Bike Plan Update Committee #5

Eastern Gateway right-of-way visualized
Santa Monica Boulevard of tomorrow at the eastern gateway.

The Traffic & Parking Commission’s ad-hoc Bike Plan Update Committee met with a few representatives from the bike community on March 21st, the fifth meeting to date in the process of bringing bike facilities to Beverly Hills. Transportation planner Martha Eros presented an update on the two key initiatives currently underway: the Bike Route Pilot program and an effort to install new bike racks citywide. We also heard from Transportation director Aaron Kunz about the next steps in the reconstruction of  Santa Monica Boulevard, which could be reconstructed as a multimodal corridor (as shown here at the eastern gateway). This informational meeting broke no new ground, but here’s the recap.

Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Process Next Steps

Starting with Santa Monica Boulevard, this key regional corridor could be the kind of high-profile, identity-enhancing street that Beverly Hills needs. It’s all here: it connects our city’s eastern and western gateways, running by City Hall and the new Annenberg Center at Canon; it affords access to our central business district, the triangle; and it is steeped in history as historic Route 66 (Chicago to the sea) and the location of the city’s first railroad station. How we reconstruct this corridor – and how it incorporates a bike facility – will determine how cyclists pass through (and into) our city.

Transportation chief Aaron Kunz informed us that the next step is to issue a request for proposals (RFP). With responses from outside consultants, the city will choose a design firm, which will provide alternatives. The city will then choose, and the project will be put to bid. Design alternatives aren’t expected before the close of 2012, with reconstruction completed by the end of 2014.

What are our participation opportunities? This first step will find City Council offering general direction to Transportation. “Our #1 consideration are bike lanes on the boulevard,” Aaron said. “If they give us the go-ahead, we’ll issue the RFP.” The City Council will study the core elements of the RFP in early April, when the broad outline of the project will begin to take shape. Specifics will be decided toward the end of 2012 (once a design firm is on board) though a series of public outreach meetings.

We will need to follow the RFP process closely to ensure that the city lives up to that commitment. This is our opportunity to provide elected officials with our perspective on what a future Santa Monica Boulevard should look like.

Our participation is important even at this early stage because our city has no complete streets language in our General Plan’s circulation element to guide the policymakers. In fact, our General Plan was adopted the year before the state finally mandated incorporation of complete streets principles (though a year after the state law went into effect). We will need to follow the RFP process closely to ensure that the city lives up to that commitment.

Bike Route Pilot Program

Next to Santa Monica Boulevard, the Bike Routes Pilot is the best hope we have for making a positive change in mobility in Beverly Hills over the medium-term to long-term. As presented here, the Pilot has passed its first hurdle – the City Council nod [recap] – and now moves on to the community outreach phase. We’ve been critical of the way the Pilot was scoped but we seem to have no choice but to follow through on what we feel is too limited a program – it changes no parking or affects no vehicular flow – to get us where we need to go. That said, the Council could have deferred action on it. So there we are.

The informational presentation pegged the first community presentation as April 11th with one following on April 25th and a presentation/hearing before the Traffic & Parking Commission on May 9th. That latter meeting is our best opportunity to shape the recommendations that will go to City Council, so sharpen your pencils!

Colorado Boulevard envisioned for multimodal mobility
Colorado Boulevard envisioned for multimodal mobility.

The one area of concern here – and it is a big one – is that Transportation will undertake this effort as a pro-forma exercise without doing the heavier lifting of actually communicating why multimodal mobility is in the public interest. Here we could take a page from the Santa Monica playbook (right). Prescribing major change for Colorado Boulevard as a multimodal corridor, the city put forth a truly energizing vision (in a positive way) to give the community a reason to support the effort.

The worst case would be replicating the Metro station fracas, where our school board and city leaders seem to intentionally background  the substantive issues. If we don’t help the community envision what that could look like, merely the prospect of change could inflame baseless opposition.