The Beverly Hills Bike Plan Update Committee met with bike and active transportation advocates for the second time this past Monday, Aug. 29th. The committee, which is an ad-hoc body under the Commission, need not meet regularly, nor in public, but Commissioners agreed to apprise us of their efforts to date. With about twelve cyclists joining Better Bike and the Commissioners, we all enjoyed a productive discussion about next steps for a bikeable Beverly Hills.A previous June meeting found the three Commissioners on the Bike Plan committee, Alan Levine (chair), Ira Friedman, and Alan Grushcow meeting with advocates to hear our community’s suggestions for programs & improvements. We’ve long pressed the Traffic & Parking Commission and the Transportation division (of Public Works) to move more aggressively on bike programs and cyclist-friendly improvements, and this follow-up meeting came after some dissatisfaction with progress to date. (Read our open letter to the Traffic & Parking Commission and the city’s response.)
To review, the aptly-named Traffic & Parking Commission is advisory to City Council. Commissioners handle many transportation-related issues from traffic management to parking permits and will be the body that reviews proposed changes to the city’s bike plan, which is out of date and in need of an update. The ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee was formed in the summer of 2010 for that purpose.
This committee is not required to notice the meeting nor post an agenda beforehand, so when we arrived we were provided with a brief set of discussion points.
We also circulated our own ‘stakeholders agenda,’ which enumerated a somewhat longer list of our concerns along with a reminder about the irregularity of the ad-hoc committee’s meeting schedule.
With neither provided ahead of time, the chair suggested, and we agreed, that we proceed according to the city’s more limited but workable agenda. It was a good approach.
Our discussion focused on discussion of projects of interest to the community:
- Regional connectivity, namely bike lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard as part of the corridor’s reconstruction;
- Selection of a pilot project for bike safety improvements, which could include signage, bike lanes and/or shared-lane pavement markings;
- Bike rack programs including mapping existing rack locations, installation of new racks, and a program that we’ve been pressing for, a rack-on-request program.
Peripheral discussion addressed the actual bike plan update. Transportation and planning policies were high on our list to encourage cycling, for example. Bike parking requirements for public and private garages, as well as incentive programs and facilities for new developments, we said, could shift commuting from four wheels to two and should be a part of any plan update.
(It was said recently that the average commuting distance for city employees is more than 40 miles (1+ hours) each way. That’s hardly sustainable Developing private facilities for bike racks, lockers, and/or showers, say, together with incentives for transit should move city staff commuting patterns closer toward our stated Sustainable City goals.)
While active transportation issues like safe passage to school (aka Safe Routes) and Complete Streets principles were well-represented, the emphasis was on more immediate, actionable steps. Beverly Hills is a small city within a mobility-challenged Westside, and regional connectivity is crucial, but we also want to see the city develop a local network of bike routes to encourage utility and pleasure cycling.
Much the discussion focused on tangibles like route(s) selection for a pilot program. In a pilot, cyclist-friendly improvements could be rolled out soon. It goes without saying that there are many candidate routes for a pilot program.
Pilot Project Routes Selection
Aaron Kunz, Deputy Director for Transportation, noted that the city is short-staffed but looking to hire an intern or graduate student to tend to bike improvements and perhaps the plan update process. The city may be able to engage a consultant to evaluate possible routes, he said, so we set about narrowing our choices to two north-south and two east-west routes.
Criteria for selection were identified (in no order) as regional connectivity; corridor connections between city schools; current usage by cyclists; and value in terms of learning from the pilot.
The city’s proposed pilot route is Carmelita (1-block north of Santa Monica). Advocates suggested of Charleyville (1-block south of Wilshire). The east-west routes each tie schools together. Carmelita which is wide would be easier to work with while Charleville might reflect the challenges of installing improvements on narrow city streets. The city agreed to study both further.
We then debated a suitable north/south route. The city suggested Crescent, which intersects Santa Monica Boulevard near the coming Annenberg Center, one block west of the library. It would connect Beverly Vista school and points south to Will Rogers park in the center of the city.
We agreed that was a good alternative, but also noted that South Beverly Drive runs through our pedestrian commercial district and is already relatively well-traveled by cyclists. It also passes by the location for the coming metro station on Wilshire/Beverly. The city agreed to look at both routes.
Advocates suggested it need not be either/or but maybe both/and if we are looking ahead to local bike network planning. All four would make for the beginnings for a good local bike routes network. Advocates seemed ready to roll out measures that already work elsewhere to see how they play on our relatively congested local streets. The city has said that they are interested to gauge public reception to pilot improvements before moving too quickly.
We next talked about the city’s need for bike racks beyond the commercial triangle (where all city racks stand today).The city indicated its willingness to begin buying and installing racks and sought guidance about style and appropriate locations.
Advocates noted that racks invited cyclists (today a relatively underdeveloped market for local goods and services) and suggested:
- Freestanding racks be installed where cyclists need them;
- ‘Bike corrals’ (an array of racks) be installed in busy commercial areas where they would signal riders to encourage greater use of bikes for utility travel;
- Guidelines be developed for rack availability and installation for property & business owners seeking bike parking in privately-owned areas;
- Rack-on-request program be set up through which a commercial or residential property or business owner could request a city rack for the public right-of-way.
These programs have proved successful in Los Angeles and Santa Monica and should work in Beverly Hills too, we said, and at a relatively modest cost.
The discussion also touched on the Westside Cities Council of Governments (more info) effort to coordinate signage and communications related to cycling. Beverly Hills is planning to develop its bicycle-oriented communications by adding pages to the city website, Chair Levine said, and will be posting a map of rack locations. (Better Bike has created our own map of rack locations, left.)
Other issues concerned:
- Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction (design alternatives to be developed toward the end of the year and presented to advocates thereafter);
- BH Unified school district coordination on Safe Routes and Complete Streets compliant school improvements (Better Bike taking the lead);
- Provision of bike racks in city garages, along with possible municipal code changes to set minimums (Better Bike);
- City sponsored bike valets for events like the upcoming Fashion’s Night Out, perhaps organized by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (Ellen Lutwak); and,
- Rack selection (Rick Risemberg).
From our perspective at Better Bike, we can call this a productive meeting wherein mutual concerns were aired and our discussion was both respectful and informative. Please leave additional topics we may have overlooked in the comments, and by all means if you were unable but want to let us know your concerns, do drop us a line.
We want to thank the commissioners, Aaron and Martha from Transportation, Alexis Lantz, Policy Director from the LACBC (join!), and all of the cyclists who were able to make it. We’re moving forward.