Were Public Works interested in committed to providing a “safe, pleasant environment for living,” we’d have bike racks, bike lanes, and signage like other cities that have committed to multi-modal mobility. Likewise, Transportation’s parent department, Public Works, views its mission as being a doctor to the city’s circulation ‘backbone’ (our public roadways):
“Over 200 employees develop, construct, inspect, improve and maintain the City’s infrastructure. Infrastructure includes traffic lights, sidewalks, street lights and roadways…employees not only repair streets, sidewalks, etc., but deliver preventive care by providing water and sanitation services to the community.”
In actuality, the prognosis offered by Public Works is poor; there is no remedy in sight because multi-modal mobility is not on the department’s agenda. Were Public Works a preventative-care physician, it would follow the lead of our Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and support active transportation treatments to unclog our sclerotic circulation system.
Instead, Public Works treats congestion failure with palliative care. To the Beverly Hills visitor or commuter suffering in traffic we can only say, Turn on the air, pop in your tunes, and make yourself comfortable for the ride because we’ve got no remedy for what ails you.
What Would a Culture Change Feel Like? Well, no terminal patient’s prognosis turns on a dime even with a miracle. But were Public Works to practice preventative care, its transportation planners would be leading the charge toward innovative mobility solutions because
our roads ain’t gettin’ any wider we can’t expand every city street to accommodate ever more motorists. In that quest, bike racks are the lowest-hanging fruit – literally the cheapest item in any Public Works budget.
Even with a full-on culture change in City Hall and city departments, it will take some time to realize relief from our chronic congestion pains. But believe me, with the right changes relief will come. We know because we’re seeing it in other cities. So why wait?
Funding for Racks is Available Today
Ask about parking parity (i.e., racks) for cyclists who want to visit, park and shop in town, and the answer is, “It costs money.” That was the actual response from the director of Parking Operations. But parking for two cyclists costs 1/250th what it costs to accommodate two motorists in a public garage. And if you want to fund a parking garage, you have few options but the bond market. But if you want to fund a bunch of $200 bike racks, or install a bike lane or post a few signs, there are many options for funding available.* Behold opportunities for federal funding:
- Bicycle Transportation And Pedestrian Walkways
- Congestion Mitigation And Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ)
- Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP)
- Safe Routes To School (Federal)
- STP Set Aside For Transportation Enhancements
The particularly well-funded federal TIGER grant program grant application window just closed, and I’m confident that we didn’t even submit an application. Then there’s the State of California funding streams. They are a rich source for bike & pedestrian improvement, including:
- Bicycle Transportation Account (BTA)
- Caltrans Planning Grants
- Safe Routes to School (SR2S)
- Surface Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)
But I don’t believe that Beverly Hills has secured any of this funding for bike or pedestrian improvements.
The real kicker is that Beverly Hills already has money in the bank, so to speak, but we’re not tapping it. Metro administers the Transportation Development Act Article 3 funds, which are dedicated to bike & ped improvements. In fact, we’ve got $32,000 just waiting to be spent because Beverly Hills never even claimed last year’s funds. We need only apply to Metro for permission to spend it. And $32,000 should put nearly one hundred bike racks on our city streets with no business cost-share necessary.
Consider what we spend to provide street parking to motorists. For every street parking space with a meter, the city forks over more than 20% of meter revenues just to process each credit card transaction. That’s an ongoing expense that for the meter companies means every patch of Beverly Hills asphalt is a gift that keeps on giving. Yes, as transaction costs drain the Parking Operations budget, and as each public garage puts our city into hock for decades, it’s no wonder our Parking Operations fund is $2 million in arrears. The city has to make up for that shortfall with pared-down city services.
Let’s Recognize that Bike Facilities are Transportation Facilities!
Cultural change will come to Public Works and Transportation when officials recognize that a bike rack isn’t a sop to nutty cyclists but instead is an incentive to shift our means of mobility from road-clogging cars to eco-friendly bike travel.
It’s simple, really: Bike racks are intended to “encourage the use of bicycles by providing safe and convenient places to park bicycles,” as Portland’s municipal code says (Section 33.266.200). New York City, too, makes bike parking convenient for “commuting, short trips and errands” because officials there recognize that cycling is transportation and bike parking returns economic benefits. NYC doles racks out for free to help small businesses attract more customers (and to increase their customers’ level of satisfaction, the city says).
When our officials recognize that a bike rack is a part of our urban transportation infrastructure much like parking meters, street parking, and public parking garages, we’ll then be on our way into the 21st century.
*There exist additional local funding sources for bicycling and walking facilities, too, such as impact fees from developments (especially applicable in newly-created overlay zones), Community Development Block Grants to fund streetscape and sidewalk improvements (in Beverly Hills CDBG funds handyman services), and private-sector nonprofit or corporate awards.