Preliminary Bike Count Findings in for Beverly Hills

Bike count 2013 clipboardThere’s much to be learned about cycling patterns, pedestrian volume, motorist behavior and even street design when one takes a beach chair to a city corner for a couple of hours just to watch the traffic pass by. We had the pleasure of monitoring a few corners in Beverly Hills for the biannual LACBC bike & ped count this year, and we want to present our observations as we wait for the LACBC to crunch the numbers citywide.

We counted at three intersections: near the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard (North) and Wilshire Saturday midday; Santa Monica South at Wilshire for an AM rush; and South Beverly Drive at Charleville Drive for mid-week AM and PM rush hours. These preliminary findings address the Beverly-Charleville intersection because we have data for both morning and afternoon on the same day. We used an imaginary crossing ‘stringline’ about 30 feet north of the intersection and another one thirty feet east to count all the cyclists and pedestrians flowing into and out of the intersection.

Bike count 2013 mapBeverly & Charleville are where key N/S and E/W corridors cross. Beverly Drive links the canyons with our municipal neighbor Culver City to the south, and is a busy shopping street. Charleville Dr. is a cyclists’ favorite crosstown parallel to Wilshire Boulevard connecting La Cienega with Century City. (During the bike route pilot project discussion, we advocated for sharrows along this narrow, tree-lined route. City Council declined.)

We expected significant bike traffic through this intersection but were somewhat disappointed: during the two-hour AM rush, only 27 riders passed though; the two-hour PM count tallied just 26. Of the two streets, the relatively bike-friendly east-west route took about a third more riders through in both the AM and PM two-hour periods. Busy Beverly Drive is a major auto corridor but it counted just 11 riders in each of those periods. More cyclists favored the east-west crosstown route.

But few of them were women. During the AM rush, we counted Just 1 woman out of 27 total riders, while the afternoon improved markedly with 4 women out of 26 riders. That’s just 15% of the total across the count periods.

About 1 in 10 riders took to the sidewalks. Sidewalk riding is not legal in commercial districts in Beverly Hills; and more important, sidewalk riding is particularly perilous here given the frenetic motorists who like to jump the green (without even looking right when they turn on red). But then again, South Beverly Drive is a virtual speedway with scant speed limit enforcement. And pull-in parking limits motorist visibility. Perhaps sidewalk riding perhaps has something to offer where safety is concerned.

But safety-wise, riding the sidewalk makes for an injury collision waiting to happen. Crosswalk markings are faded. Busy alleys mean that vehicular traffic constantly crosses the sidewalk. And ‘stop’ markings there are faded too. In fact, the whole vicinity is problematic because there exists no on-street bicycle facility or signage. It’s like cyclists simply shouldn’t exist. When South Beverly was repaved about a year ago, we begged the city not to proceed without evaluating the feasibility of making it bike-friendly…to no avail.

For what it’s worth, 40% of all riders during the two count windows at Beverly and Charleville wore no helmet. Both casual riders and delivery guys went lidless but the latter without exception rode without one.

Pedestrians love this revitalizing area, though. This intersection is near numerous offices and retail shops line the street, which together make for a lot of foot traffic: nearly 500 pedestrians crossed our two count lines in the 7-9 AM window which doubled to  nearly 1000 during the 4 to 6 PM window.

Wilshire & SM intersection aerial viewWe’ll wait for LACBC to release those findings for our other count locations near Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard, but in the meantime we will observe that well over one-third of riders during our two count windows there wore no helmet. And fewer than we expected traversed this crazy juncture by bicycle. Of course road conditions discourage it: there are no bike facilities here either and our ‘F’ LOS intersections make for a hairy journey. Nevertheless, we saw a preponderance of riders from this busy intersection choose to ride Wilshire westbound and not Santa Monica (despite the latter’s bike lanes starting in Century City).

With the Bike & Ped count behind us for 2013, at least we’ve got some bare-bones numbers to put to the prevalence of cycling at two key points in Beverly Hills. We hope that looking ahead a decade or so we’ll see a big uptick in those who choose to ride (albeit from a very small base). With road conditions like this in Beverly Hills, can we really expect many more two-wheeled travelers taking to our streets today?Santa Monica Boulevard looking east to Wilshire