Are Fading Beverly Hills Bike Facilities a Metaphor?

Approved Pilot program bike routes map

The pilot program as approved by City Council: just two routes out of five under consideration.

In 2013 City of Beverly Hills chose two corridors for bike facilities under the city’s (very) limited ‘pilot project.’ Several block segments of Crescent Drive and Burton way were identified by consultant Fehr & Peers as suitable for class II bicycle lanes, while Crescent (south of Santa Monica) was also deemed suitable for sharrows. A year on, our facilities are showing their age: Burton Way bike lanes are disappearing before our eyes; and an ill-advised realignment of sharrows on Crescent Drive now puts riders at risk.

Are our city’s first-ever bike facilities installed under the pilot program (read the feasibility study) an indication of bike-friendliness, as our Mayor says? Or do they telegraph our city’s true regard for the safety of two-wheeled road users in Beverly Hills as revealed by councilmembers this past summer? In short, are these pilot improvements a metaphor for the slippage of bike improvements from a Council ‘B’ priority to off the agenda entirely?

Consider the bicycle lanes installed on several block segments of Burton Way. They were striped with ordinary paint. As a result, the pilot program bicycle lanes have faded – really faded – to the point of disappearing before our eyes.

Beverly Hills and Los Angeles bike lane striping on Burton Way

Witness the difference between the faded bicycle lanes on Burton Way in Beverly Hills (left) and the markings on that same corridor in adjacent Los Angeles (right).

Faded crosswalk at Wilshire & Santa Monica South

Pity the poor pedestrians who cross every day at this major juncture of Wilshire & Santa Monica Boulevard South!

Yet the city appears to have no appetite to restripe them. And to be fair, it’s a citywide problem: many of our crosswalks have faded to the point of putting pedestrians in danger. They take on a ghostly quality, which is surely not appropriate for a traffic control device. So you see it’s not just cyclists that get the back of the hand. That’s why Beverly Hills leads small cities in California in pedestrian collision injuries.

Will our bike lanes be restored to their original luster? Our deputy director for transportation was non-committal when asked. (Stay tuned for an update as we have another query into the division.)

Another problem area with regard to the pilot program is the sharrows implementation on Crescent Drive (below Santa Monica Boulevard North). Heading northbound on Crescent approaching Brighton Way, the sharrow is correctly positioned in the right lane. North of Brighton approaching Santa Monica South, however, the sharrow has been relocated to the #2 lane adjacent to the double-yellow. That puts passing motor traffic to the right of the rider crossing over the next intersection. But then north of the Santa Monica South intersection the sharrow again shifts back to the right lane, forcing a rider merge with that passing traffic.

Sharrow placement on Crescent Drive infographicAdd to the obvious safety implications the fact that passing traffic has an incentive to speed along this segment in order to make both the Santa Monica South and Santa Monica North green lights and you have a recipe for serious rider injury.

This was brought to the attention of Aaron Kunz, Deputy Director for Transportation, in early August. Of course transportation staff should have recognized the problem; for many months these sharrows have been misaligned But neither the plain evidence or even our communication has made the slightest bit of difference: riders still navigate this hazard as city hall takes no action to correct it.

City Hall: No Passion for Action on Road Safety

This pilot program in our opinion was too little, too late anyway. It was not intended to be much more than a gesture toward a bike-friendly claim. Indeed it doesn’t bolster our confidence that councilmember Julian Gold has appeared anxious for this pilot program – by definition it’s not permanent – to come back before Council for reevaluation. But to approve it and then wholly neglect to maintain it? That’s spitting into the eye of every rider who would follow our own city plans’ advice to opt whenever possible for bicycle travel over auto travel. You know – to reduce auto congestion and emissions!

Santa Monica's thermoplast bicycle lane markings

City of Santa Monica not only embraces thermoplast but pays more for pre-templated bike lane markings.

Thankfully we do have better examples on offer in neighboring cities. Both Santa Monica and City of Los Angeles, for example, are rolling out bike facilities citywide. They’re installed to be permanent – not as part of a pilot – and they’re installed according to Caltrans requirements. Moreover, these cities use thermoplastic, not regular paint, to ensure that such state-approved traffic safety measures stick around for more than a year. Santa Monica goes one better: new bike lanes there are high-visibility and some of them even buffered from adjacent motor traffic.

Calling ourselves bike-friendly and making Beverly Hills streets safe and welcoming to cyclists are not the same thing. We find the faded lanes and misplaced sharrows on Burton and Crescent to be an apt metaphor for city hall’s fading concern for rider safety as well as the future of the pilot program.

So often in Beverly Hills we like to talk the talk because it’s easy and cost-free.  But we prefer not to actually walk the walk because it’s harder and it costs money. Other cities make the investment in facilities and plan for a multimodal mobility future. Why not Beverly Hills?

Update: on Tuesday, 11/18 City Council will hear the staff recommendation to make these two paltry bike routes permanent and, if that’s approved, Public Works will presumably restripe them. After all, it allows the city to say they’ve done something for rider safety. Stay tuned.

Council Hears Santa Monica Boulevard Options [Recap]

Santa Monica Blvd. narrowsBeverly 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! Continue reading

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

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? Continue reading

Calpirg: We’re Driving Less

Transportation New Generation coverThe California Public Interest Research Group‘s recent A New Direction report finds that we’re driving less than we used to here in the US. Despite all of the glossy car ads and ill-advised in-cabin entertainment systems today, consumers are increasingly choosing not to drive. It’s generational, according to this study: ‘boomers’ are aging out of their usual commute or choose to retire near urban centers while younger folks spurn car ownership and even licensing altogether. CALPIRG asks, What does this mean for transportation policy when it’s so long favored motoring? Continue reading

BHUSD Grapples with the Cost of Driving to School

BHUSD logoBeverly Hills Unified School Board recently heard about the cost of student parking at the high school. Not the price to students, which is nominal, but the costs that the district and the community bear for failing to encourage more students to ride to school. For the community, it is clogged streets every morning and afternoon and few curb spaces available for residents. For the district, however, it means financing garage parking for a large share of the estimated 970-1200 needed spaces. With bond financing pinched under current law and the district taking heat for wanting to hike property taxes for a multi-campus expansion, isn’t there a better alternative than spending $40-50k for each new garage spot? Continue reading

Update from the Beverly Hills Transportation Division

Approved Pilot program bike routes map

The two routes approved for bike-friendly treatments by City Council.

Transportation staff presented a report to the Traffic & Parking Commission this week that outlined progress (or lack thereof) on several cycling-related initiatives here in Beverly Hills. If you’ve tuned in earlier, you’ll know that the city has been talking for the past three years about a new bike plan. They’ve been planning a ‘pilot’ bike route for the past two years. And have been working on a limited bike rack installation program for the past 18 months.  While there’s still no tangible progress to report, we did hear from staff about timelines. Let’s review, starting start with the big opportunity: bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. 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

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, 2012

Beverly 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.

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.

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

2012 New Mayor Installation

On 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.

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.

City Council Hears Pilot Route Program Tomorrow

Aside

Beverly Hills City Council will hear in its 2:30 p.m. study session the bike route pilot program that’s long been in the works. Transportation staff will present the consultant’s feasibility study, the results of two public outreach meetings, and a special Traffic & Parking Commission meeting. Find all of the materials bundled into the staff report [pdf].