Beverly Hills Mayor Bob Wunderlich welcomed about 30 riders, ten city staffers, and two councilmembers to preview what is likely to be the future protected southbound bicycle lane on Roxbury Drive south of Olympic. Just a bit of paint and a few planters delineated a separate lane adjacent to the curb buffered from passing traffic by parking but it was enough to suggest what should be the next step toward a citywide bike network tomorrow — if city council agrees.
Somebody at today’s event said it best: traveling the long road to multimodal mobility in Beverly Hills feels both cynical and hopeful.
Cynical because city hall has moved too deliberately. City council adopted the complete streets plan only this year after some delay. At the center of the plan is a proposed citywide bicycle route network which was anticipated as many as forty years ago in the 1977 Bicycle Master Plan. But we’ve yet to see a network take shape and progress is painfully slow.
Yet hopeful, too, because when there is political will to make a change then the change can come quickly. We saw that with Santa Monica Boulevard bicycle lanes and the belated adoption of the complete streets plan. Years of delay then voila! Today’s demonstration project is a mark on the hopeful side of that sentiment ledger.
Protected Lane Demonstration Project
For the demonstration the Department of Public Works temporarily striped and protected a bicycle lane on South Roxbury Drive at curb adjacent to the park. The purpose of today’s demonstration was twofold. First, showing that drivers and bicyclists (and other device users) can share the road safely, and, in many locations, that can happen with a simple stripe and without having removed any curb parking.
For this Roxbury Park demonstration not a single parking space was removed — only temporarily relocated away from the curb to accommodate the lane. Our plans have talked about connecting neighborhoods and parks for four decades and sometimes all it takes is a stripe on the blacktop!
Second, today’s demonstration was an opportunity for Mayor Bob Wunderlich to lead a community ride around the neighborhood starting with Roxbury north of Olympic and then west to the high school. Roxbury, Moreno, Charleville and Gregory are all routes in the southwest area that are indicated as part of the citywide bicycle network in the complete streets plan. And that ride was a success. The weather was perfect, the spirits were high and, well, the ride was not too strenuous.
Wunderlich is the councilmember to lead this ride. He is not only a believer in multimodal mobility but has himself logged way more miles in the saddle than anyone else on the council dais. Soft-spoken and modest, Wunderlich characteristically led from behind. But where it counts we can hope he will be out front when we need him to be. He is the necessary third vote on facilities like this one and multimodal mobility programs generally.
At the conclusion of the ride we assembled at a tent where about 30–40 visitors chatted with Public Works Director Shana Epstein; Daren Grilley, deputy department director for Public Works; transportation planner Jessie Holzer and transportation analyst Christian Vasquez. It is a new day for multimodal now that the transportation division has found a welcoming new home at Public Works (after years dying on the vine at Community Development).
The crowd was mostly believers. The challenge will be to persuade those who haven’t drunk the cool aid and here we saw progress too. We heard at least one community member converted to a believer (“The narrower lanes may slow down car traffic and that would be a good thing!”) and none of the usual NIMBY crowed showed up to crow.
Also attending was Councilmember John Mirisch, who has seen the future of multimodal mobility in northern Europe and wants to see it here too. He is up for reelection next year for a fourth term. Vice-Mayor Lili Bosse was in the house too. In her prior term as mayor she led the city to both prioritize a new bike plan and to step on the gas to make high-visibility bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard a reality. (Sometimes a motoring metaphor is so appropriate!)
If agreed by a majority of city council then this demonstration lane, plus a companion class-II lane on the northbound side, will evolve into a year-long pilot project. Absent any significant NIMBY gripes it could then installed permanently. This is low-hanging fruit, after all, because existing bike lanes in City of Los Angeles exist just south of the park. Extending those lanes to Olympic Boulevard is a no brainer.
With some striping and bollards we’ve seen a modest taste of what safer multimodal mobility can be in Beverly Hills: a dedicated and protected bike lane to connect neighborhoods to parks. Let’s hope it’s the downpayment on a citywide bicycle network as promised in our complete streets plan.