Back at Beverly Hills City Council Tomorrow: Bicycle Lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard!

Please join residents, riders, regional bicycle commuters and multimodal mobility advocates tomorrow for a return engagement of ‘Bicycle Lanes Comes to Beverly Hills’! The curtain rises at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Council chambers. There is a new cast but a familiar storyline: Will city officials agree to include bicycle lanes on our reconstructed Santa Monica Boulevard? Will we finally plug the gaping hole in the backbone bicycle network to connect West Hollywood and Century City?

When the curtain closed on this show back in July of 2015, councilmembers Nancy Krasne, Willie Brien, and (then-Mayor) Julian Gold would not agree to striping bicycle lanes. Even though the boulevard would be wide enough to accommodate lanes. Even though riders would have shared a 15’ wide curb lane with buses and many, many motorists.

(For more about the twisted road to Santa Monica Boulevard bicycle lanes in Beverly Hills, check out my recent recap. Want a news update by email right after the decision? Sign up for the Better Bike blast!)

Of course US DOT advises against letting bicyclists share such a wide lane with motor traffic. And for good reason: on a corridor that sees 50,000 motor trips on average every day, for example, why would any city official choose to put bicycle riders into a scrum with buses and SUVs? Yet our two councilmember-doctors, Gold and Brien, along with councilmember Krasne (“I love the bikers”), simply could not be persuaded by a safety argument. No matter how many riders offered it.

Now, two years later the curtain rises again… but with a new cast!

Returning for an encore performance is Mayor Lili Bosse. She has made multimodal mobility a priority for the city and we are looking forward to our first complete streets plan early next year. (The RFPs are back at the end of June – stay tuned!) Councilmember John Mirisch also supports bicycle lanes. He’s actually a resident of Sweden so he knows what Euro-style multimodal mobility looks like. First-time councilmember Robert Wunderlich could add a third vote for bicycle lanes on the corridor. Not only has he said he supports lanes; he’s even asked why they can’t be protected lanes!

Supporting players in the City Council drama include Vice-Mayor Julian Gold. He couldn’t support bicycle lanes in 2015 (but said he was open to them). And first-time councilmember Les Friedman, a longtime member of our Traffic and Parking Commission, has never been a pro-multimodal or pro-bike voice. (When pressed on infrastructure, he simply asked, “Why do all the cyclists run stop signs?”) We need to give these two officials in particular a reason to make safety job #1. We want five pro-safety votes.


The curtain rises again tomorrow, Tuesday June 20th at 7 p.m. The storyline is familiar: Will city officials agree to include bicycle lanes on the new Santa Monica Boulevard? Tomorrow’s City Council meeting (455 N. Rexford Dr. Beverly Hills at 7 p.m.) is your opportunity to write a different ending to this saga.

Here are our top-three arguments for bicycle lanes: safety, safety, and safety.

Bicycle lanes are recommended because a wide curbside lane encourages higher speeds. Buses and bicyclists are generally “not compatible” when sharing the curb lane, according to design guidance, so why have a too-wide curb lane when we can stripe a bicycle lane within it?

Moreover, Santa Monica Boulevard is appropriate for bicycle lanes because there is no curbside parking on the corridor in Beverly Hills. That’s often an impediment to riders because the ‘door zone’ is a known hazard. But here it is not a problem. This boulevard is a perfect case where bicycle lanes will improve flow for all road users.

Santa Monica Boulevard is regional connector and bicycle commuters already use it. We go to UCLA, the beach, and to businesses and homes right here in Beverly Hills. Let’s give us a safe way to reach them!

The second issue concerns rider experience. Aside from the question of whether we have the votes to stripe bicycle lanes is the question of what kind of lanes we will get.

We are looking for standard 5-foot wide lanes at least. The staff report proposes bicycle lanes as narrow as 4’ 6”. Ostensibly that’s because the city proposes to stripe the inside lanes at 11-feet wide. It could also be because city transportation officials never supported bicycle lanes and a 4’6” lane is designed to fail to gain support. Regardless, it comes back to safety: according to current design guidance that 11’ #1 traffic lane needs to be reduced to 10 feet. That would reduce vehicular speed on the corridor and make available a greater margin of safety for riders.

Tomorrow we will ask that City Council direct staff to distribute the available curb-to-curb space in a way that maximizes safety for all road users. Here’s a preview of what that could look like.

Santa Monica boulevard with the lane width adjustments that will get us the room for first-class lanes that we need!

Santa Monica boulevard lane width adjustments could get us the room we need!

 

Moreover, we urge City Council to support high-visibility green bicycle lanes. Making lanes more conspicuous offers several advantages over conventional (Class II) lanes. Reduced road conflict is a feature of high-viz lanes and should lead to fewer crash injuries (which have increased dramatically in Beverly Hills). When color delineates the space available to riders, motorists are discouraged from encroaching into the lane and are encouraged to yield to riders when appropriate. Not only that: colored lanes highlight the multimodal function of the boulevard. Our plans say we want travelers to travel by bicycle so let’s make it obvious!

An added benefit is that green lanes add to the apparent greenspace while reducing the visual impact of the blacktop. Win-win!

Help us support bicycle lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard!

Please contact City Council by email with your support for high-visibility bicycle lanes. Reach Council at [email protected] Your short statement should indicate whether you are a resident and/or if you work here. Those are important considerations for any councilmember.

Plan to attend the meting on Tuesday, June 20th in Council Chambers, City Hall, 455 N. Rexford Drive. The curtain will rise at 7 p.m. and the main act should hit the stage at 7:45 or so (please refer to the agenda).

I want to thank Ted Rogers for this essential blog, as well as thank all of the tireless supporters who have come to my City Council hat-in-hand, year-after-year, asking for this most basic of safety measures. You have come from Westchester, the Valley, and the far Eastside on two wheels and I salute you!

Special thanks goes to Kory Klem, Rich Hirschinger, Eric Bruins, and the many other folks who helped to craft our Greenway proposal in 2014. That was the leverage we needed to get an additional 2.5 feet of width to make lanes even possible. We also couldn’t have done it without LACBC which lent staff support for our proposals and outreach over the years. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

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