A press conference to celebrate bike racing in bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills

A high-end location for a bike race — or a press conference for one.

Maybe it wouldn’t seem as strange to anyone outside the L.A. area.

Yet somehow, I found myself on a sunny SoCal morning in the biking black hole of Beverly Hills, listening to some of this country’s best pro cyclists describe the city’s Tiffanyed streets as the ideal starting point for the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California.

Yes, that Beverly Hills, with not one inch of bike lane within its jewel encrusted borders.

The day's guest stars make their way one very short block up Rodeo Drive.

The Bulgari burgh where West Hollywood and Los Angeles bikeways roll within blocks of its city limits. Then stop almost without warning, leaving riders to fight for road space with Ferraris, Bentleys and massive high-end SUVs of every make and measure.

Not to mention the midrange rentals of countless tourists, and low-end rides of locals just passing through.

A city that hasn’t updated its bike plan since the 1970s. And even then, proposed routing riders through the alleys of the Golden Triangle to keep us from impeding the progress of their many impatient drivers.

To their credit, Beverly Hills has formed an ad hoc committee to finally update that plan. Yet seem to be throwing up so many roadblocks and limitations that the final result is almost guaranteed to fail.

City Manager Jeff Kolin, Tom Danielson, defending champ Chris Horner, David Zabriskie, Patrick Dempsey and some guy with a camera.

Or at least likely result in something of little value to the everyday riders who mostly pass through on their way to somewhere else. Like sharrows on Charleville, which is already a relatively easy road to ride, and where shared lane markings would merely mark the space we already use.

And which wouldn’t have done a damn thing to protect me last week when I nearly did a face plant on the back of an SUV, courtesy of a door-flinging driver.

Yet there they were, biking and Hollywood royalty alike promoting the Tour of California, and announcing the route of this year’s multistage race.

Don’t get me wrong.

The ToC has made great strides in recent years, with last year’s race the most competitive and exciting yet.

And this year’s edition promises to be better yet, as it meanders its way through the late, great Golden State by way of Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Livermore and Bakersfield, et al, with mountaintop finishes on Mt. Baldy and Big Bear Lake.

Amgen Tour of California Executive Director Kristin Bachochin at the podium.

And followed by a final route that will start on Rodeo Drive before following Santa Monica Blvd — where Beverly Hills officials have been dragging their feet on a commitment to make the boulevard bike-friendly when it finally gets a makeover in a few years.

Then it’s up Doheny and off to Hollywood, reverse engineering the route of the L.A. Marathon before winding down to finish at L.A. Live.

As I, and a couple of other cyclists listened to the press conference, surrounded by confused tourists wondering who the hell these spandex-clad celebrities were — though they did seem to recognize Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey — it was hard not to get excited.

After all, what’s not to like about a race that will bring some of the world’s best male pro cyclists — though sadly, still no women — within walking distance of my own home. Even if it is a long walk. And one that leads to an alternate and much richer reality.

Hollywood star, cancer fundraiser, serious cyclist and bike advocate Patrick Dempsey.

And one that would be followed by a race through the same mean streets we all ride on a regular basis. Although it would be more exciting if the Amgen riders had to contend with the same careless, distracted and angry drivers we do.

Now that would be a race.

It’s also long past time that the top women’s racers were allowed to compete on an equal stage alongside the men, just as the late, great Coors Classic did with great success decades earlier.

But it didn’t take long to be reminded that we were in Beverly Hills. And that cyclists aren’t exactly welcome there.

As the press conference was winding down, a gentleman came out of the exclusive haute couture store next to where we were standing, and firmly but politely asked us to move the bikes we’d leaned against the wall since there didn’t seem to be any bike racks around.

According to him, they were blocking the store windows — even though the seats and handlebars barely reached the window’s bottom ledge.

It is Beverly Hills, after all.

And they’re just not that into us.

15 comments

  1. The leg of the Tour of California in Palmdale starts 1 mile from my house!

  2. Michael says:

    I doubt many people looking from outside the area get the contradiction. Organizers should have snubbed BH in favor of a more bike-friendly locale.

  3. If the ToC had planned to repeat last year’s complete avoidance of Los Angeles, I’d be up in arms. But pimping the event on The Island of Beverly Hills is tolerable because the ToC will be running its final stage from there to downtown, along a route which passes a half-block from my Silver Lake house FTW!

