Highlights from the 9/21 Study Session

Better Bike BH members turned out for the City Council’s study session where Transportation presented City Council with general options for planned SM Blvd. improvements. The purpose of the meeting was early scoping: to get some overall direction on where the Council wants to go with the boulevard. reconstruction. Given that the boulevard is up for a bottom-up redo, it’s critical that Class II (on-road) bike lanes to connect with those that exist today in Century City and West Hollywood. Our members, Ellen Lutwak, Jennifer Hughes, Mel Raab (arriving on scooter!), and Mark Elliot, made that point clearly!

Backgrounder: the department’s staff report describes the work as a down-to-gravel redo of this city’s most heavily-traveled boulevard – 50,000 car trips/day. Improvements that are long overdue ever since the state turned the corridor over to the city in 2005 along with some money for improvements.

When the item came up for discussion, City Council members recognized the value of bike planning and in their remarks offered general support. Transport Dept. staff walked through the project (still in a very early scoping stage) and soon the challenge became clear. Introducing the item, Mayor Jimmy Delshad, who has expressed a personal interest in cycling, noted pointedly that widening the boulevard is NOT on the table. Though the city owns an additional 15 feet of right-of-way, Council is reluctant to chip away at the green space on the north side. That boxes in the department to modest bike improvements, though.

Indeed with that proviso the department’s options are few. The favored one seems to be a single on-boulevard bike lane Eastbound with the designated route Westbound put on the next block north, Carmelita, where there are numerous stop signs.

Better Bike BH folks said our piece about needing to on-boulevard lanes, which prompted a back-and-forth with the department about what could literally be squeezed into the existing boulevard width. Concern was expressed about homeowners’ concerns re: boulevard expansion, and about disruptions to the boulevard.

From the discussion, one concluded that very modestly widening the boulevard to include a second lane was an opportunity waiting to be seized. In the context of a $12 million project, it’s a no-brainer: put world-class facilities on this key regional connector. This is where Better Bike BH needs to remain attentive to these early scoping discussions. City Council may see it differently.

For those unaccustomed to City Council meetings, there is a certain amount of ceremonial pomp. That is nowhere more true than in Beverly Hills: back-scratching filled fully 90 minutes. When the Transportation department presented to Council, the fun and games stopped and the tough questions started. There was not much ceremonial pomp left in Council at that point.

I feel for these Transportation folks. As professional planners and engineers, they like see at conferences the innovative transportation planning that’s done elsewhere. NYC, Portland, Europe (and wherever) installs cool stuff like dedicated turn pockets and markings that keep cyclists and motorists apart. Our staffers probably know about shared-lane markings and the rest too. Yet here at home, bikes and cars continue to battle amid evident uncertain commitment from Council. Like us, they can only hope that Council comes around to better ideas.

We have our work cut out for us! We not only need SM Blvd. improvements but also safety programming too. Get involved with Better Bike BH and make a difference!