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!

Developer’s Rash Tree-Felling Highlights Hazards for Riders (Editorial)

Courier cover November 27th 2015The Beverly Hills Courier, the perennial champion of anti-Metro hyperbole, has rotated its turret toward toxic contamination on Santa Monica Boulevard parcels 12 & 13. Riders know this land for the chain-link fencing and dense tree cover that casts in deep shadow pavement hazards east of Beverly. Well the shadow is no more: the landowner clear-cut the trees on a Saturday morning. But were the required permits secured? Did the city fail to ensure that soil contamination wasn’t disturbed? The incident raises questions not only about City Hall transparency but rider safety on the corridor too. Continue reading

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

Gran Fondo Italia Comes to Beverly Hills on 9/28

Gran Fondo Italia BH logoThe Gran Fondo Italia ride, an annual for-profit ‘packaged’ bike ride & marketing extravaganza, comes back to Beverly Hills with city sponsorship this September 28th. It’s the only kind of ride our city appreciates: hospitality dollars roll in while City Hall basks in ersatz Euro-gloss. Fittingly, premium riders will enjoy a dinner at the Montage Hotel and a Tuscan wine ‘goody bag.’ But those linen tablecloths and Tuscan wines won’t streets any safer for the everyday riders. If you’re concerned about safe streets in Beverly Hills, this Gran Fondo is as relevant to your commute as if it actually happened in Italy.  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

What We Can Do Today About Santa Monica Boulevard

Santa Monica Boulevard pavementBeverly Hills City Council may have punted on Santa Monica Boulevard, but they can’t turn their back on street safety entirely. Consider what confronts road users every day on this corridor: pavement hazards and intersections seemingly engineered to fail riders. While councilmembers continue to discuss reconstruction cost, let’s talk safety. There’s much we can do to make this corridor better today: repair that blacktop and intersections like Santa Monica-Beverly Blvd and Santa Monica/Wilshire more safely accessible to riders. Continue reading

A Hovenring for Beverly Hills!

Hovenring illustrationThe Netherlands has created what may be the most spectacular bike facility ever: the Hovenring. This lighted, suspended parallel interchange facility hovers atop a roadway interchange but does much more: by literally and figuratively elevating bike travel above car travel, the Hovenring completely inverts the American approach to transportation and makes rider safety paramount. Could the Hovenring be appropriate to move riders safely through the awful Santa Monica and Wilshire intersection in Beverly Hills? Continue reading

Historic Route 66 Redux?

Aside

Kimberly Reiss makes a good argument for rechristening Santa Monica Boulevard as Historic Route 66. In this corridor’s reconstruction she sees Route 66 highway signs, lamppost banners, landscaped medians and bike paths to recall the history of travel and be the gateway to our business triangle. We’re totally on board!

Santa Monica Boulevard Tour #1 Recap

SM Blvd tour: Michael Meyer from Iteris

Iteris planner Michael Meyer leads the Santa Monica reconstruction project tour.

Members of the Santa Monica Boulevard ‘blue-ribbon’ committee this past Wednesday joined city staffers Aaron Kunz (Deputy Director of Transportation), Susan Healey Keene (Director of Community Development) and project consultants Michael Meyers for a mobile tour of the corridor. With the introductory meeting of the committee behind us, the tour provided a up-close look at the issues and opportunities presented by a ground-up reconstruction. Here’s our tour recap. 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!

Council’s Agenda for Tuesday: SM Blvd Reconstruction

Ride the Westside on Santa Monica Boulevard and you’ll know that something’s missing when you pass through Beverly Hills. Somehow the dedicated on-street bicycle lanes that deliver riders to our city from east and west disappear completely at our city’s gateways. With this corridor undergoing a down-to-the-gravel reconstruction by 2015, what potential will it hold for bicycle lanes in order to fix this missing link?

When Riding to the Right is Not Practicable

Santa Monica Boulevard pavement irregularities

Have 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.

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

Sheared Lamppost Waits to Impale the Unfortunate Cyclist

A key responsibility of our Beverly Hills Public Works department is to ensure that our roads are safe for all users. For the past five years, however, the city has neglected to make even the most basic repairs to Santa Monica Boulevard. Instead our transportation folks wait for a corridor-wide reconstruction (now pushed back to 2015) to make improvements. In the meantime, cyclists suffer as we navigate blacktop moguls amid frantic auto traffic. Now we have to keep an eye out for particular hazards like this one: a sheared-off lamppost west of Beverly Blvd. that waits patiently to impale the errant cyclist or unfortunate victim of a car-bike collision on this very busy corridor.

Crossing the 405 Fwy Puts Your Life on the Line

405 fwy at Ohio signage

We call it walking the plank: merely crossing under the 405 Fwy at Wilshire, Ohio, Santa Monica, Olympic, and Pico boulevards is akin to taking your life into your hands. Or more accurately, it is putting your life into the hands of an under-skilled driver piloting (most likely) a super-sized vehicle. But what choice do you have: with the Caltrans $1 billion 405 fwy expansion, the Westside crosstown cyclist has zero options. Unless of course you walk it on the sidewalk. But pedestrians fare little better.