Intersection Safety Not on the City’s Agenda?

Saint Christopher patron saint of travel

Saint Christopher has been known to grace bicycle bells!

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.

Intersection overview of South Beverly Drive and Olympic (map)

Overview of the South Beverly Drive and Olympic Blvd. intersection. Beverly Drive and Beverwil diverge just north of Olympic.

When we’re traveling through Beverly Hills intersections like the one at Olympic & South Beverly, don’t we need the heavens on our side? This intersection, like so many in our city, is bereft of the sound engineering practices that we see in other cities: bike lanes, bike boxes, safety signage and even dedicated signaling – measures that guide us through safely amid motor traffic.

When the city recently repaved South Beverly, for example, we hoped for at least some new paint to make this intersection hospitable to cyclists. We first became aware of the problems with the intersection when a cyclist told us his story of being felled by a motorist at this intersection due to ambiguity in pavement markings. He reported that Beverly Drive veers left as it diverges from Beverwill, which continues straight.  But the pavement markings are not clear about which is the direction that continues, and which is the veer-off. It matters because (as he found) a passing motorist can evidently believe that the road continues straight and may try to pass on the left – in the same lane – just as the cyclist continues south on Beverly Drive, moving with the striped lane to the left. With no right-hand marking to guide the cyclist or the motorist, the ‘Y’ just yawns wide enough for every driver or cyclist to make his or her own interpretation (see below).

South Beverly Drive at Olympic ambiguity

It is a free-for-all with no right-hand striping to guide us.

Now, if you’re in a vehicle, you’re OK because you practically own the lane. You’ll go where you want to go. If you’re a cyclist, however, you’re at the mercy of the motorist.

The state offers clear guidance for a situation like this. According too the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (chapter 9):

Class III Bikeways (Bike Route) are shared routes and do not require pavement markings. In some instances, a 4 inch white edge stripe separating the traffic lanes from the shoulder can be helpful in providing for safer shared use. This practice is particularly applicable on rural highways and on major arterials in urban areas where there is no vehicle parking.

While this isn’t marked as a shared route (like with sharrows), it is clearly in practice a shared route yet there is no right-hand marking to indicate to motorists or cyclists where is the lane.

When this issue was brought to the city’s attention, one would think that officials might want to address it forthwith. And why shouldn’t transportation address it? It is their job! This excerpt from the 2010-11 fiscal year adopted budget makes it clear in a section subtitled Street Maintenance Program Goals:

Transportation Planning and Traffic Engineering aims to investigate, analyze, recommend, design, and implement transportation system enhancements and regional transportation initiatives in order to respond to mobility and safety concerns.

The budget assigns staff hours totaling 5,868 to the task, which includes:

ensur[ing] the safe and efficient flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic by installing, maintaining, and repairing road markings, lines, traffic advisory messages, and other informational messages including banners and regulatory signs.

Note the emphasis on vehicular and pedestrian traffic. There’s a class of road user not mentioned there: cyclists. We shouldn’t need a state law (Complete Streets) to require local governments to strip appropriately for us. Somewhere in our $4.5 million street services budget there is funds available for a few extra lane stripes?

Olympic & South Beverly: Another Missed Opportunity

Evidently not. Back in February, when we received an announcement from the city that South Beverly Drive would be repaved, Better Bike kicked into action. We asked why, when City Council would be reviewing the corridor as part of the Bike Route Pilot in April, would work proceed on this candidate corridor just a couple of months before? Since the corridor appeared to be in tip-top shape, why not simply wait until Council decides on new striping or some other innovative treatment to make our two-wheeled trip down this key commercial boulevard safer?

We asked and they answered: We’ll stripe it just like it’s always been striped (t preserve the original hazard it seems). The city knows the hazard; it has come up in Traffic & Parking Commission meetings as a safety issue and Transportation acknowledged that it needed improvement. Not anytime soon, was the message to the commissioners back then.

Transportation Department #FAIL

South Beverly Drive at Olympic looking south

Wide traffic lanes and buffer allow plenty of room for a southbound bike lane!

The mystery is, why not address these problems before they cause more injury? There appears to be sufficient room in this intersection to stripe a bike lane through it. (Lanes need only be about 10 feet and a bike lane 5 feet.) Why not apply highly-visible striping that alerts drivers to the presence of cyclists? Why not use appropriate signage (“watch for cyclists”)?

