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.

Recent Posts

Complete Streets Plan Draft is Posted: We Need Your Input

City of Beverly Hills has released the draft Complete Streets Plan for public review and feedback. We need your help to make this the best plan on the Westside. But we have a long way to go.

The draft plan is 240+ pages of community context and best practices that begins to point the way toward safer streets, but the draft is relatively light when it comes to substance. Look past the pictures, tables, colorful charts and icons to see that the infrastructure, policy and program options comprise only 30 pages. Just three additional pages suggest the proposed implementation.

Despite its heft, this draft is light on vision: it doesn’t even begin to suggest what the bikeways network should look like. Beverly Hills is already a decade or more behind our municipal neighbors when it comes to striped lanes and measures to calm motor traffic. What I see in this draft plan are half-steps and some equivocation over the safest and most efficient crosstown routes. Where is the ambition?

We who ride Beverly Hills streets have a job to do: We must make sure that the final complete streets plan reflects our hard-won seat-of-the-pants wisdom about how to navigate this city safely.

So mark your calendars for THIS WEDNESDAY May 8th at 6pm at Beverly Hills City Hall to hear a presentation from city consultant Iteris. We had great support for Santa Monica Boulevard lanes but we need to get this band back together!

Come to share your perspective on the draft plan. You have your ideas about mobility and we need them in the final complete streets plan.

Please download the draft plan and give a close read to these sections of the technical report:

  • Chapter 7: Recommended infrastructure (p. 85)
  • Chapter 8: Recommended policies (p. 101)
  • Chapter 9: Recommended programs (p. 109)
  • Chapter 10: Implementation plan (p. 115)

Have a few minutes to add a few comments to the online version of the draft plan? Find it here: http://completestreets.beverlyhills.org/draft-plan-technical-report/

There is much work to be done in order to make the final complete streets plan the roadmap to safer streets that we need. Otherwise we will be stuck with only more well-illustrated shelfware. And the shelf is too crowded already!

Got any questions? Give me a shout!

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