Beverly Hills Pilot Bike Route Program
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
- June 8, 2011 meeting #1
- August 29, 2011 meeting (#2)
- November 16, 2011 meeting #3
- January 18, 2012 meeting #4 (Pilot only – the rack program and Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction are recapped in separate pieces)
- March 21, 2012 meeting #5
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.