We really have to hand it to City of Santa Monica. City officials took seriously the ‘Vision Zero’ goal of street safety and incorporated it into every aspect of city business. That city is so committed to safe, multimodal mobility that it has spent years refashioning streets to include bicycle lanes and even protected lanes to keep the modes separate. The safe-mobility message comes right from the top. City Manager Rick Cole not only pressed for those changes but he (figuratively speaking) walks the walk by promoting those changes to the public.
In Beverly Hills we will never see our city manager on a bicycle. Heck, ninety-nine percent of city residents couldn’t pick him out of a lineup much less name him (George Chavez). We won’t see George on a bicycle because, unlike in Santa Monica, planning for safe mobility regardless of travel mode is evidently not important to city officials. In Beverly Hills there is no coordinated messaging nor any program to make our streets safer for those who ride a bicycle.
We’ve been waiting for a decade to see our 1977 Bicycle Master Plan updated and we’re still waiting. During the past ten years, cities all around Beverly Hills have lapped our city when it comes to street safety.
Santa Monica has undertaken an extensive redesign of Ocean Park Boulevard, for example. “Safety is essential along this street, and over the last few years,” the city tells residents. “Ocean Park Boulevard has undergone important upgrades to help us realize our goal of eliminating fatal and severe injury crashes.”
Improvements to Ocean Park Boulevard include enhanced and additional pedestrian crossings, flashing crosswalk beacons and re-timed crosswalk signals that allow a ‘leading pedestrian interval’ so pedestrians can cross before turning automobiles enter the crosswalk. Infrastructure improvements include new medians and high-visibility green bike lanes throughout. The result is a 71% reduction in severe injury crashes.
That puts Beverly Hills to shame. Pedestrians here waited a decade for high-visibility crosswalks. Bicycle riders are still waiting on the city to deliver on the “enhancements to bike mobility” that city council has named year after year as an official city priority. We are still waiting on an update of the Bicycle Master Plan too, even though that was designated as an A-level priority back in 2016.
So no, we won’t see our city manager riding a bicycle any time soon. Why would he? Few of our residents ride a bicycle because our streets are not particularly safe to ride. But the difference is that George Chavez is in a position to do something about it but chooses not to.
Rick Cole, city manager for Santa Monica, has made street safety job #1 in Santa Monica. He has even saddled-up himself to get out there on two wheels to remind everybody that his city takes multimodal mobility seriously. Have a look at the city’s ‘Take the Friendly Road’ webpage.
Santa Monica is a multimodal community, where more than half of us walk and bike daily, and a third of our students walk to school. We know our neighbors, and wave hello to them at parks, bus stops, and farmers markets. We participate in events like COAST, the Twilight Concert Series, and Kidical Mass. It’s this feeling of community that encourages us to look out for each other and it’s a reason why so many of us love it here. Today, with so many mobility options, it’s important to keep the wellbeing of everyone front and center. From supporting infrastructure projects and laws that keep us all safe, to putting our phones down and paying attention to others, we can create a safe and friendly Santa Monica.
In Beverly Hills we’re still bickering about complete streets with no plan in hand to show for our years of talk about “enhancements to bike mobility throughout the City.”