Beverly Hills: Let’s Make Our Streets ‘Complete’

It was the 1970s and the nation’s bicycle renaissance was in full-flower. City of Beverly Hills met the moment by creating a Bicycle Master Plan in 1977. The plan envisioned a citywide system of bike routes “to serve as alternative transportation to parks, schools, and shopping areas.” It was a good plan that said all he right things. It would have encouraged adults and children to make short trips by bike — and it would have made those trips more safe.

But the 1977 Bicycle Master Plan has gathered dust on a city hall shelf for four decades. In the meanwhile, at great expense our city has built expensive parking structures (parking given away for free) and expanded sidewalks. Yet officials have done little to make streets safe to navigate on a bicycle or personal mobility device like a scooter. We closely regulate valet parking but don’t give half-a-thought to street safety.

Those who would ride a bicycle in Beverly Hills will find our streets are incomplete; there is no designated place to safely ride.

Today Beverly Hills is developing a mobility plan that would meet the spirit of the 1977 plan by making our streets ‘complete.’ That means engineering streets for the safety of all road users regardless of chosen travel mode. A ‘complete street’ features well-marked crosswalks and a place for bicycles and other personal mobility devices while also accommodating automobiles and transit.

What is the Complete Streets Plan?

The ‘complete streets’ plan is our roadmap for getting to safer streets for all road users. From the draft complete streets plan (2019):

Through implementation of the Complete Streets Plan, the City aims to transform Beverly Hills from an auto-dominated community to one that embraces all modes of travel, reduces vehicle trips on our streets, and can be truly considered a world class bicycling city.

Our draft complete streets plan document is comprised of two parts: a set of goals and policies that will guide the city in support of safe and efficient mobility; and a separate implementation that ties goals and policies to actual programs and improvements.

The main document (the ‘Complete Streets Plan’) describes the goals and objectives of the mobility program. It groups recommended policies by mode, so there is a section each for walking, riding, driving and taking transit. The draft ‘Action Plan’ is the companion roadmap for project implementation. Likewise it groups recommended programs and improvements by mode.

Together they are the complete streets plan — the broad policy statement that describes the city’s mobility goals and charts-out how we will prioritize, fund and implement the necessary programs and projects.

complete streets banner

Plan Highlights

The key elements of the Complete Streets Plan that are worthy of our support include:

  • A citywide bikeway network to connect schools, parks, business districts and neighborhoods (in the spirit of the 1977 Bicycle Master Plan);
  • Street design guidelines that prioritize safety as promulgated by the progressive National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO);
  • Mode-shift incentives to move travelers from single-occupancy automobiles to other modes (along with metrics and benchmarks to measure progress);
  • Traffic calming treatments on residential streets and improved intersections that will reduce conflict between travel modes; and,
  • Bus-priority lanes on Wilshire Boulevard.

There is much, much more to like. But the key element is the proposed “holistic and connected bicycle network” that designate priority ‘bikeways’ along certain east-west and north-south corridors. For example this is a map that highlights several bikeways for initial implementation.

Complete Streets Plan proposed citywide bike network map with recommended year-one routes

The draft Complete Streets Action Plan prioritizes these notable programs:

  • The adoption of new street design guidance and specifically the development of bike infrastructure design guidelines that will improve rider safety along bikeways and through intersections;
  • A new bike-parking ordinance that would require secure bike parking, showers and changing facilities at private-sector employers in order to encourage employee bike-to-work;
  • Identification of ‘bike-friendly business districts’; and,
  • An autonomous vehicle demonstration project and exploration of an autonomous vehicle shuttle for Beverly Hills.

There is much, much more to like in the draft Action Plan. The important take-away is that the complete streets planning process represents our commitment to 21st century mobility in a city firmly mired in 20th-century auto dependence! Find the draft Complete Streets Plan and the draft Action Plan over at the city’s complete streets pop-up website.

