No-Progress Update: Bevelry Hills Still Lags

Golden Triangle rack with decalWith the one-year anniversary of the formation of the Beverly Hills Ad-Hoc Bike Plan Update Committee only a few days away, it’s time to take stock of where we are. Recall that the city first started talking in the Traffic & Parking Commission about bike issues back in April of 2010, mere months after the city adopted the bike plan, which is techically an appendix to the General Plan. Last August the Commission formed the Ad-Hoc Committee (staffed with several commissioners) and in January the committee adopted an outline of a work. Since then, little has happened beyond affixing some decals to the city’s twenty or so racks (at right). Our judgment is that Beverly Hills seems to be on a lagging trajectory where bike accommodations is concerned.

Ad-Hoc Bike Plan Committee

There were two general thrusts to the ad-hoc committee’s work. First was laying the groundwork for the Bike Plan update itself, which meant consulting with city staff and stakeholders to identify needs, etc. Planner stuff like data collection. That should inform the identification of a bike route system, which in turn should be the backbone of our updated bike plan.

Today the city has no identified routes, signs, or any other improvements, and the existing bike plan proposes none. The danger here is that we update the bike plan without doing the due diligence and without the foresight to identify a bike network that would inform other, subsequent planning and policy efforts. In other words, getting stuck with an inadequate bike plan like we have today.

Second thrust identified a modest list of short-term actions. In January, the Committee described those actions and they were quite modest:

  • Create a map of the city’s approximately twenty Golden Triangle-area bike racks;
  • Post the map online and integrate it into the city’s GIS system;
  • And make our racks more visible by affixing to each a decal identifying it as a rack.

You can read the Ad-Hoc-Committee’s meeting notes from January 19, 2011 for yourself, but those are the pertinent details.

Now, one year after the committee formed, we’ve made scant progress:

  • The map is too inaccurate to be useful because racks are not generally where the dots indicate, while the dots themselves are out-of-scale and don’t really indicate much at all about  where a cyclist could be found;
  • The map has not yet been posted online and there is no indication that the info has made it into the GIS system; and,
  • Beverly Hills, unlike every other Westside city, makes no bike information available whatsoever on the city’s website, so we wouldn’t know much anyway.

Even the Traffic & Parking website is totally devoid of any information about the bike plan update. How to tap into stakeholder communities if you never let them know what’s going on? For that matter, why not meet in public every time, instead of a single token meeting?

The Traffic & Parking Commission’s Ad-hoc Bike Plan Update committee is now one-year-old. Yet this body, composed of three Commissioners drawn from the Commission, has only met once with the public. In July, the Committee provided the Commission with the Ad-Hoc Committee’s notes for June 8, 2011 meeting but it has not released an actual work program (much less an implementation plan) to the public as it said that it would. Bike planning thus remains a black box.

At Thursday’s regular Traffic & Parking Commission meeting, Better Bike will be on hand to congratulate the Commission on the one-year anniversary of the ad-hoc committee. We’ll provide them with our assessment: we’re lagging every other city on this, and let them know that we’re  eagerly awaiting some word of next steps that might – or might not – be taken.

Santa Monica Boulevard

Santa Monica Boulevard road conditionsThe most promising bike facilities project continues to be the Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction. And boy is it overdue. We at Better Bike have long championed the need for improvements on that corridor, if only for cyclists’ safety. More, we advocate bike lanes to connect with existing lanes in West Hollywood and Century City,.

More than a year later, we’re still waiting to hear some detail what the city’s proposed design alternatives will look like – and whether they will include bike lanes in both directions. The city’s unofficially preferred plan? Maybe one lane on one side. Which does  not enough for regional connectivity.

Recall that with a top-to-bottom re-do which will likely include a median, landscaping, and a new name. All to the good. But let’s not leave the cyclists out cold. We’re legitimate road users too. We’d like to tell you more, but at every turn, city officials say that they want to keep the SM Blvd. lanes separate from other bike planning. In other words, “Don’t hold your breath!”

Bike Facilities ‘Pilot Project’

Charleville is ready for a pilot programThis was actually proposed by the city to take attention off of the SM Blvd. corridor improvement. The argument is that if we try one out-of-the-way experiment, we’ll know more about future lanes elsewhere in the city. The reality is that the city is not interested in bike lanes on Santa Monica – despite it being the number one request by the bike community, a sentiment already expressed to the city. Instead it seems to want to shunt off any improvements to a ‘pilot.’

Now, we’ve suggested several opportunities for a pilot project – sharrows and signage for Charleville (at right) for example – and even offered to sit down with transportation officials to identify alternatives for a pilot project. But neither Transportation officials nor Ad-Hoc Committee Commissioners seems interested. The ‘pilot’ appears to be going nowhere.

Bike Rack On Request Program

Since we sometimes get calls from business owners or apartment manager/owners for a bike rack in the public right-of-way (i.e., the sidewalk where no opportunity exists on private land), we’ve asked the city how folks can request a bike rack.

Santa Monica library racks are chock full of bikes!There is no program for providing them – unlike in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and elsewhere – and nobody in City Hall to take that kind of a call. Santa Monica in particular is just not waiting: they’re installing hundreds of new racks, as at the library (left).

We’ve been pressing Transportation to set up a rack-by-request program but so far, no luck. We heard a rumor recently that such a program is in the pipeline, but in talking with Aaron Kunz, Deputy over at Transportation about it last week, it seems like it’s in some kind of limbo. When we asked Parking Operations Director Chad Lynn about it this Spring. His message was, “It takes money.”

Parking garages take money and lots of it. If Beverly Hills focused on accommodating cyclists, maybe we wouldn’t have to support seventeen parking garages at $2+ million deficit this past year. For often free car parking!

Safety Programming

There’s been a little movement on this front, if only because the city is hitching its wagon to the Westside COG’s  efforts [read more]. Last Spring, Transportation hired Better Bike and Sustainable Streets organizer Ron Durgin to teach a 2-hour safety overview class. But that’s beginning to seem like a one-off. We’re not aware of any safety-related programming on offer in Beverly Hills going forward. Several other cities have won grants to fund cycling safety ed to the tune of $100,000 next year, though. Not Beverly Hills.

‘Salary Scandal’

The only real news is that we finally know how much Beverly Hills officials earn including benefits, thanks to the BH Courier. And it is an eye-opener. Have a read about it on our Better Bike blog. See you Thursday at the Traffic & Parking Commission meeting at 9am!