Our Public Records Request

Public records actWhen Traffic & Parking Commissioners discussed bike improvements in May, we saw that commissioners who met with bike advocates spoke up in support while others who hadn’t harbored misconceptions. And as deliberation proceeded, it was unclear how well city staff in Transportation had informed the commissioners about facilities, bike-involved collisions, or even past public comment. We wanted to know more about how the Commission arrived at its May 9th recommendation to Council so we’ve filed a public records request.

Government code section 6250-6270 (a.k.a. California Public Records Act) requires that public agencies (broadly construed to include cities, counties, school districts, and boards, commissions and agencies) make available to the general public and other agencies all records generated in the course of conducting public business. It is part of California’s ‘sunshine laws’ that might be called our last gasp at progressive-era good government. (Sacramento is certainly no shining example!) Read more about the Public Records Act and process in our overview.

The text of our request:

I would like to request to inspect material records that informed or that helped to inform the Beverly Hills Traffic & Parking Commission’s recommendation to City Council concerning proposed Bicycle Pilots Routes program. The recommendation motion was passed by Commission on May 9, 2012. In order to understand how the Commission arrived at its decision, I request of the Transportation Division of Public Works (or appropriate city departments or agents):

  • Staff direction to consultant Fehr & Peers Pilot regarding selection and analysis of candidate Pilot routes;
  • Materials produced by consultant Fehr & Peers Pilot and provided to staff and any commissioners concerning selection and analysis of candidate routes;
  • Staff recommendations provided to the Traffic & Parking commission or any commissioners concerning the identification of candidate routes (including but not limited to email to the commission);
  • Minutes, notes or summaries of ad-hoc Bike Plan Update meetings including comments from the public (five meetings: 6/8/11, 8/29/11, 11/16/11, 1/18/11, 3/21/12);
  • Minutes, notes or summaries of Pilot Bicycle Routes Community Outreach meetings including comments from the public (April 11 & 25 2011);
  • Minutes, notes or summaries of public testimony at the May 9th meeting;
  • Public safety data concerning bike-involved collisions as summarized, digested, or provided in tabular form;
  • Public safety data concerning cyclist behavior, including cited offenses and frequency;
  • Studies related to bicycle use in Beverly Hills such as a bike count or census;
  • Study materials prepared to summarize or illustrate infrastructure or facility improvements or innovations (for example, shared-lane markings/sharrows, bike lanes, and designated bike routes.)
  • Material currently posted to the ad hoc Bike Plan Update Committee (as of June 21) need not be collected of course.

The objective is to learn the extent to which our Transportation staff prepared the commissioners to evaluate bike improvements under the city’s Bike Route Pilot Program, and to see for ourselves how seriously Transportation staff approached the input provided by cyclists over many hours of meetings with officials.

When the commissioners on balance declined to support sharrows and lanes for our more highly congested streets, it was clear that safety played no part in the deliberations. In fact, safety data (provided by the BHPD for 2009 and 2010) was mentioned only briefly, and from the deliberations it was clear that past collisions weren’t the justification for making  improvements but rather a basis for not providing them. Where collisions are too many, let’s not put bike safety treatments.

Yet commissioners thought that sharrows on Beverly Hills streets would disorient our drivers. We see sharrows on streets in city after city in the region, and indeed two of the commissioners, Alan Grushcow and Jeff Levine, noted that drivers seem to handle them just fine. Commissioners also opined that sharrows could convey a false sense of security to riders, which seems unsupported by data, cyclist testimony, or even anecdotal accounts.

Then there are the records of meetings themselves. Because only skeletal city city notes for Bike Plan Update Committee’s meetings have been released (including this gem from November of 2010), we have no idea how much public from cyclists ever made it to the commission. We bike advocates attended no fewer than five meetings with the ad hoc committee, but only notes from the first June 2011 meeting has been released. Where are all of those good ideas that we gave them? We’re asking.

For these reasons and more we want to know how the Commission came by its knowledge of the cycling experience in Beverly Hills. This is a traffic & transportation commission after all, and we’d like to believe that that their mission includes protecting all road users and not only the Beverly Hills motoring public. Maybe a public records request will help us learn what staff provided this commission to inform deliberation.