Earth Day 2012: Thanks for Turning Out!

Charles at Earth Day 2012

Charles, Why aren't you at CicLAvia on a gorgeous Sunday?

Thanks to all the good folks who turned out at for Earth Day in Beverly Hills, and who turned up at our Better Bike booth. The best part of pro-bike advocacy isn’t attending city meetings or churning out blog posts late at night, but instead is meeting new people who harbor a passion for cycling. Whether intrepid enthusiast road-rider or those too long out of the saddle, we appreciate you all. How can we get those ‘latent cyclists’ back in the saddle? Those of any age who want to ride but won’t until they see safer streets in Beverly Hills? That was our mission today.

Judging from the comments we received at our table, everybody seems to agree on one thing: our streets are not very hospitable to cyclists. By far the single most common reason people cite for not riding, or riding more, is that they fear vehicular traffic. At its most strident, these complaints get very specific: big SUVs, phone-chatting moms, aggressive drivers who do this or that. Reasons are invariably accompanied by an anecdote the kind of which we hear too often. But just as frequently we hear a general lament that resonates too: things should be different here in Beverly Hills but, well, they just aren’t.

There is awareness that other cities are moving ahead (several mentioned today’s Los Angeles announcement of a bike share program). There is an expectation that our city should move ahead too into a post-auto future. But then there’s that resignation; the shrug of the shoulders; the nod; and then the moving on to another table.

Earth Day 2012 table

Manning the table at Earth Day 2012

We at Better Bike love meeting people who share an interest in cycling and safer streets, but let’s keep in mind that winning safer streets for cyclists is not something we can simply expect of City Hall, unfortunately, but will likely come only through a political campaign wherein we pressure elected officials to do the right thing by us.

Now, at today’s Farmers Market we talked up the city’s upcoming Bike Route Pilot program outreach meetings (April 25th and May 9th) and we presented our vision of what a greater Beverly Hills bike network could be. And we often hear in reply, “You know what you should do….” And we agree. But we can’t do it all. We need help. But when we suggest that people need to attend a city meeting, submit comments to the city in writing, or simply pick up the phone to tell the city what’s needed, well, that’s when eyes gaze over.

If we want the change that puts bike lanes on our streets (like in all surrounding cities), or establishes bike stations and bike safety education programs (like in Santa Monica), or even sets up a bike share (announced today in Los Angeles), we’ve got to do more than stand by and wait for it to happen.

All of us who have a stake in safer streets have got to get involved, or else it’s another few decades of turning over this vital public space to motorists and too little, too late for cyclists.

Resisting the Panopticon: Our Policies Change

Google's new networkIn yesterday’s post about Google’s announced service changes, titled A Panopticon Matures, we pointed out that starting March 1st the search giant will consolidate information about online activities across all proprietary platforms and fold it into real-name Google profiles. Known as ‘One policy, one Google experience,’ the new service changes are intended to create a social search experience that “does what you need, when you want it to.” Given those changes, we’re making some under-the-hood changes in how we interact with users. Hint: We’re not doing evil. Continue reading

October monthly ride & meeting cancelled

Aside

Our monthly Better Bike meeting (1st Monday) and monthly ride (2nd Sunday) are on hiatus for October as we’re heading to New York for a couple of weeks in October. We’ll be checking out the bike improvements that make the Big Apple the East Coast’s leading edge of bike-friendliness, and taking in some of the coolness that makes New York not Los Angeles. We’ll see you back for November’s monthly meeting (11/7) and ride (11/13)!

Give-Me-Three (SB 910) Waits on the Governor

SB 910 letter of support screenshotSenate Bill 910 is sitting on the Governor’s desk. That’s the bill that would allow cyclists at least three feet of buffer when being overtaken by a motorist. You’d be forgiven if you thought that existing laws already afforded cyclists safe-passing protection. But you’d be mistaken: in practice, the buffer is anywhere from several feet to a few inches. Motorists evidenty have differing ideas about what constitutes “safe” passage. To right that wrong, the California Bicycle Coalition has been on the job, working hard to move this worthy bill through the Assembly and Senate and its related committees. Now it only awaits the good Governor’s signature. Continue reading

Better Bike Pacific Electric Ride

Beverly Hills station pictured in 1920.

