Beverly Hills is holding its first of three open meetings Wednesday to invite public comment on our first-ever street improvements plan to encourage cycling.
The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Public Works building, 345 Foothill Road.
Called the "Bike Routes Pilot Program," it identifies four routes selected by transportation officials and bike community representatives for treatments that could include bike lanes, shared-lane markings and safety signage. The routes are Carmelita and Charleville (running east/west) and Beverly and Crescent (north/south). See the Pilot Program presentation and the city’s flyer for more information.
The objective of the pilot program is to create a starter network of cyclist-friendly streets in order to encourage cycling and reduce vehicle congestion. Together these might comprise a much larger, multimodal transportation network as envisioned by both our Bike Master Plan and our Sustainability Plan (2009).
Are you familiar with those documents? You should be. They view Beverly Hills as a "smart city" looking ahead to 21st century innovations for our mobility challenges. And as a cyclist and driver myself, I agree that we need a better approach than we’ve taken, which is simply to cling to last century’s mobility paradigm. Then, the car was king; today we have too many clogging our streets to encourage even more motoring (which is what our policies do).
Cycling, I believe, is the personal mobility solution that we cannot afford to overlook. Especially for short trips where the car is much less practical. The problem, though, is that our city’s streets don’t encourage cycling. They’re congested. Drivers are in a hurry. And often there’s no safe harbor for a cyclist.
Nearly two years go I organized Better Bike to bring cycling-friendly improvements to city streets. As I cycled about town, I myself frequently felt the ire of motorists. Worse, sometimes outright intimidation was directed at me for only being in the way. And worst of all, there had been several serious bike-involved injury collisions (including hit and runs) that weren’t taken seriously by policymakers and the police. Better Bike was my effort to campaign for pro-cycling improvements.
Yet the hostility I felt was a mystery to me. Not only does every cyclist take one more car off the road, but state law actually guarantees my right to ride on every city street—and even take an entire lane when conditions warrant it. But Beverly Hills doesn’t communicate to the public our rights under the law. Instead, our city seems to go out of its way to discourage cycling even though it is widely endorsed by transportation advocates, federal and state agencies, and funded by health departments like our own in Los Angeles County.
Clearly cyclists deserve protection. After all, we’re parents and kids who need to get to work and school. We’re also local shoppers who contribute to our economy. Because we’re everywhere these days, it seems, let’s plan for us!
One solution is facilities for safe bike travel. Where are the bike lanes and signs that I see in other cities? Bike lanes provide a perceptual buffer from motor traffic to make cyclists feel safer. Pavement markings guide cyclists though complex intersections. Signage and sharrows remind motorists that we belong. But none of this exists in Beverly Hills.
It’s also about planning for cyclists. We have a circulation plan for motoring and for pedestrians, but what about cyclists? Without a designated bike route system our city passes up the single-best opportunity to promote greater interest in cycling and work toward increased road safety. Even our Bike Master Plan from 1977 recognizes the need for a bike system!
This pilot program suggests for the first time that Beverly Hills might join our neighbors to both plan for "active transportation" and one day create the facilities that will make our streets safe for cyclists. So do attend to learn what our city has in mind.
That’s tonight at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 11 at the , 345 Foothill Road. The next meeting comes in two weeks on April 25 in the same location. A third follows on May 9 in front of the Traffic & Parking Commission with City Council poised thereafter to implement recommended improvements in the next fiscal year, in July. Better Bike will be there.
Please drop by our Better Bike booth at Sunday's celebration at the to talk about the pilot program and other future improvements that will one day create the multimodal transportation system that Beverly Hills needs.