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.
On Sunday, May 20th even more spandex-clad cyclists than usual take to Beverly Hills streets when the Amgen Tour of California launches the last stage of the state’s longest bike race. Departing from Rodeo Drive and turning east on little Santa Monica Boulevard, the peloton continues past Civic Center on Burton Way to Doheney before turning north to rejoin Santa Monica in West Hollywood. Why the convoluted route? Doesn’t our city want these international riders to experience the blacktop catastrophe that is Santa Monica Boulevard’s eastern leg?
Of all the places where cyclists and motorists come into conflict, surely intersections are among the most dangerous places where we cross paths. Why wouldn’t they be? Every intersection in Beverly Hills is engineered to maximize vehicular throughput. Cyclists get no facilities or signage simply because the city isn’t obligated to provide it under the law. We have crosswalks because we must provide a crossing opportunity for pedestrians. We’re working for change, but in the meantime take your St. Christopher totem for safety (you’ll need it) and grasp for another article of faith as we describe how Beverly Hills overlooks every opportunity to make our streets safer.
The Traffic & Parking Commission’s ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee met with a few representatives from the bike community on March 21st, the fifth meeting to date in the process of bringing bike facilities to Beverly Hills. Transportation planner Martha Eros presented an update on the two key initiatives currently underway: the Bike Route Pilot program and an effort to install new bike racks citywide. We also heard from Transportation director Aaron Kunz about the next steps in the reconstruction of Santa Monica Boulevard, which could be reconstructed as a multimodal corridor (as shown here at the eastern gateway). This informational meeting broke no new ground, but here’s the recap.
We’ve followed the city’s Western Gateway planning process closely since early 2011 because we see a golden opportunity to integrate active transportation into coming development around the signature intersection of Wilshire & Santa Monica boulevards. So we eagerly anticipated the second site visit by the Beverly Hills Planning Commission on March 8th to envision new development and measure proposed setbacks. Like the Commission’s first visit, the Gateway welcomed an entourage with tape measure in hand to anticipate the major change that will turn this unsightly area into a signature gateway to the city.
The Beverly Hills Planning Commission will again revisit the city’s western Gateway – literally – via a bus tour during the next scheduled Commission meeting on March 8th at 1:30. [Agenda] Reprising their earlier January visit, the Commissioners will get another firsthand look at the Wilshire & Santa Monica Boulevard(s) intersection and continue to discuss the proposed overlay zone there. Read the staff report & show up if you’re concerned about bike lanes on the Santa Monica corridor.
What are we to do when public-sector transportation officials and planners in their charge fail to create safe conditions for cyclists on public roadways? One answer is to take the reins guerrilla-style, like the Dept. of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) did to create bike lanes in NE Los Angeles. Another option is to democratize planning with DIY charrettes for hands-on participation to create the plans and programs that might just keep us safe.
On Feb. 9th the Planning Commission met to continue an overlay zone discussion that was continued from January’s meeting. The overlay zone, if enacted, would be a newly-formulated land use designation specifically tailored to the city’s western gateway, where Santa Monica Boulevard enters the city and where a proposed project for the Starbucks corner (at Wilshire) is currently under review. This is no academic discussion, however. How the Commission formulates this policy will have a lasting impact on the future transportation uses of the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor.
The Westside Cities Council of Governments (COG) is inviting comment on its program to close gaps in bicycle infrastructure on the Westside. Five priority routes have been identified by bike advocates and COG staff over three meetings in 2011, and now it’s time for you to have a say. Did we get this right? Is there a route that’s been overlooked? This is our opportunity to encourage Westside elected officials to view active transportation improvements like they do surface transportation and mass transit: worthy of public investment if we’re to get the Westside moving again.
The Beverly Hills ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee met on January 18th to update the bike community on several projects of concern to cyclists: Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction, Bicycle Pilot Routes, and two initiatives related to bike parking. Here we’ll address Santa Monica Boulevard separately as it’s such a key issue to cyclists across our region, and because the city is inexplicably viewing it as a separate project though it could have a major active transportation component – bike lanes.
[12/19/2011 Update: Beverly Hills Planning Commission took no action on the overlay zone described here. It was continued to a meeting in late January for further discussion.] Beverly Hills was not always the car capital we see today. At one time our city was the junction of two busy Pacific Electric rail lines, one a spine of the PE’s Western Division along Santa Monica Boulevard; the other the shortest route Downtown via today’s Burton Way. With the rails long gone, it’s the history that is next to go if Beverly Hills rezones the right-of-way.
More than a half-century has passed since the Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The legislation created a vast network of interstates that changed America (and not always for the better). It coddled gas-gobbling motorists and gave succor to a constellation of vested interests. From asphalt suppliers to zoning experts, nearly everyone found something to like in the superslab!
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.
Here’s a guy doing everything right as he makes his way through the Wilshire & Santa Monica Boulevard intersection. He’s traveling like a vehicular cyclist should: in the traffic lane with the flow and not on the sidewalk. He’s waited patiently for the green light. And he’s wearing his helmet. City of Beverly Hills Transportation and California DOT can’t ask anything more of him. But there’s a lot more he can ask of these agencies.
We caught up with Aaron Kunz, Deputy Director of Transportation, for an update on the Beverly Hills bike plan update process. In a wide-ranging recap we discussed the timetable and process for reconstructing Santa Monica Boulevard; opportunities for adding on-boulevard bike lanes to that corridor to support regional connectivity; progress on bringing a bike rack program to the city; and next steps on the pilot program. Here’s the recap – first the corridor reconstruction then the rest.