Tag Archive for Santa Monica Blvd

Bypassing busy traffic on 7th Street, notes from the LAPD bike task force, and Beverly Hills bike lanes redux

When is a bike lane not a bike lane?

When it’s a traffic lane allowing impatient drivers to bypass backed-up traffic for a whole block, shaving maybe a few seconds off the evening commute.

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A few notes from last week’s meeting with the LAPD’s bike liaisons.

First off, Sgt. Lazlo Sandor has taken over as bike liaison for the West Traffic Division; you’ll find his email address on the Resources page.

As part of Chief Beck’s proclamation that this will be the year of traffic enforcement, the LAPD has transferred a number of officers to work the city’s four traffic divisions. The good news is, the city is now focused on cracking down on dangerous drivers — like the one in the video above, for instance. The bad news is, bike violations are considered traffic offenses as well, so be forewarned.

One of the biggest problems in fixing traffic problems has long been that no one has been tracking bicycling and pedestrians collisions, injuries and fatalities. Which meant no one had a clue just what and where those problems might be, let alone how to solve them. Fortunately, the LAPD is now keeping track of all of the above as part of their Compstat program, requiring traffic officers to appear four times a year to discuss problems in their areas. And the department is tracking the most dangerous intersections for all road users to determine what has to be done to improve safety for everyone.

Last week’s story that Houston police officers were conducting traffic stings to improve safety for the city’s cyclists made news around the world. Which may have come as a surprise to LA officers, who have been doing the same thing for some time without public notice. In fact, LA’s West Traffic Division has conducted nine such stings since the first of the year — eight to enforce bike lane issues and one for stop sign enforcement. A total of 53 people were cited, including both cyclists and drivers; LAPD policy does not allow for selective enforcement, so they’re required to write up any violations they see during a sting, regardless of who commits it.

Finally, they stressed the importance of getting permits in advance for events that will require police participation. When the recent Wolfpack Hustle Marathon Crash Race was cancelled at the last minute, the department cancelled the officers who had been scheduled to work the event. Then when it was rescheduled at the last minute as a ride, they had to scramble to get enough officers to work the event on such short notice, and ended up paying out over $10,000 in overtime. While they understood the situation with the Marathon Crash, they ask for a minimum of 28 days advance notice to avoid any issues if you’re planning some sort of event.

On the other hand, if you break the law, they’re happy to show up with little or no notice.

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The subject of bike lanes on Santa Monica Blvd through Beverly Hills is back on the council agenda this Tuesday. Except they’re not, but maybe they are. It’s a complicated subject explained well by Better Bike.

Meanwhile, a Beverly Hills homeowner’s association offers their reasons why bike lanes are a bad idea, few if any of which actually hold water.

For instance, someone should tell them that California law requires that drivers merge into bike lanes before making right turns, rather than turning across the lane as they suggest (#2). And surprisingly, blind spots exist on motor vehicles, which can hide the presence of bikes from careless drivers like themselves, whether or not bike lanes exist.

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Finally, this just in as a friend of mine reports an assault while riding home on PCH in Orange County.

I was riding on the super dark stretch of PCH between the oilfield and 10,000 miles of ocean. An empty car was stopped, no blinkers, on the shoulder. With cars coming up behind me at 60mph, the only option is to stop and wait for them to pass, or hike over the shrubs on the slope to the right of the (red) curb.

I take a picture of the car, and an angry guy kicks the driver’s side door open, emerges, and comes at me barking, “What the fuck are you doing?”

I dismount in case I have to run for it and start backing away while he repeatedly demands the camera, which he ain’t gonna get.

Long story short, he ends up throwing me, my bike & my bag (containing the Coolpix he was so interested in, plus my MacBook Air & iPad) into the ice plant.

I’m not injured, but my glasses are still out there because I gave up looking for them when the damn sprinklers came on. Also, I called Hunny PD back, and arranged them to just meet me at work for the report. The officer arrived before me AND TOLD MY COWORKER I HAD BEEN HIT BY A CAR. Boy, was she relieved when I grumped up my boss’s porch stairs with bike on shoulder & no visible injuries.

Lesson: Assume even parked cars are full of ex-convicts who will be violently angry with you for nothing.

I’m scared to check my MacBook.

Beverly Hills tells bicyclists to drop dead; LAPD to focus — finally — on traffic violations this year

Screw bike riders.

That was the message sent last night by notoriously bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills in refusing to incorporate bike lanes in next year’s planned reconstruction of Santa Monica Blvd.

Even though the reconstruction gives the city a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fix one of the region’s most congested and dysfunctionally incomplete streets.

And even though it could be done for pennies on the dollar during the massive reconstruction project.

And even though it would connect the bike lanes that currently exist on the boulevard on either side of the city, completing the gap that exists between bike lanes in West Hollywood and Century City.

And even though Beverly Hills traffic already makes it the most dangerous city of its size in the state of California.

Oddly, several of the city’s council members expressed their concern for the safety of cyclists before voting to ignore their needs.

We’ll let Better Bike’s Mark Elliot, who led the seemingly Sisyphean fight in this over-privileged Mayberry tell the whole disturbing and dystopian tale.

The question is, what can we do going forward?

Personally, I think it’s long past time for a worldwide boycott of the Biking Black Hole, where the dollars of those on bikes seem to be valued far below those who arrive in Bentleys and luxury SUVs.

