Stop the clock on bike routes? For two years we have urged City of Beverly Hills to move with dispatch on new bike routes because our streets are simply not sufficiently safe for cyclists. When the city finally put in place a process and identified three possible bike routes (before City Council for discussion today), we’re faced with either plowing ahead or applying the brakes. We chose the latter: we can do better. Rather than make a significant misstep, we urge Council to stop the clock and revisit the process in order to come up with a better bike route proposal.
You know its got to be difficult for Better Bike to suggest that the city stop the clock on bike planning. When two years ago we wondered why we cyclists must take our lives into our hands when we ride through Beverly Hills, we went into full-on advocacy mode: Let’s make our streets safer today.
That wasn’t a tough call. We have no bike lanes like exist in West Hollywood and Century City, for example. We have no signage or shared-lane markings like they do in Santa Monica. Even City of Los Angeles has managed to elevate road safety within their behemoth planning apparatus. Safety should be paramount, we though, yet it is a concern that tends to get lost amid the parking permits and other issues that come before our Traffic & Parking Commission.
So our first move was to look at the city’s General Plan. (Every California city has one, and by law it must address transportation concerns in a standalone element.) To our surprise, we do indeed have a Bike Master Plan, but then we saw it was a 35-year old plan simply re-adopted in 2010. Surely there’s a mistake, we though. But a call to Planning confirmed it: our bike plan dates to 1977!
We set out to light a fire under City Hall about the safety issues around riding in Beverly Hills. There’s every reason to address them forthwith: Sacramento adopted climate change legislation that encourages fewer vehicle trips and mandates less greenhouse gas emissions, and includes a requirement that cities just actually plan to achieve our goals.
Here at home, our city plans talk about ‘multimodal mobility’ and explicitly encourage us to bike rather than drive. And of course we’ve got the resources to make the necessary improvements to our streets to enable motorists and cyclists to share them more safely. With City Hall relatively close to the people, we though, our concerns should be heard loud and clear.
Yet it’s been an uphill battle from day one. There has been no greater challenge than overcoming the inertia and blinkered vision of own Public Works & Transportation staff. Even when elected officials placed cycling accommodations on their priority list, progress has come slowly. Some would say grudgingly.
Two years on, however, we can count a few bike-focused public meetings and now a slate of three possible bike routes is put before Council for discussion (recommended by our Traffic & Parking Commission). But these improvements consist almost entirely of shared-lane markings (“sharrows”) which don’t change conditions and so can’t promise safer travel for cyclists.
Moreover, collision data played no real role in the Commissioners’ deliberations. In fact, the recommended bike routes avoid the most oft-used routes by cyclists today – which are also the most traffic-choked and those most in need of attention. Yet they are off the table.
When this item comes up for discussion today, we’re asking City Council to stop the clock on the bike route pilot program. Let’s instead revisit the process in order to enlarge the scope (if not the scale) beyond just a few routes. Let’s talk about bike planning in the context of the larger transportation system, just like our 1977 plan did.
We’re also better off to look closely at the many good practices and innovative ideas brought forth to Transportation officials in the process. We need only look around at the measures that other cities are implementing (or have explored) to see what might help us address our own not particularly unique mobility challenges.
And finally, we’re better off undertaking a true community-based planning process that brings more stakeholders into the discussion long before proposals find their way to City Council.
We’re not alone in calling for the clock to be stopped. Leadership from our school district’s Parent Teacher Association have stepped forward to ask to be involved too. With a community conversation tentatively calendared for October, it would simply be imprudent to move forward now, we believe.
With the PTA involved, hopefully Beverly Hills Unified School District facility planners will take an interest too. We at Better Bike see our schools as anchors of change. School officials need to be a key partner in street safety if we are to encourage our kids to ride. Let’s build the Beverly Hills bike route network around our schools. But first we must assuage parents’ safety concerns with safer streets.
What’s before City Council today is too little and too late. Too little for the cyclists who live, work, and shop here (not to mention school here); and too late because this abbreviated bike route process came outside of our General Plan. The process didn’t touch on past safety data nor did it consider federal and state guidelines (and grant funding) that are available. In fact, throughout this entire process, the bike plan in effect was never even invoked.
As Traffic and Parking Commissioner Alan Grushcow put it, “The cyclists are coming…we have to plan for them.” We couldn’t agree more. But the bike routes under discussion don’t reflect a good-faith effort. City Council should keep that in mind when councilmembers discuss the study session item today.