Where We Are

We are two years into the complete streets planning process. The city first got the ball rolling on complete streets in 2017 with the hiring of consultants Iteris and Alta Planning. Then there were public planning charettes and walking tours. The city then took more public comment online and through numerous Traffic & Parking Commission meetings. Then there was a revised draft plan released last November. But in the final hour a few naysayers popped up at a revised-draft ‘open house’ in December. They put the process on ice.

It is important to note that the naysayers emerged from their slumber only after $200,000 was spent on plan consultants and after a year of public meetings. None attended the meetings where community stakeholders have overwhelmingly supported key elements of the draft complete streets plan. Regardless, the naysayers have carried the day in Beverly Hills — for now at least.

Next Step?

The next step in the complete streets process is a September 1st meeting where the future of multimodal mobility in Beverly Hills will be decided. At that meeting, city council liaisons Vice-Mayor Bob Wunderlich and councilmember Julian Gold will discuss the process with Traffic & Parking Commission chair David Seidel and vice-chair Nooshin Meshkati.

Please get in touch with Better Bike if you want to be added to our outreach list for that meeting.

Which way the city will go is unknown. Will we take the current draft complete streets plan back to a town hall and then revise it after more public comment? Or will the city preemptively change the current draft plan to excise hard-won policies, programs and infrastructure recommendations that will make our streets complete?

The first approach we would call the ‘give city council some cover’ option. If the public continues to support the draft plan perhaps we can persuade at least three councilmembers to support it. The latter option would represent an opportunity to gut the current draft plan without any further public input. City transportation staff would be only too happy to gut the draft plan and call it a day.

Take Action

You can take action by communicating to city council your support for our good draft mobility plan. It is especially important that they hear from residents who want mobility options — residents who might bicycle more often but find Beverly Hills streets unwelcoming when riding a bicycle. Reach Mayor Les Friedman and members of the city council by email at mayorandcitycouncil@beverlyhills.org or call (310) 285–1013 to leave a message.

You can also contact the Traffic & Parking Commission. The commission has been consistently supportive of multimodal mobility. Commissioners are as concerned as we are that mobility planning in Beverly Hills has gone off-track. The commission has approved the draft plan once and commissioners want the opportunity to move it forward. Reach Traffic & Parking Commission chair David Seidel and members of the commission by email at transportation@beverlyhills.org or call the commission secretary at (310) 285–1128 to leave a comment.

Remember: With your help we made Santa Monica Boulevard bicycle lanes a reality. But this is a bigger lift! We need city residents in particular to stand with us in support of complete streets. That’s the only way we will finally dust off that forty-year-old Bicycle Master Plan! We at Better Bike welcome you to get in touch after reviewing the draft complete streets plan at the city’s website.

More About Complete Streets

Making streets ‘complete’ is simply handle for designing and constructing roadways to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and even those who choose to travel by car. The principle is safe and equitable facilities for every traveler regardless of choice of mode of travel. The objective is a balanced, multimodal network for safe and efficient travel.

The California Complete Streets Act in 2008 established an ambitious goal achievable through modest means:

In order to fulfill the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make the most efficient use of urban land and transportation infrastructure, and improve public health by encouraging physical activity, transportation planners must find innovative ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled and to shift from short trips in the automobile to biking, walking and use of public transit. — AB 1358 California Complete Streets Act

The legislation provided state agencies and localities like Beverly Hills with the necessary guidance to make streets safe and accommodating regardless of mode choice. Our challenge is to overcome the resistance of our transportation officials and to encourage our elected councilmembers to take the steps necessary to shift trips from the automobile to other modes.

Beverly Hills is no stranger to complete streets principles. We codified them into our Beverly Hills Sustainable City Plan (2009) and our General Plan Circulation Element (2010), both of which recommend that we shift our travel from automobiles to other modes.

We may have expanded sidewalks, striped high-visibility crosswalks and even endowed Santa Monica Boulevard with a high-visibility bicycle lane, but we do not have a 21st century mobility plan. In fact Beverly Hills stands alone in our region in not having adopted any plan document that would guide the integration of multimodal facilities into our existing transportation network.

Forty-three years ago the city adopted a Bicycle Master Plan and we are still talking about how to update it. For shame!