Beverly Hills Bike Route Pilot Program

Beverly Hills Pilot Bike Route Program

Crescent Drive sharrow

Pilot Program Class II bicycle lane on North Crescent Drive.

Nearly fifty years after the twentieth-century bicycle renaissance, cycling is popular again. We have returned to the bicycle because it is a pleasurable, healthy, and less-polluting alternative to the automobile. And it’s a heck of a lot more efficient than sitting in Beverly Hills traffic congestion.

But riding a bicycle in Beverly Hills is not without peril. The city has little dedicated infrastructure and our Bicycle Master Plan, which forty-years ago envisioned a citywide network of bicycle routes, has sat on the shelf – it’s promise unrealized.

The latter-day bicycle boom even passed by our General Plan, which was updated in 2010 but inexplicably kept that old plan on the books. As cities around Beverly Hills adopted new bike plans and encouraged cycling, we sat on our hands. Our transportation division couldn’t even be bothered to post a single ‘ride safe’ tip on the city website.

Approved Pilot program bike routes map

The city’s one and only stab at bike infrastructure came a few years ago and it was called a ‘pilot’ bike route program. It included a few segments of Class II bicycle lanes and a few blocks of sharrows. But it was neither a product of a plan nor a down-payment on that citywide network. The improvements stand apart from any of our other mobility measures, the white paint fading like a metaphor for policymakers’ concern for the safety of riders.

More About the Pilot Program

In November of 2011 Transportation officials presented to advocates a feasibility study of possible routes with four candidates: the east/west corridors of Carmelita and Charleville and the north/south corridors of Beverly and Crescent Drive. All were recommended by cyclist-advocates who participated in several Pilot meetings with staff.

Bike Route Pilot program map

Candidate Pilot routes…

After those meetings concluded, transportation division staff then added a fifth route, Burton Way. Burton way was low-hanging fruit: it was plenty wide and easy and relatively safe to ride without lanes, so installing them was an easy add-on.

Supporters came out overwhelmingly in favor of all of the candidate routes (the more the better) but  northside homeowners feared that bicycle lanes (or ‘routes,’ or ‘paths’ as the terminology was used interchangeably) would harm their property values. With some public input in hand, the Traffic and Parking Commission took a recommendation to Council that included misguided recommendations.

Approved Pilot program bike routes map

…But the routes actually approved by Council.

When City Council City Council gave the nod to the Pilot program in mid-2012 only two route segments survived: Burton Way and Crescent Drive (at right). But only limited segments of each were slated for the improvement while City Council declined to make improvements south of Wilshire where much cross-city traffic flows. While Crescent Drive north of Santa Monica Boulevard would be striped with bicycle lanes, a few more blocks south of Santa Monica up to Wilshire would get only ‘sharrows.’ This was a mixed bag but what do you want when a program like this gets ahead of a mobility plan?

Where did the Pilot program planning go wrong? Let us count the ways!

Proposed Pilot bike routes map

The proposed Pilot routes (in red) before whittling down by the commission and City Council

Reductive route selection. The Traffic and Parking Commission voted to leave the busiest routes like Charleville and Beverly off the table. Subsequently, City Council  whittled the three candidate routes down to two: Crescent Drive and Burton Way. Few of the advocates’ many ideas for the pilot program made it to the final program.

For more information check out the Better Bike recaps of meetings with cycling advocates:

Only a few treatment options were considered. Where the 1977 Bicycle Master Plan specified parking removal as an option, city consultant Fehr & Peers recommended only wider streets for treatments so as not to displace curbside parking. The less-wide segments were considered only for sharrows (shared-lane markings). Never on the table were innovations like road diets, bike boxes, and bicycle boulevards like we see in other cities. View the presentation from Fehr & Peers and the feasibility study diagrams for more information on options.

Ancillary measures to make cycling safe, or even to encourage it, were not part of the program. Our city can do much to make cycling convenient in Beverly Hills. Indeed getting people to ride to shops and work would alleviate some congestion (as our plans recommend). But there were no bicycle racks installed as part of this program, for example. Nor was any safety signage installed.

The Pilot program improvements may be temporary. A ‘pilot’ program by definition is one from which we hope to learn. This initiative should teach us what works and what doesn’t. And City Council did stipulate a 12-month review period for these improvements. But we won’t learn much because the bike lanes went where cyclists really didn’t need them; and where we did – like Crescent near Whole Foods – we only painted sharrows.

