Looking back over the past year, it’s difficult not to be profoundly disappointed by the utter lack of progress in bike planning in Beverly Hills. Not a single new rack has been installed in any business district to accommodate bike-riding patrons. No bike lane or sharrow to ease our safe passage. No sign will remind motorists that we’re allowed to use the road too. And no ground gained on updating our 1970s-era bike plan. As we meet again with Commissioners this coming Wednesday, we need to ask what we can expect from the Traffic & Transportation Commission.
Chalk our lack of progress to the cynical machination called the ‘bike plan update’ process. Over nearly two years and three meetings now with members of the bicycling community (in June, August, and most recently November), the committee’s participating Traffic & Transportation Commission members have entertained our observations and heard recommendations including bike lanes, racks, and signage. We’ve urged them to remind drivers how to share the road safely. But this committee has recommended no safety measures, nor even cited specific improvements to our city’s implausible 5-page bike plan, to keep us safe.
The Bike Plan Update Committee can point only to a posted map of the few racks that we do have as its accomplishment. Is that satisfactory when cities all across the Southland have moved to create real bike plans? When they’ve rolled out bike lanes and other innovations (like Santa Monica’s Bike Station) and Long Beach’s protected bike lanes. These cities have recognized that separated travel is the safest mode of travel for all road users on busy corridors, but Beverly Hills remains stuck in the past. We can’t even show progress on the single most easily-implemented fix: a simple ride safe page of tips on the city’s website. Not that we haven’t asked; we’ve even offered to do it for free. The Transportation page for the Bike Plan Update committee itself is an embarrassment.
What can account for this utter lack of progress except for a cynical disregard for the safety of those who bike?
The Problem is the Process
We can start with the process. As usual, Transportation will release a meeting agenda the day before. And like the last agenda (right) it will likely be a bare-bones affair rather than a roadmap for a productive discussion. In fact, all that’s wrong with this entire process is reflected in the agenda: it’s all one way communication. There’s simply no provision for internalizing public input, and no practice of making it available. We’ve seen no digest of participant comments nor official meeting minutes. Three meetings later, our input evaporated into the ether. The process gives nothing back to those who participate.
Then there’s the Commissioners’ approach. In November’s meeting, Chair Jeffrey Levine summed it up when he unilaterally proclaimed at the top that our meeting would run only one hour and fifteen minutes. (Perhaps the shortest duration stakeholder meeting in city history.) At conclusion, when asked if the next meeting could start later than 5pm to accommodate working folks, he said, “No guarantees.” That’s not collaborative, constructive, or even cooperative. That attitude argues for a change in the Committee chair, and we at Better Bike look forward to that.
Then there’s the ‘bicycle route pilot project’ feasibility study. Crafted to appear substantial, in reality it promises few improvements because it is scoped to limit options only to measures that “would not impact car travel or existing parking.” It’s designed to bracket-out those options, evidently deemed not feasible by the Commissioners and the Transportation division, by baldly departing from the four criteria that were agreed upon at the prior meeting [recap]. So, road diets and bike lanes where we need them are out.
Unilateral moves behind closed doors are antithetical to a collaborative process. The city would not approach any other stakeholder group in this fashion, and we shouldn’t tolerate it either.
The Product is Also the Problem
The findings from the study were presented at the November meeting. Two of the busiest streets, those most heavily used by those who bike, Beverly and Charleville, won’t see a bike lane because autos are given priority there under the “no impact to car travel or parking” criterion. Of course, then we’re left with what we have now: cyclists sharing streets with motorists who don’t know, or don’t care, to share – and maybe few sharrows for decoration. In fact, across the four routes chosen for evaluation (Carmelita, Crescent, Beverly, and Charleville), nearly all sub-segments are considered inappropriate for bike lanes. So scratch them from your wish list.
Transportation planners have a professional responsibility to cyclists, too, just like they do to motorists, but it’s been a responsibility conveniently overlooked for too long. We need to ask tough questions of the Commissioners, and of Aaron Kunz (310-285-2563), the official from the Transportation Division who is the liaison to the bike community, about the city’s obligations in this regard.
What a Real Process Looks Like >>