It is the department’s mission, after all, but as with every other intersection in Beverly Hills, the cyclist suffers an uneasy bargain: he bears nearly all of the risk while the motorist shoulders only the cost of liability insurance. And none of the pain & suffering.

Where Beverly Hills Transportation won’t even try to keep us safe, maybe St. Christopher, patron saint of travel, will step up. Grasp his icon as you pedal through the city, praying not to get rear-ended, broadsided, or taken down simply because a motorist might be in a hurry to pass.

Want to comment to the city on our intersections? Email them or consult our city contacts page. Tell ’em what you think of how they protect our safety on our chaotic roads.

Beverly Hills Bike Route Pilot Outreach Meeting #1

Bike Route Pilot public meeting #1

Beverly Hills doesn’t have much to stand on when it comes to cyclist safety, so it’s heartening at least that a Bike Route Pilot program is underway to bring, for the first time, cycling-friendly improvements to some of our city streets. With the first public outreach meeting under our belt and two more upcoming on April 25th and May 9th, here we recap where we are and the next steps to safer bike routes. Continue reading

Beverly Hills Doubles Down on Dangerous Streets

South Beverly gets repaved

South Beverly motorists get the love. What about cyclists?

Recently Better Bike received a notice [pdf] from Transportation that South Beverly Drive was to be resurfaced. That caught our attention, and not only because it’s right around the corner. Because just a week later, City Council would be briefed on the Bike Route Pilot program’s four possible routes – and one was South Beverly. So why resurface and re-stripe this corridor now, we thought, when the city might make it more cyclist-friendly in the coming months? Continue reading

BH Small Business Task Force: Not Asking the Obvious Questions

Tree base on South Beverly Drive

North Beverly has fancy tree grates. South Beverly? Not so much. Task Force: start here!

It’s one of the regular Beverly Hills approaches to a problem: appoint a ‘task force’ that meets behind closed doors with notice not required and scant public participation beyond the handpicked appointees. That’s how City Council approaches issues like sustainability and revitalization, and it’s been most recently applied to small business viability and associated challenges of recruitment and retention. The Small Business Task Force delivered recommendations this week which included parking measures, streetscape improvements, and ‘shop local’ marketing, but it overlooked one potential bottom-line booster: attracting more cyclists to boost foot traffic to retailers. Continue reading

Beverly Hills Parking Authority is Losing $4 million/yr

Garage facade

A lovely addition to our civic architecture. And it parks cars!

Call us biased, but when your Parking Authority loses $4 million per year and faces a $40 million deficit only eight years down the road, maybe it’s time to re-think our commitment to providing free and highly-subsidized parking for anyone and everyone who chooses to drive. Make that ‘over-provide’: our city has constructed at great expense more than twenty public parking structures, many with excess capacity. Yet we’ve not installed a bike rack in a commercial area in many years. At $200 per, are they simply too cheap to bother? Continue reading

Open for Comment: Westside Cities COG Bike Gap Closure Plan

COG gap closure map overallThe 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. Continue reading

Bike Plan Update Committee Meeting #4 (Pilot Program)

Feasibility Study: Charleville RouteThe 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 and several efforts related to bike facilities. Here we will focus on the Bike Routes Pilot initiative to create bike facilities on Beverly Hills streets. While promising, we feel that the process to date has fallen short of community-side expectations, however. Communication is largely one-way and attendee feedback seems not to make it into materials. Continue reading

Bike Plan Update Committee Meeting #3

Ad-Hoc Committee - Ellen and TerryThe ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee met for the third time on November 16th with representatives from the Beverly Hills cycling community. This was the latest in a bi-monthly series to bring the city & bike community together. We last met in August to discuss the our need for bike-friendly facilities and programs, and to identify candidate bike corridors for a pilot program here in the city. Here is the recap from this third meeting, with comment to follow in subsequent posts. Continue reading

Beware Hazardous Intersections!

sign-warning

If you bike through Beverly Hills, you’ve noticed that we offer nothing to the cyclist: few racks, no lanes or share-the-road pavement markings, and not a single wayfinding sign. Beverly Hills evidently cares nothing about the safety of cyclists, as we’ve tirelessly pointed out over the past 18+ months of fruitless advocacy. Nothing has changed. But it’s not only bike facilities and improvements that we lack. Our Transportation division has failed to make our busy intersections safe for road users.