded from the collective consciousness. A recent email via the website about it wasn’t even acknowledged.

What I’m missing is a robust civic conversation about the inevitable transformation that personal mobility augurs. Scooters are only the latest sign that we are not yet prepared for the future.

As always I thank you for your time and effort you put in month-after month. It is appreciated!

Complete Streets Walk Audit Recap

Complete Streets Walk audit overview of the roomBeverly Hills conducted a Complete Streets ‘walk audit’ on June 9th. It followed on the first Community Workshop (read the recap), the Workshop #2 (recap) and an Earth Day Complete Streets pop-up (pic). After those earlier conceptual discussions and associated mapping exercises, this event was a hands-on opportunity for participants to evaluate our environment for accessibility and safety.  And of course to make recommendations. “Everything is on the table” in terms of improvements, said Aaron Kunz, Community Development Department Deputy Director for Transportation. Continue reading

Complete Streets Workshop #2 Recap

City of Beverly Hills has hosted the second in a series of complete streets outreach events. At workshop #1 general concepts were presented and key concerns identified. This workshop was rubber-meets-road as participants hovered over city maps to drill down on opportunities for pedestrian and bicycle networks and ‘vehicle technology streets.’ Good ideas came from five roundtables. Read on! Continue reading

Lend Your Voice to the Beverly Hills Complete Streets Plan

Several years ago Metro added a condition to the transportation grants the deep-pocketed agency makes to localities: money is contingent on a Metro-approved complete streets mobility plan in place at the local level. Our 1977 Bicycle Master Plan won’t cut it, so City of Beverly Hills city stepped away from a decade of talk about a plan update and instead chose to focus on a brand-new complete streets plan. That planning process is under way now. Mobility advocates please lend your voice! Continue reading

Complete Streets workshop #1 Recap

Complete streets workshop #1 flyerThe first Beverly Hills complete streets process community workshop was held on Monday, March 12th, to kick off the drafting of the city’s complete streets plan. This is the first step in the creation of a complete streets plan. More workshops and city meetings will follow, but this event suggested that Beverly Hills is ready for complete streets. Here’s my recap. Continue reading

Mark Your Calendar: Complete Streets Workshop #1

Better Bike invites you to attend the Beverly Hills complete streets visioning workshop tonight, Monday, March 12th at 6:30pm. This event kicks-off a planning process for which our alternative mobility community has long waited: the preparation of an actual complete streets plan 40 years after the city adopted our first, and only, Bicycle Master Plan. Continue reading

Beverly Hills Signed on to the USDOT Mayors’ Challenge. Now What?

MayorChallengeSignUpEarlier this year, then-Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation challenged American localities to make travel safer for bicycle riders and pedestrians. In March he invited US mayors to sign on, and Beverly Hills accepted the challenge back in February. But we’ve heard nothing from City Hall about it since then. Is our city doing anything to meet the Mayors’ Challenge for bike-friendly streets? Continue reading

Time for Beverly Hills to Adopt a Complete Streets Policy!

Chattanooga, Tennessee beat Beverly Hills in the broadband arena a few years ago with citywide 1gigabit-per-second Internet. Back then nobody paid much attention: Chattanooga is hardly on the minds of many Angelenos. But our own city dithered on broadband, which left Time Warner with a broadband monopoly. Now Chattanooga leaps ahead with a real complete streets policy to make travel safer for all road users. Yet our our “world class” city can’t seem to entertain a discussion about street safety or plan effectively for multimodal mobility. What gives?

New York City’s Transformation

NYC bike rack

Over the past decade New York City has been transformed from a hardscrabble city where motorists practically had the run of city streets (perhaps our greatest public space!) to a hardscrabble city where those of us who walk and bike have at least a fighting chance to survive. And while the playing field is not exactly level, the transformation of high-profile thoroughfares suggests the problem is recognized. With appropriate policies, better enforcement and continued infrastructure improvements, we’ll at least put non-motorists back on the scoreboard after a century+ shutout by motor traffic interests and an ongoing assist from unaccountable policymakers.

Will Complete Streets Become the Law of the Land?

Complete Streets principles state that our roads must be safely accessible to all users regardless of mode choice. That represents clear break from the the Mesozoic era of automobility when the blacktop was the exclusive province of motorists. Yet it has yet to catch on with state transportation agencies and local departments of transportation. To the rescue comes the Safe Streets Act of 2013. Co-authored by California’s Representative Doris Matsui (Sacramento), the legislation would to force states and localities to recognize their responsibility to finally make our streets more safe.

PTA Hosts BH Community Forum on Bike-Friendly Streets

Horace Mann on Wednesday evening hosted a PTA-organized forum intended to jump start a community conversation about making city streets near our schools safer and more bike-friendly for children and parents. The forum was organized by current Horace Mann PTA president Jeffrey Grijalva and past President Howard Goldstein and moderated by Horace Mann parent Jeffrey Courion, who is an advocate for building community the old-fashioned way: by walking our streets and running errands by bicycle.

City Council Study Session: Complete Streets Mentioned

Visualization of a bike lane and active transportation corridor on Santa Monica Boulevard

An update following today’s City Council’s April 17th Study Session. In our earlier review of the draft request for proposals (RFP) for the Santa Monica Boulevard conceptual design, we noted that RFP language seemed to slight the bike lanes option. We also noted that it presumed community opposition to boulevard expansion for lanes, and we also observed that the draft RFP failed to include Complete Streets principles. We argued that because the RFP establishes bidder expectations, it’s important to craft it carefully. Councilmembers agreed and sent it back for revisions. Here’s the recap.

Santa Monica Boulevard Expansion Must Be On the Table

Bike Backbone map missing Beverly Hills piece

Since we’ve first talked about bi-directional Class II bike lanes for the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor, City of Beverly Hills officials have said that widening the boulevard for any purpose (including bike lanes) was a no-go proposition. Former Mayor Jimmy Delshad put a fine point on it in City Council in mid-2010 when he said, “We’re not widening the boulevard!” That was just after he said, “All options are on the table.” All options were clearly not on the table.