Are Fading Beverly Hills Bike Facilities a Metaphor?

Approved Pilot program bike routes map

The pilot program as approved by City Council: just two routes out of five under consideration.

In 2013 City of Beverly Hills chose two corridors for bike facilities under the city’s (very) limited ‘pilot project.’ Several block segments of Crescent Drive and Burton way were identified by consultant Fehr & Peers as suitable for class II bicycle lanes, while Crescent (south of Santa Monica) was also deemed suitable for sharrows. A year on, our facilities are showing their age: Burton Way bike lanes are disappearing before our eyes; and an ill-advised realignment of sharrows on Crescent Drive now puts riders at risk.

Are our city’s first-ever bike facilities installed under the pilot program (read the feasibility study) an indication of bike-friendliness, as our Mayor says? Or do they telegraph our city’s true regard for the safety of two-wheeled road users in Beverly Hills as revealed by councilmembers this past summer? In short, are these pilot improvements a metaphor for the slippage of bike improvements from a Council ‘B’ priority to off the agenda entirely?

Consider the bicycle lanes installed on several block segments of Burton Way. They were striped with ordinary paint. As a result, the pilot program bicycle lanes have faded – really faded – to the point of disappearing before our eyes.

Beverly Hills and Los Angeles bike lane striping on Burton Way

Witness the difference between the faded bicycle lanes on Burton Way in Beverly Hills (left) and the markings on that same corridor in adjacent Los Angeles (right).

Faded crosswalk at Wilshire & Santa Monica South

Pity the poor pedestrians who cross every day at this major juncture of Wilshire & Santa Monica Boulevard South!

Yet the city appears to have no appetite to restripe them. And to be fair, it’s a citywide problem: many of our crosswalks have faded to the point of putting pedestrians in danger. They take on a ghostly quality, which is surely not appropriate for a traffic control device. So you see it’s not just cyclists that get the back of the hand. That’s why Beverly Hills leads small cities in California in pedestrian collision injuries.

Will our bike lanes be restored to their original luster? Our deputy director for transportation was non-committal when asked. (Stay tuned for an update as we have another query into the division.)

Another problem area with regard to the pilot program is the sharrows implementation on Crescent Drive (below Santa Monica Boulevard North). Heading northbound on Crescent approaching Brighton Way, the sharrow is correctly positioned in the right lane. North of Brighton approaching Santa Monica South, however, the sharrow has been relocated to the #2 lane adjacent to the double-yellow. That puts passing motor traffic to the right of the rider crossing over the next intersection. But then north of the Santa Monica South intersection the sharrow again shifts back to the right lane, forcing a rider merge with that passing traffic.

Sharrow placement on Crescent Drive infographicAdd to the obvious safety implications the fact that passing traffic has an incentive to speed along this segment in order to make both the Santa Monica South and Santa Monica North green lights and you have a recipe for serious rider injury.

This was brought to the attention of Aaron Kunz, Deputy Director for Transportation, in early August. Of course transportation staff should have recognized the problem; for many months these sharrows have been misaligned But neither the plain evidence or even our communication has made the slightest bit of difference: riders still navigate this hazard as city hall takes no action to correct it.

City Hall: No Passion for Action on Road Safety

This pilot program in our opinion was too little, too late anyway. It was not intended to be much more than a gesture toward a bike-friendly claim. Indeed it doesn’t bolster our confidence that councilmember Julian Gold has appeared anxious for this pilot program – by definition it’s not permanent – to come back before Council for reevaluation. But to approve it and then wholly neglect to maintain it? That’s spitting into the eye of every rider who would follow our own city plans’ advice to opt whenever possible for bicycle travel over auto travel. You know – to reduce auto congestion and emissions!

Santa Monica's thermoplast bicycle lane markings

City of Santa Monica not only embraces thermoplast but pays more for pre-templated bike lane markings.