[Update: Council did review the pilot improvements after the twelve months elapsed and decided to keep the improvements. Mysteriously northside opposition did not raise any objection at that time. And last I checked their property values have increased about 5% a year.]

Ultimately the Pilot program may not really inform our understanding about the potential for bike facilities in Beverly Hills to make streets more safe. These lightly-used routes aren’t where the crashes are likely to occur. In fact, during the time since the pilot improvements were installed the city took no step to repair the curbside potholes and grates that long made North Santa Monica the single most perilous ride for those who bike.

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Comment on the Draft Beverly Hills Complete Streets Plan!

After a couple of close calls on a Benedict Canyon ride about ten years ago I started to wonder why Beverly Hills had not striped even a single bike lane. Or acknowledged that bicycle riders share the road. Or gave a single thought to our safety on the streets. I found my answer at City Hall: a 35 year old Bicycle Master Plan that sat moldering on a shelf.

That a 1977 mobility plan was simply carried over decade after decade unchanged was bad enough. But the city had updated every other aspect of our General Plan. Why give bike riders the short shrift? Thus was my introduction to transportation planning in Beverly Hills where officials and staff heard no evil and saw no evil even as the crash injuries ticked upward each year and the police department’s traffic enforcement efforts diminished.

A decade later some things look different. Now Metro is coming. We see new mobility devices sharing our streets. And now we have a city council that values multimodal mobility — and is actually interested in street safety. What a difference a decade makes! On the other hand enforcement still lags and there’s not much to point to show progress in the decade. Except of course those new Santa Monica Boulevard Class II bike lanes.

Today Beverly Hills is at an inflection point. The city has posted a draft COMPLETE STREETS PLAN and we need your support as it gets to city council in January. Even now we hear auto-minded NIMBYs clamoring as they wheel out (sorry!) their usual tired arguments.

How can you help? Attend the  upcoming Traffic & Parking Commission meeting this Tuesday, December 3rd at 6pm at city hall. This is a special meeting to take public comment on the draft Complete Streets Plan and draft implementation Action Plan. Can you attend and beforehand send the city a comment? Use the city’s Complete Streets webform or send your comment by email to transportation@beverlyhills.org.

Got a question about the draft plan? Drop me a line. We want specific or general comments to help push this plan across the finish line in January.

Again, join us for the next Traffic & Parking Commission meeting this Tuesday, December 3rd at 6pm at City Hall. And please send in your comments before.


More About the Complete Streets Plan

Please take a few minutes to download and review the draft Complete Streets Plan and the draft Action (Implementation) Plan which you can find on the city’s Complete Streets portal. In the draft documents you will find:

  • A proposed citywide network of bicycle routes (with key north-south and east-west corridors earmarked for Class II and Class IV bicycle lanes — scroll down for the highlights);
  • Support for bike-friendly business districts and shop-local partnerships;
  • Expanded bike parking facilities and the creation of bike-parking guidelines;
  • Proposed policies like dynamic, variable curb-parking pricing and special assessment districts to fund neighborhood traffic calming measures;
  • Collection and analysis of crash injury data to inform policy-making and prioritize traffic enforcement;
  • Support for PARKing Day and an annual CicLAvia-type open street event in Beverly Hills;
  • Appointment of an advocates advisory board — and so much more!

These proposals represent a landmark shift in how Beverly Hills approaches mobility and street safety. Have a look at this proposed citywide bicycle network and the routes that we’ve proposed for priority implementation: The Charleville-Gregory couplet of one-way Class IV protected bike lanes to connect three schools and two metro stations; and two key north-south Class II lanes on Roxbury and Doheny.

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

This proposed citywide bike route network is the step forward that Beverly Hills needs. Here we have highlighted key north-south & east-west routes that we want to see prioritized for year-one implementation. Click through for the original map included in the draft Complete Streets Plan.

We have worked hard on the advocacy side to get us this draft plan and proposed bike route network. Now we need you! Comment is the key. Even if we can’t attend the Traffic & Parking Commission meeting this Tuesday we can submit a comment. It is crucial as this is our chance to speak directly to policymakers. Use the Complete Streets webform or send your comment by email to transportation@beverlyhills.org.

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