BH Unified: Our Best Opportunity for Safe Streets?

There has been little progress in Beverly Hills on making our streets safe for cyclists. Despite  a nearly two-year old outstanding request to replace the sorry bike rack at the Civic Center; despite a bike plan update committee formed after the adoption of the city’s general plan; and despite an oft-heard refrain from top city officials – “I’m a cyclist and I appreciate what you’re doing” – in fact the city has done little to nothing. Our best chance for change in conditions for cyclists may rest with the school district.

The stars may be aligned at the BH Unified district. We have a new Superintendent with a ’90 Day Entry Action Plan’ in hand to bring change to Lasky Drive. The revolving door of the Superintendent’s office has swung ’round yet again. Woods comes from his post in San Marino, CA – a top-ranked district southeast of Pasadena – that is about the same size as Beverly Hills.

Beverly Hills Unified map of school sitesThe district encompasses five schools (including the high school) and all are either in need of a serious renovation, a seismic retrofit, or expansion or reuse. All will benefit from bike-related improvements that would amount to less than a tenth of a penny (give or take) on the district’s construction dollar.

Currently, facilities at the school plants themselves are woefully inadequate. For example, high school students have complained to Better Bike that they and fellow students prefer not to ride to school because the roads are perilous and bike racks grouped in a zoo-like pen far from where classes are held.

We’ve seen it ourselves, and it’s no incentive to ride to school. Ditto the total lack of signage, road facilities, or any other safety-related improvements anywhere near a school (or anywhere in town for that matter).

Indeed the master planning process may be our best opportunity to introduce bike-friendly improvements to Beverly Hills district-wide. Yet the district is stepping into choppy waters. Enrollment is down. The district is undertaking a master planning / facilities assessment process that promises to bring considerable change to nearly every campus. The subway fight is on, sapping money and attention from other matters. Not least, two  former district officials are now on trial for corruption that occurred during the last master planning process.

Add to that historic strains between the board and the Facilities Advisory Committee and you have a potentially combustible situation going into this next year and the extended master planning process underway. (The next facilities meeting should be scheduled for the fourth week of August. Stay tuned for a precise date.)

Nevertheless, there’s  an opportunity to integrate bike facilities and planned transportation-related improvements right into the district’s facilities plan. We’ve attended several Facilities Advisory Committee meetings (most recently today) to get our bearings, and spoken with a few folks advisory to the district. We’re early in the master planning process, but  not too early to express our concerns.

Better Bike will keep up with the master plan process and apprise you of the latest developments. But there’s no need to wait. Contact the district office (310-551-5100) or send your feedback on the Superintendent’s 90-day plan via the Superintendent’s assistant, Pam Kraushaar. Now that serious planning us underway, express your interest in securing greater bike accessibility throughout the district’s campuses and surroundings.