Beverly Hills City Council UNANIMOUSLY OKs SM Blvd Bike Lanes

In an incredible turnabout tonight, all five Beverly Hills councilmembers agreed to include bicycle lanes on our segment of Santa Monica Boulevard. The unanimous vote demolished the specious claims put forth by NIMBY opponents. And it recognized the solid arguments brought forth by forty speakers and scores more comments from proponents of safe multimodal mobility. In sum, bicycle lanes not only make riders feel safe, they actually make us more safe.

In what amounts to a total victory, we not only gained five votes for lanes; we also have support from three councilmembers for high-visibility lanes. On that point, the only discussion concerned just how conspicuous we could make them. Councilmember Mirisch suggested a very specific shade of blue to pop out; even better, he said, let’s make any colored treatment self-illuminating. (Is this Beverly Hills?!)

Third, and most incredibly, it looks like we have Council approval to actually make an incremental reduction – yes, reduction – in the #1 (inside) vehicular lanes. Staff had inexplicably recommended 11-foot inside lanes, much wider than necessary, while whittling down our bicycle lanes to a bare-minimum 4’6″. Councilmembers asked, Why so wide? With some support from our transportation consultant, Iteris, it now looks like the boulevard’s #1 lanes may shrink to 10.5 or even 10 feet. (Pinch me. Where am I?!)

In a perverse bit of irony, that too-wide #1 lane recommendation included in the staff report might have allowed opponents to have their cake and eat it too. Three years ago they throttled the boulevard’s width and almost squeezed out bicycle lanes. (We barely got the necessary width back in January 2015). Yet now lane opponents claimed that the only bicycle lanes that would fit on a boulevard they worked so hard to narrow are simply not safe to ride. The balls of it.

But their argument was dispatched tonight with alacrity because, unlike opponents, our councilmembers actually reviewed the prevailing design guidance and agreed: 11 feet is too wide. Moreover, the Council majority embraced the notion that narrower lanes would calm Santa Monica Boulevard traffic. (Seriously, in Beverly Hills?!)

The incredulity expressed by councilmembers regarding our opponents’ flimsy arguments against bicycle lanes suggested two things as the evening progressed:

  1. Complete streets is a concept whose time has finally come in Beverly Hills. We’re embarking on a complete streets plan process now, and the embrace of safe, multimodal mobility makes all the difference between ginning up a pro-forma, check-the-box complete streets plan; and a real policy statement and implementation framework that would actually make our streets safe for all road users. It’s the difference between cynicism and optimism.
  2. The NIMBY zombie that has come back, time and again, to loom like a black cloud over every discussion of bicycle lanes in Beverly Hills has finally been banished. Not only could the opposition forces not muster the enthusiasm (let alone numbers) of years past; their arguments were transparently disingenuous.

For this we can thank Mayor Lili Bosse for her leadership. She made the bike plan a priority; then she literally put bicycle lanes back on the agenda; and finally, tonight, she proclaimed, “bike lanes everywhere!” John Mirisch, likewise is a solid ally and a complete streets supporter. He always has been. And rounding out the loudest voices for multimodal mobility, councilmember Robert Wunderlich is all about making our city bikable. (C’mon, man, this is Beverly Hills?!)

That’s just three votes, of course, but we got five for lanes. I trust that Vice-Mayor Gold and councilmember Friedman will come around.

If there was one outcome worth the many-years wait, it is that we in Beverly Hills have conclusively put to rest the fictions that have long-driven our transportation planning. That we could remain an isolated suburb in the center of a sprawling urban region with serious mobility and quality-of-life challenges; and that we could cling tight to a 20th-century car culture even as we enter the second decade of the 21st century.

Thanks be to all of our friends and supporters who have been there from the beginning – and those that joined us tonight for the first time. You will get your due when this is updated with a full-on report! Onward!

Back on the Priority List: The Beverly Hills Bike Plan!

City Council pictured in 2013.Among the ignominious developments over the last year in Beverly Hills, surely the one of greatest interest to bicycle riders was City Council’s decision not to include a bicycle lane on Santa Monica Boulevard. But on its heels came another decision that would have escaped notice if we hadn’t reported that the city had intended to step away entirely from an update to our 1977 Bicycle Master Plan. But we called it out, councilmember Lili Bosse took up the cause, and City Council agreed to make it a priority. Again. Continue reading

Say Goodbye to Santa Monica Boulevard Bike Lanes [recap]

Cycling prohibited graphicIf you expected that Beverly Hills might install bicycle lanes on our segment of North Santa Monica Boulevard when reconstructing it next year, you will be sorely disappointed to know that City Council appears to have pounded the final nail into the bike lanes coffin. The decision reflects a lack of concern for the scores of speakers who supported the inclusion of bicycle lanes as a safety measure and stands as a rebuke to the hundreds more who urged our city in written comments to do the right thing by riders. Continue reading

Recapping the Recappers: How Local Media Covered SM Blvd

Greenway organizers at City Council

Co-organizers (L-R) Kory Klem, LACBC’s Eric Bruins, Better Bike’s Mark Elliot and Rich Hirschinger in Council chambers.

Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills Could Soon Be Bicycle Safe.” That’s a real headline, not an April Fool’s day prank or The Onion having a laugh on you. That accurate (if optimistic) take on a recent Beverly Hills study session says it plain: City Council actually kept alive a chance that we’ll one day see bicycle lanes striped on Santa Monica Boulevard. WestsideToday.com has our respect for publishing a detailed recap and the best of the coverage among three local papers that we recap here. Continue reading

City Council Punts: Bike Lanes Deferred Again [Recap]

Deputy Director for Transportation Aaron Kunz

Deputy Director for Transportation Aaron Kunz presents findings to Council.