Thankfully we do have better examples on offer in neighboring cities. Both Santa Monica and City of Los Angeles, for example, are rolling out bike facilities citywide. They’re installed to be permanent – not as part of a pilot – and they’re installed according to Caltrans requirements. Moreover, these cities use thermoplastic, not regular paint, to ensure that such state-approved traffic safety measures stick around for more than a year. Santa Monica goes one better: new bike lanes there are high-visibility and some of them even buffered from adjacent motor traffic.

Calling ourselves bike-friendly and making Beverly Hills streets safe and welcoming to cyclists are not the same thing. We find the faded lanes and misplaced sharrows on Burton and Crescent to be an apt metaphor for city hall’s fading concern for rider safety as well as the future of the pilot program.

So often in Beverly Hills we like to talk the talk because it’s easy and cost-free.  But we prefer not to actually walk the walk because it’s harder and it costs money. Other cities make the investment in facilities and plan for a multimodal mobility future. Why not Beverly Hills?

Update: on Tuesday, 11/18 City Council will hear the staff recommendation to make these two paltry bike routes permanent and, if that’s approved, Public Works will presumably restripe them. After all, it allows the city to say they’ve done something for rider safety. Stay tuned.

Santa Monica Boulevard Public Comment Form #Fail

To allow residents a voice in the reconstruction of Santa Monica Boulevard (in 2015) City Council took several steps. It made sure that news of this significant project reached every household via postal mailing; it budgeted $2 million for a consultant to inform the public and receive input about design choices; and Council established a ‘blue-ribbon committee’ of residents to oversee the whole process. But in a fumble characteristic of our city’s outreach the web form designed to collect feedback fails at that task. How difficult can it be to create and post a brief but effective web questionnaire? Continue reading

Council’s Agenda for Tuesday: SM Blvd Reconstruction

Backbone missing piece map

Beverly Hills: the missing link in our regional bike route network

Ride the Westside on Santa Monica Boulevard and you’ll know that something’s missing when you pass through Beverly Hills. Somehow the dedicated on-street bicycle lanes that deliver riders to our city from east and west disappear completely at our city’s gateways. With this corridor undergoing a down-to-the-gravel reconstruction by 2015, what potential will it hold for bicycle lanes in order to fix this missing link? Continue reading

Change Coming to Beverly Hills Transportation Dept.

Much-needed change may be coming to City Hall: City Council today will consider a proposal to relocate transportation planning to the Community Development department and reorganize Public Works, the longtime home of the transportation staff, to handle capital improvement projects like building, paving, and water works. This is a step forward for Beverly Hills and could signal a turn toward creating safe streets more welcoming to those who choose to ride. Continue reading

Update from the Beverly Hills Transportation Division

Approved Pilot program bike routes map

The two routes approved for bike-friendly treatments by City Council.

Transportation staff presented a report to the Traffic & Parking Commission this week that outlined progress (or lack thereof) on several cycling-related initiatives here in Beverly Hills. If you’ve tuned in earlier, you’ll know that the city has been talking for the past three years about a new bike plan. They’ve been planning a ‘pilot’ bike route for the past two years. And have been working on a limited bike rack installation program for the past 18 months.  While there’s still no tangible progress to report, we did hear from staff about timelines. Let’s review, starting start with the big opportunity: bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. Continue reading

Beverly Hills: Falling Down on Execution [editorial]

Beverly Hills Website early 2012

Beverly Hills says only Flash-based web browsers are welcome.

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” That tireless slogan is often uttered by policy pushers when they want to elevate political expedience above effectiveness. It’s the heads-up to recalibrate and ratchet down constituent expectations. Of course we can’t expect perfection; but too often we don’t even get the ‘good.’ For the past six months we’ve waited for Beverly Hills to refresh the city website. It’s been in the pipeline but it simply never materialized. Until now. Continue reading

Taking a Closer Look at Beverly Hills Bike Collisions

Traffic & Parking bike collision report from BHPD

Collision figures provided to our Traffic & Parking Commission from the Beverly Hills Police during the Pilot bike routes policy discussion. Not too much detail here!