  4. norm says:

    Maybe someone should suggest to BH that they route bikes through tunnels so they don’t sully their surface streets. Then the obstacles to the subway construction should evaporate like summer afternoon fog!

    • Eric W says:

      I’ve been suggesting a monorail – like raised tube for awhile. The idea is to start on the ends of Santa Monica Bvld. ride up into a tube and to the other side of town. That way no cyclist will touch Beverly Hills.

      There actually was a cycleway from Pasadena to Downtown. It was a raised wooden roadway in the late 1800′s. Became a red car line, now a freeway.

      Seriously this might be an answer for some of the difficult intersections. Look at the bike bridge on the LA river path over Los Felitz Bvld.

      And nobody likes tunnels…

      • bikinginla says:

        If Beverly Hills wants to build an elevated bikeway from the L.A. border to WeHo, with no exits in between, I’m there. I’m so totally there.

        If they don’t want our money, I’m more than willing to spend mine somewhere else.

      • There was a cycleway from Pasadena, but it never made it the full planned distance to downtown. Only a little more than the first mile was completed before its eventual demolition in the early 1900s, brought about in large part by the surging popularity of the automobile.

  5. Mark Elliot says:

    >Not to mention the midrange rentals of countless tourists, and low-end rides of locals just passing through.

    Our town loves the bit about the Bentleys and Ferraris choking our streets, but can you leave off this last bit about the mid- and low-end metal? Our official CVB page: http://www.lovebeverlyhills.com/

    Gloss and glitz, friends, and behind it stakeholder-unfriendly governance and mediocre performance (see our outdated city website:http://beverlyhills.org). But our City Manager got a sweet mortgage deal and our City Clerk got a performance bonus (which went right into enriching his pension). That’s how we roll.

    I would like to see the Amgen riders have to negotiate our congestion and also ride the huge moguls eastbound on Santa Monica. (Like Roubaix.) They’d love our intersections engineered to fail pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists.

    I think we should organize a protest action for the Tour kick-off.

  6. Ben C says:

    Should we expect the ATOC to be an advocate for bike access on a local level? Don’t get me wrong—I bike all over the city and I know BH is a black hole; I get the irony. But ATOC officials are obviously much more concerned about building the race’s rep internationally, thus the selection of touristy, sparkly, known-worldwide Beverly Hills. And the course overall is the best it’s ever been in LA, IMHO. We SHOULD expect BH officials to get their shit together in the interest of the people who live in an around their little enclave, this much is true, but I’ll give the ATOC a pass on this one. Pro cycling being bigger in the US is a good thing. Totally agree about the pro women though.

  7. Eric B says:

    Bicyclists should stand along the SM Blvd route with a banner reading “Beverly Hills, Give us a bike lane so we can ride here every day.”

    Probably good enough for some camera time if standing in the right location.

  8. Eric W says:

    This is a colossal event to bring cycling into the vision of Beverly Hills. Opportunity knocks here.

    I see no reason not to promote cycling at the starting line. There should be a BBB booth at the start. That the perfect place to get the message out and get some new members. I’m sure the ATOC has a place for local community groups in the traveling festival.

    The idea of a BH cheering section with a banner might get press, but an official City of BH section and short ride around town would bring results. Lets invite elected officials on a ride and to cheer on the tour!

    Eric W

  9. Mark Elliot says:

    “Beverly Hills, Give us a bike lane so we can ride here every day.”
    That’s the argument, but not the language, IMO. There are no gives, of course; but there is responsibility for road safety.
    I was reminded today in a BH planning commission meeting, where one commissioner rolled out the old canards:
    “When we give something to the cyclists, aren’t we taking it away from everyone else?”
    “What do you say to people who say that there’s the gas tax and [lanes] are expensive but that you’re not paying?”
    And the best, he advocated for minimal setbacks on SM Blvd. project that might well pinch out future lanes. When asked by the Chair if that precludes “bike lanes and green space,” he replied: “You got Yosemite.”
    Huzzahs!
    We need to be careful about the “give” ’cause it’s widely-held as a misconception.

  10. [...] California’s Biggest Bike Race Coming to California’s Least Bike Accessible City (Biking In LA) [...]

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