When City Council last considered bicycle lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard in March, the question of whether to expand the blacktop incrementally to accommodate lanes became bogged down in a broader discussion about costs. Then this December 2nd meeting mostly focused on traffic mitigation. So again Council has kicked the bike lanes can further down the road. Yet Council and staff nevertheless appear to be on the same page: no bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. Let’s recap the meeting and look ahead to next steps and a new proposal. Continue reading

Santa Monica Blvd Recap & Update

Recently we spoke with Aaron Kunz, Deputy Director for Transportation, about Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction and what to next expect in the process. Recall that back in March, the Council majority seemed unwilling to concede an extra foot of width to accommodate them. But the ballooning cost estimate stalled the project, and the Council deferred action pending more information about costs and traffic mitigation. Continue reading

Council Slaps Back: No Bike Lanes for SM Blvd [Recap]

Beverly Hills City Council Disses Road Safety, Slaps Riders in Santa Monica Boulevard Session

A split Beverly Hills City Council last night dismissed the safety concerns of over two hundred riders (and twenty who showed up in person) to blithely wave off any prospect for class II bicycle lanes on tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard. Those of us who hoped that the corridor would close the regional backbone network gap, or perhaps illustrate the current thinking in complete streets principles, will be sorely disappointed. Living up to our reputation for insularity and parochial thinking, a majority on our City Council last night affirmed our city’s disregard for connectivity and road safety by ruling out bike lanes. Continue reading

Pay for Play Days Over in BH?

Aside

When Mayor Mirisch asked the Principal Planner of  Beverly Hills if his agency is a victim of ‘Stockholm Syndrome,‘ we had to applaud; planners are too cozy with developers. Mirisch followed up with a letter to the editor and nailed it: “It is my hope that the days when the City was for sale on the cheap are over. I for one am still committed to putting the Community’s and the residents’ interests before developer profits. I’m committed to making sure that the public benefits truly benefit our residents.” – Courier 1/3/14.

Beverly Hills Calls for Public Input on SM Blvd Project

Santa Monica Boulevard looking east to WilshireBeverly Hills City Council just created a ‘blue ribbon’ residents committee to coordinate public input about conceptual designs and alternatives for the first phase of the Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction project. Expected to break ground in early 2015, the project will reconfigure this key corridor. Many design questions remain, however – not least whether bicycle lanes will one day find their place here to complete the regional ‘backbone’ bicycle network that cyclists care about. Continue reading

Council Hears Santa Monica Boulevard Options [Recap]

Beverly Hills City Council took a major step forward on Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction today when councilmembers agreed to create an appointed blue-ribbon committee to manage public outreach this fall. This move broadens stakeholder participation beyond the limited opportunities afforded by commission oversight and instead puts oversight of the process in stakeholders’ hands. In other developments, the Council  recognized that cyclists have a place on this key corridor and said safety was paramount. Let’s recap!

Sunshine Task Force Meeting #3 [Recap]

The Sunshine Task Force, an ad hoc committee formed by Mayor Mirisch to advance good government reforms, met for the third time this week, and on the agenda was a change to the city’s existing legislative advocate form. The objectives are to glean more information about lobbyists and their clients, and to make that information available online to the Council and the public at large. The broader goal: greater transparency in Beverly Hills city government.

Beverly Hills Civics 101

Last we checked, power flows from the people. We the people stand astride the machinery of government. We sit atop the pyramid of power. So accordingly we the people top-off the governance organization chart. But democracy in practice doesn’t always accord with the organization chart. Even in local government of only forty thousand people. Power is arrogated and bureaucracy exercises it’s prerogatives. Where does that leave the people?

Setting the City’s Agenda

The Beverly Hills Courier ran a cover article last week titled, ‘Mirisch Says City Manager Kolin “Usurped” Authority.’ Attention-grabbing headlines are a staple in the tabloid’s toolbox precisely because they beg a look. And indeed the Courier has been known to swing a provocative headline now and then. But ‘usurps’ is a serious charge, and it merits attention because the City Manager already exercises control. Does he exercise too much control? Let’s look more closely at the City Manager and the Courier’s claim.

Time to Review the Department Head Hiring Process

Beverly Hills org chart

Have you wondered why Beverly Hills has taken none of the steps toward safer for cyclists that other cities have? One can point to a few factors that get in the way: an outdated 1977-era Bicycle Master Plan; our Traffic and Parking Commission which doesn’t recognize road safety as a mandate; and a City Council that historically has shown little interest in cycling. All are true but not sufficient: probably the biggest obstacle has been our Public Works department where managers and staff seem not to grasp the importance of multimodal mobility to our city’s future. But now that it’s time to name a new PW director, we can help to change that. How difficult can it be?

First Bike Facilities Hit Beverly Hills: The Good, Bad & Ugly

Approved Pilot program bike routes map

It’s been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Cyclists have been anticipating the city’s first-ever bicycle lanes for several years and finally they have arrived. With Class II bicycle lanes now installed on Crescent Drive (north of Santa Monica) and Burton Drive (east of City Hall to Robertson), finally we have a designated space on the blacktop. The city’s ‘Pilot’ program also installed shared-lane markings (aka ‘sharrows‘) on Crescent between Santa Monica Blvd. & Wilshire to indicate that motorists must share the road with those who ride. Where do these steps leave Beverly Hills relative to other cities, and what next steps can be taken to make riding safe?