Bike Blogger Ted Rogers has made it his personal mission to document bicycle-involved fatalities in Southern California. His Biking In LA blog is a running tally of the deaths: 44 cycling fatalities in Southern California to date this year and 15 in just five weeks alone. “That’s an utterly unacceptable average of three deaths every week,” he says, and we agree. Collisions have been on our mind since our Traffic & Parking Commission waved away cyclists’ safety concerns back in May without spending much time talking about them. Continue reading

Bicycle Racks at Traffic & Parking [Recap]

Golden Triangle rack with decal

Our city’s only contribution to bike racks in years: a new decal to existing racks more recognizable.

If you’ve been waiting for Beverly Hills to install bike racks, we’ve got good news and bad. The good news is that the city may move ahead on three initiatives: racks for city properties, installations in commercial districts, and a rack-on-request program. This week the Traffic & Parking Commission discussed the particulars. The bad news is that the Commission continued the discussion until September, which means we’re approaching three years since the Commission formed a bike committee to implement just this kind of improvement but with scant progress to show. Continue reading

Bicycle Racks Proposal Comes to T&P Commission

Golden Triangle rack with decal

The Beverly Hills Traffic & Parking Commission on Thursday morning will review a staff proposal for new bicycle racks and a rack-on-request program. This is the latest step in moving ahead on the installation of new bike racks since about twenty racks were installed in the business triangle many years ago as part of a beautification effort. Outside of the triangle, though, the city has not installed a single rack. With bike racks finally back on the city agenda, we look at what’s proposed.

Who Holds Beverly Hills City Hall to Account?

Beverly Hills seal

We’re simply not getting the best from our staff. Anyone who works with City Hall on a regular basis will tell you that. Enthusiasm is low, dedication is scarce, and across departments imagination is practically non-existent. We’re not progressing like other cities: where they integrate new modes of mobility on city streets and make real strides toward sustainability, we only talk the talk. Calls for safer streets are met with an impassive shrug, and why not? Staff can wait us out. Career tenure and generous compensation offer no incentive to work smarter or harder. Where’s the management vision that will take us into the 21st century?

Beverly Hills Reaches Out When It Suits City Hall

e-Notice screen

We received a press release yesterday from City of Beverly Hills decrying Metro for finalizing the Purple Line Constitution station. (“Scientific Data, Alternate Routes Ignored.”) School and city officials have fought bitterly tunneling under the high school, and this release virtually promises a suit. Whatever the merit, the release raised our eyebrow because City Hall never talks policy with the public. It’s a challenge simply to get City Hall to post timely online agendas, or to make city department documents available. Ironically, in this case we indicated a preference not to receive subway notices (right). But if it suits City Hall, the saying goes, Don’t call us. We’ll call you.

Bike Route Pilot Late Meeting Notice is Par for the Course

Were you seeking official notice for tomorrow’s Traffic & Parking Commission Bike Route Pilot meeting but couldn’t find it? You’re not alone: it simply wasn’t posted online. Not on the Bike Plan Committee’s documents page; nor on the Commission’s agenda page; and not even listed on the city’s web calendar. This meeting seems to have disappeared into a black hole like much of the public input given to Transportation to date.

Intersection Safety Not on the City’s Agenda?

Saint Christopher patron saint of travel

Of all the places where cyclists and motorists come into conflict, surely intersections are among the most dangerous places where we cross paths. Why wouldn’t they be? Every intersection in Beverly Hills is engineered to maximize vehicular throughput. Cyclists get no facilities or signage simply because the city isn’t obligated to provide it under the law. We have crosswalks because we must provide a crossing opportunity for pedestrians. We’re working for change, but in the meantime take your St. Christopher totem for safety (you’ll need it) and grasp for another article of faith as we describe how Beverly Hills overlooks every opportunity to make our streets safer.

City Releases Draft SM Blvd. Reconstruction RFP

The city has released the draft Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction project request for proposals (RFP) for City Council review. The RPF will be reviewed by City Council tomorrow, on April 17th, prior to direction to Transportation and solicitation of bids for the conceptual design part of this $12 million project. How the city presents the project to bidders reflects what the city expects to see at project end, so we may know more about corridor bike lanes very soon.