Update from the Beverly Hills Transportation Division

Approved Pilot program bike routes map
The two routes approved for bike-friendly treatments by City Council.

Transportation staff presented a report to the Traffic & Parking Commission this week that outlined progress (or lack thereof) on several cycling-related initiatives here in Beverly Hills. If you’ve tuned in earlier, you’ll know that the city has been talking for the past three years about a new bike plan. They’ve been planning a ‘pilot’ bike route for the past two years. And have been working on a limited bike rack installation program for the past 18 months.  While there’s still no tangible progress to report, we did hear from staff about timelines. Let’s review, starting start with the big opportunity: bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction

Santa Boulevard reconstruction is our opportunity to one day see bicycle lanes on the corridor. Existing lanes in Los Angeles and West Hollywood practically stop at our city’s boundaries, so we’re anxious to complete what’s shaping up to be a bike route backbone with lanes on SM Blvd. Our Transportation division in January released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for design services for the reconstruction of the corridor (which we reviewed). With this RFP the city also released a preliminary timeline for the Santa Monica reconstruction:

  • Bid review and award of the contract: May/June 2013
  • Presentation to City Council July/August 2013
  • Public Outreach: September-January 2014
  • City Council approval of design: early 2015
  • Construction commences: Spring 2015

Per that timeline, staff is recommending that City Council appoint a Committee drawn from the Traffic & Parking, Public Works, and Recreation and Parks commissions to develop bike-related recommendations for Council consideration.

The RFP (not posted on the city’s website, by the way) directs bidders to include consideration of bicycle lanes but not of course bike lanes. At best we’ll get a project alternative. With Beverly Hills looking forward toward pilot program bike routes and even some new bike racks, it’s our time to speak up (or we’ll likely lose our boulevard bicycle lanes to a landscaped median or whatever).

So mark your calendars: with the RFP out, contractors to be chosen and project concepts to be identified, we’ll need to get out in front to make our case before City Council. (The good news is that we have a new Council to be installed in late March.)

Citywide Bike Plan?

With two (of five) Pilot bike routes selected by Council now moving forward this spring (on Burton Way and Crescent Drive), the Traffic & Parking Commission appears poised to undertake a re-draft of our 1977-era bike plan. We long ago considered that update dead, but we may yet be proven mistaken (or validated – stay tuned).

Back in early 2010, you see, a committee was formed under the Traffic & Parking Commission to advise that Commission on the creation of a new bike plan. To date, however, the committee only met to hear out stakeholders and draft Pilot program recommendations for Council. In the intervening three years, nothing has happened on the bike plan, and the Commission has only received updates on the progress of the bike initiatives (none to date – read below).

Now there are mumblings about resurrecting the bike plan effort. Technically speaking, the 1977 plan remains in effect because it was simply incorporated into our general plan update a couple of years ago. And as we’ve said, it’s better than anything that’s on the boards right now.

Here’s some key questions we’d like to have answered:

Why conduct a bike route program program at all without a real, updated bike plan in hand? Did we put the cart in front of the horse on this one? And why go through the Pilot process without reference at all to the earlier proposed plan? We’d prefer to see the Pilot program proposed bike routes integrated into the old plan’s vision of a complete bike network.

Or, should we take what we can get? As we said, we have a new Council coming in that may well be more considerate of the safety of all road users. But caution is due: under the ‘pilot program,’ City Council could well jettison those striped facilities at the 12-month review mark as at least one sitting councilmember appears eager to do. Stay tuned!

Pilot Program & Rack Installation

Installation of striping and signage under the Pilot is to be completed in May/June of this year. And city staff say that they expect the citywide bicycle racks installation to proceed this summer, according to their staff report.

Proposed phase 1 and 2 bicycle rack installations map
The Transportation division’s proposed bicycle rack installations for phase 1 and 2.

Before we celebrate, consider that the city is proposing only eleven new racks in a phase one installation. Citywide. Major commercial streets like Robertson and Beverly Drive get only 4 and 3 respectively. (At any one time, today a half-dozen bikes are locked to meters on one side of a single block of South Beverly.) Even the Pilot-designated route on Crescent gets only 2 racks. If phase one is to be installed by summer, when can we expect the next 22 racks under phase two?

Beverly Hills bicycle rack design as adoptedDon’t hold your breath. Since the fall of 2011 – when the first draft map of possible bicycle rack locations was released – our Transportation division has accomplished exactly one thing: securing City Council approval for a rack design. The Traffic and Parking Commission spent as much time deliberating the rack’s Beverly Hills logo than they did the entire pilot program. Design specs, costing-out, and contracts to be let, however, will have to wait for another day.

Is This Any Way to Plan for Mobility?

The future installation bicycle racks in our commercial areas is but one open question. Will the city follow through on racks-on-request? Will we charge businesses for racks installed in the public right of way? Will there be a phase II rack installation? Will our newly-striped pilot routes ever fit into the bike network? Will there ever be a new bike plan? Will all cyclists get out of three years of our effort with this city be 11 bicycle racks? Again, is this any way to plan for mobility in Beverly Hills?