Pasadena’s Principle #8: Mobility Sans Cars!

Here’s a peek into the future for Beverly Hills courtesy of City of Pasadena: mobility is about moving people not moving cars. We were astonished to see that one of the Pasadena Plan’s guiding principles (#8) is all about discouraging auto use and offering residents and visitors many other options and opportunities for greenhouse-gas reducing, fuel-conserving travel. Beverly Hills? Not so much.Some backstory: Every local government in California must adopt a General Plan. It is a policy statement that guides growth through individual constituent topical chapters (called ‘elements’) that take stock of current conditions (based on data) and express the will of the people by way of an extensive public process that often stretches out past a year.

The General Plan is a serious statement  that addresses arenas such as land use, housing, mobility, economic development, and open space. Increasingly cities are using the general plan to specify policy in other areas like sustainability and disaster planning too. And often the bike plan is adopted as an element in the General Plan.

A bike plan, incidentally, is required to secure certain kinds of transportation funds. It’s an official document not a feel-good gesture.

Back to Pasadena’s General Plan. The guiding principle reads:

“Pasadena will be a city where people can circulate without cars. Specific plans in targeted development areas will emphasize mixed uses, pedestrian activity and transit; public and private transit will be made more available; neighborhood centers and urban villages will be promoted to reduce the need for auto use.”

Pasadena General Plan excerpt - principle 8You read that right: the city has committed to offering alternatives like mass transit, safe pedestrian passage, and yes, bike facilities. The city’s draft bike plan, now coming up for adoption, first and foremost calls for discouraging auto use and providing cyclists with every incentive to bike. How novel!

What makes the Pasadena General Plan so notable is that it addresses head-on the notion of moving people from cars to bikes and other modes of transport. Most other cites stuff their plans with platitudes and propaganda¬† – the feel-good bromides stuffed into many a planning grad student only to get regurgitated for exams, projects, and, yes, city work. (Don’t get us started!)

Accordingly, Pasadena on its bike page provides a bike map (2008) and bike safety tips. (Presumably once the bike plan is adopted, new maps will reflect the city’s current infrastructure and projects in the pipeline (‘implementation’ in planner-speak).)

Well, Beverly Hills has a General Plan too, but it is filled with those kind of bromides and facile nods to environmental friendliness and ecological this-and-that.¬† What it doesn’t say is that our city wants people out of cars.

Beverly Hills also has a bike plan. It’s an appendix to the General Plan, adopted only in January 2010. Here at Better Bike it’s come in for a drubbing, though, for its brevity (only 5 pages of text) and for using maps and bike counts from the 1970s. (Recall that General Plans must be based on current data.) And it’s filled with ineffectual generalities about the value of cycling.

We were astonished to learn, however, that not only does it holdover old maps and data, but upon closer reading, the bike plan itself actually hails from the 1970s and was re-adopted wholesale in 2010 with provision for a future update. Well, if you follow the progress of the Ad-Hoc Bike Plan Update Committee in these pages, you’ll know that in twenty more years we might well just re-adopt it again – unchanged from 1977.

Here’s the kicker: Pasadena enjoys the services of Vince Bertoni as planning director. He jumped ship from Beverly Hills a few years ago to take a #2 post in Los Angeles, and then wisely hopped onto terra firma in Pasadena. We wish him, and the city, well in its future endeavors to remake itself an environmentally-friendly, leading-edge city. We’ll wave as you head off into the future!