Here at Better Bike we’re wondering if cyclists may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after all for bike improvements. After our August meeting with the ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee, we noted that the Transportation division would proceed on a pilot program of route improvements, which could include lanes, markings, and signage. And the city said that it would hire an intern to work bike issues in the Transportation division. Here’s the latest developments according to Aaron Kunz, City of Beverly Hills Deputy Director for Transportation this week.
If you’ve followed our effort for better plans and safer streets, you’ll recall that advocates have met a couple of times with transportation officials to discuss improvements and even presented our own stakeholders agenda at the last meeting when we felt that the discussion was not moving along with sufficient dispatch. We’ve kept in touch with the city and have this update.
Four candidate streets identified for possible improvements were chosen in the ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee meeting: Carmelita, Charleyville, Crescent, and South Beverly. Each presents a different set of challenges for transportation planners (more on this soon), but as a group present Beverly Hills with an opportunity under various conditions to apply the kind of innovations we’ve seen in other Southland cities.
Long Beach has installed separated bikeways and a signage system, for example. Glendale has identified the Riverdale-Maple Glendale Greenway corridor for the active transportation treatment. And Santa Monica has chosen Ocean Park Boulevard for a Green Streets project in no small part with the help of the cycling community. We hear that bike boxes is coming to Santa Monica too.
Our city is having all four candidate routes evaluated for possible improvements by Fehr & Peers, contract engineers based in Los Angeles; the next ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee will then decide which (if not all) will be taken to City Council for approval for improvements.
On the scheduling issue, the committee is tentatively scheduled to meet in Early November with follow-ups bi-monthly. That’s a couple of weeks beyond the identified 8-week schedule, however; we’ll hold the Commissioners to that 8-week commitment for subsequent meetings.
Recall that the city is also working on a rack program. We’ve called for both new racks and a rack-by-request program. The new racks to begin to accommodate existing demand throughout the city, which, like this view on South Beverly, is illustrated by all the bikes lashed to poles. We recommend a rack-by-request program like that of Los Angeles and Santa Monica because residents and business owners know where racks need to go – even if they can’t accommodate them on private property. New racks will suggest the city’s commitment to active transportation, and we welcome a program to install them.
The Transportation division is hiring an intern to work on the rack program starting next Tuesday and working 20 hours/week through to year end. For the first time, an individual in Transportation is tasked specifically with active transportation – and that’s about as close to a full-on mobility coordinator as we’re likely to see any time soon. But the dedicated staff time should move us along, and inform our next year’s campaign for a dedicated mobility coordinator. In the meantime, Aaron will continue to be the main contact for bike issues.
We have long urged the city to post information about the ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee & improvements plan on the website. No luck so far. We don’t even have a written work plan in hand (and we’ve asked). But the website is low-hanging fruit. Every city has at least a page dedicated to cycling tips (and often much more). So we’ve urged the city to post something, anything, that will help cyclists and motorists share the road. No luck on that either. It’s clear that the city is waiting on the Westside Cities Council of Governments to take the first step. It may be a long wait.
Better Bike has also offered to develop this material ourselves, so it remains a mystery why this essential – and easiest – part of the program goes unrealized. For now and for the foreseeable future, expect no bike info on the city’s website.
Recently we spent a few hours observing the Wilshire/Santa Monica intersection as volunteers for the LACBC bike count. We saw firsthand, and from a fixed vantage point, how this intersection presents a particular hazard for cyclists. So we asked Transportation whether the city has discussed integrating Complete Streets principles into transportation planning and intersection improvements here in Beverly Hills.
Recall that the State of California passed the Complete Streets Act (2008) to recognize that all road users have a right to public roadways. The legislation requires local governments to accommodate “all users of streets, roads, and highways, defined to include motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, children, persons with disabilities, seniors, movers of commercial goods, and users of public transportation….” That suggests something more than traffic signals. [Fact sheet pdf from Cal Bike.]
The safety problems observed at this ‘F’ grade (LOS) intersection have gone unaddressed. Indeed, this intersection is the best argument for Complete Streets improvements that we may have. Yet Aaron said that the City has not even discussed Complete Streets at the policy level. While the city is about to improve several Sunset Boulevard intersections, none will include accommodations for pedestrians or cyclists. We’re just not a part of the program.
So we put it to Aaron: Where is Beverly Hills on the Complete Streets issue? He said that it will be a part of the road improvements discussion going forward, particularly with respect to the Pilot and Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction. We’ll see.
We have spoken about Complete Streets as a right-to-access issue, not a choice to be made by Transportation officials and policymakers. We’ve even speculated that the Americans With Disabilities Act might be a template for holding localities like Beverly Hills accountable for delivering on road user equity. Accountability for Complete Streets will be a major thrust of ours at Better Bike going forward.
Opportunities for You, the Road User
We encourage you to take any questions you have about bike planning and road improvements to Aaron Kunz, Deputy Director of Transportation. (And let Better Bike know of your concerns too.) You can reach Aaron by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (310) 285-2563. Remind Transportation that you count, that your safety is important, and that under federal and state policy guidance your safe access to public roads matters as much as it does for motorists. Remind our officials that you are not a second-class road user.
Your opportunity for shaping the Pilot improvements will come in the next committee meeting in early November. There, bike advocates will be invited to provide feedback. We should be prepared to shape the committee’s recommendations to City Council so sharpen your pencils and attend at City Council too. We have supporters in City Hall, but the entire Council needs to feel support from the bike community. The first step is the Fehr & Peers evaluation and that’s in process.