Our first station was a join effort between land developers and railroad speculators. First named 'Morocco,' our stop on the mainline put this town in business.

Last weekend’s ride along the abandoned Pacific Electric right-of-way through Beverly Hills was an exploratory romp along the rails (so to speak) to put into historical perspective  the role of railroads in the development of Beverly Hills. The transportation patterns we follow today do originate with the rails, which first came to this area in the 1890s. By 1900 we had a station here, and in 1932 we got a second, larger depot. But by WWII it was over for passenger rail in Beverly Hills. Nevertheless,these early rails did establish a pattern for transportation that continues to this day, and will likely determine tomorrow’s transportation patterns will too. We took a tour to see how it looks today. Continue reading

LA MTA Backbone Route circa 1961

Doing a bit of web walking to prepare for our upcoming Sunday ride along the old Pacific Electric alignment here in Beverly Hills, I came across an intriguing proposal for a subway-to-the-sea circa 1961 – the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Backbone Route. LA MTA backbone system map detailThe hard-working folks over at Metro’s superb Primary Resources blog give the whole backstory to this intriguing conceptual midwife to today’s Purple line (aka subway-not-quite-to-the-sea). The best part: it courses right though Beverly Hills along the same alignment as today’s subway proposal (albeit hewing to Santa Monica Boulevard through Century City). See the map.

Back in the day, two light rail lines converged at Beverly Hills, each connecting Downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific communities of Santa Monica and Venice. The Hollywood line came by way of Hollyood Boulevard down Santa Monica, while a southerly route came by way of Venice Boulevard to San Vicente and then into Beverly Hills via today’s Burton Way. The station was at Canon between Santa Monica & Little (South) Santa Monica adjacent to today’s post office. Come join us at 2pm this Sunday, disembarking from Peets (258 S. Beverly) for a look at the PE tracks that set a template for a century of rail planning afterward.

Welcome to the New BetterBike.org

Better Bike logoWelcome to our new site! We’ve been champing at the bit for a new online home since setting up shop in late-summer of 2010. With betterbike.org we’re better able to build in the functionality we need and we think it’s a significant improvement. We hope you’ll agree. It’s certaintly easier to post, and tweak the user experience, which in turn should mean more frequent posting. For you at home, our site should be more intuitive and overall provide a better reading experience. Continue reading

Earth Day Celebrated!

The City of Beverly Hills got an advance jump on Earth Day 2011 with a blow-out Farmers Market this past Sunday. Hundreds of new folks turned out, and Better Bike Beverly Hills members Mark Elliot and Ellen Lutwak (at right) were well-prepared to greet potential bike advocates with maps, flyers, and plenty of commiseration!

10/31 Better Bike Meeting Wrap-Up

Thanks to Rick Risemberg, Brent Bigler, Mihai Peteu, and group stalwart Kevin Burton, our October 31st meeting proved to be a valuable wrap-up of opportunities for more effective bike planning, as well as suggested Better Bike Beverly Hills strategies going forward. Here are the highlights.

Better Bike Comments on LA Bike Plan

The 2010 Los Angeles Draft Bike Plan’s stated objective is to reduce automobile trips and greenhouse gas emissions by, in part, offering facilities, programs, and infrastructure to encourage the public to make 3% of their daily trips and 3% of home-to-work trips by bicycle by 2020. This s a modest and achievable goal. The Draft Plan also commits to a regional strategy by invoking SCAG and Metro regional plans, where the emphasis is on overcoming traditional jurisdictional divides. Getting local governments in the Los Angeles region to work together is a great start. We suggest that City of Los Angeles act on recognized opportunities by working with the neighboring municipality of Beverly Hills in two already-identified areas in the Draft … Continue reading

Highlights from the 9/21 Study Session

Better Bike BH members turned out for the City Council’s study session where Transportation presented City Council with general options for planned SM Blvd. improvements. The purpose of the meeting was early scoping: to get some overall direction on where the Council wants to go with the boulevard. reconstruction. Given that the boulevard is up for a bottom-up redo, it’s critical that Class II (on-road) bike lanes to connect with those that exist today in Century City and West Hollywood. Our members, Ellen Lutwak, Jennifer Hughes, Mel Raab (arriving on scooter!), and Mark Elliot, made that point clearly!