Maybe they’ll wake up if they start seeing hotel cancellations, as domestic and foreign bike riders choose to spend their money somewhere else. Or when the annual Gran Fondo gets moved to out of Beverly Hills because cyclists refuse to support a city that refuses to support us.

Or maybe the answer is to take a page from their own playbook, where seemingly endless lawsuits have attempted to derail the planned subway-sort-of-to-the-sea.

I don’t know if there are legal grounds to sue Beverly Hills for its hard-hearted failure to find room for bike riders on the rebuilt street, even if it does seem to conflict with the state’s requirement to consider complete streets in any road construction project. Or to accommodate all road users on streets that belong to more than just motor vehicle operators.

Maybe there’s a lawyer out there who’d like answer those questions.

But if nothing else, a lawsuit might delay their plans just enough to make it easier to compromise with bike supporters than fight.

It wouldn’t be cheap.

But that’s one Kickstarter I’d be happy to contribute to.

……….

More on last night’s breaking news that the extremely popular Wolfpack Hustle Marathon Crash Race has been cancelled, at least for this year.

And the way these things seem to go, possibly forever.

The finger is being pointed at a fear of liability in a notoriously risk-averse city. But as noted last night, I suspect there’s more going on behind the scenes than we may yet be aware of.

Like maybe a wealthy marathon operator upset about those damn bikes piggybacking on their event. Especially when they’re not getting the profits.

Meanwhile, word is some riders intend to crash the route anyway.

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The LA City Council celebrated the city’s first Complete Streets Day on Wednesday.

Which seems odd, since so many council members seem to be actively opposing complete streets on Westwood Blvd, north and south Figueroa, and Lankershim Blvd, as well as a new and improved bike-friendly 4th Street.

I’m sure Councilmembers Koretz, Cedillo, Price and LaBonge wholeheartedly support complete streets.

As long as they’re in someone else’s district.

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For years, bike and pedestrian advocates have called on police to increase enforcement of traffic laws in an attempt to rein in the wild west mentality on our streets, where too many drivers feel entitled to do anything they damn well please — too often to the detriment of those they share those streets with.

Finally, LAPD Chief Beck is in agreement, declaring this the “year of traffic” with stepped-up enforcement of traffic regulations, including a crackdown on hit-and-runs.

While that’s good news for cyclists who have share the road with dangerous drivers, remember the knife cuts both ways.

Representatives of the department have often said they are required to enforce the law equally. Which means if they see you go through a red light or stop sign, you’re likely to get a ticket, just like a driver would for the same offense.

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Writing for Flying Pigeon, Rick Risemberg fears support for bicycling is backsliding under the Garcetti administration — echoing exactly what I’ve been thinking for the past several months.

Shockingly, the Weekly discovers a group of cyclists who like to get high and ride. Who could have ever imagined?

Bike safety is an issue around USC, as a cyclist is injured in a collision near campus.

Bikable streets spread further east as Pomona approves the city’s first bike and pedestrian plan.

The 84-year old Newport Beach driver who killed cyclist Debra Deem — claiming he just didn’t see her — entered a not guilty plea to a single count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. If convicted, he faces just one year in jail; Deem’s sister doesn’t think that’s enough.

Plans call for extending an Orange County protected bikeway.

You can contribute to help Riverside cyclist Travis Freeman recover from a serious cycling injury.

This simple bar chart clearly illustrates the relative affordability of protected bike lanes. And as long as we’re talking charts, this one from the UK kind of puts the relative risk posed by cyclists in perspective.

You could own Pee-wee’s bike, some assembly required.

It’s sad to think a bike advocacy group is going out of business after 40 years when bicycling is finally on the rise.

In what seems like at least a minor miracle, Brooklyn police begin ticketing drivers who park in bike lanes.

A Florida man waves at a motorist, who responds by plowing into him and fleeing the scene.

In what may be one of the most intentionally offensive public safety spots I’ve seen, Britain’s Top Gear attempts to teach cyclists the difference between red and green. While we all need to observe traffic signals, very few cycling fatalities are the result of riders blowing through red lights; far more often, it’s a driver who fails to stop and kills an innocent victim. So for the boys at Top Gear — and I say this from the bottom of my heart — fuck you. No, seriously.

A UK bike rider is the victim of an anti-bike terrorist attack when someone strings a rope across a walkway at neck level. Oddly, despite Top Gear’s insistence, there is nothing to suggest that she ran a red light before nearly being decapitated.

Finally, South African cyclists face charges in the road rage attack against a van driver. No matter how angry you are or how justified you feel, always — always — resist the temptation to resort to violence, as hard as it may be sometimes.

Which is not to say I’m an angel; I’ve called drivers every name in the book, including some I’ve made up on the spot.

Then again, they aren’t always the problem.

An open letter to the Beverly Hills City Council

I had planned to attend tonight’s meeting of the Beverly Hills City Council to voice my support for bike lanes on Santa Monica Blvd through the city, closing the gap between existing lanes in West Hollywood and Century City when the street is reconstructed next year.

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend tonight. So I’d like to share my thoughts with the Council Members here.

……….

Dear Beverly Hills City Council Members,

I am not a resident of your city.

Yet I frequently find myself traveling through Beverly Hills on my way to meetings in Downtown LA, whether by bike, bus or car. Whenever possible, I prefer to travel by bicycle; I find it more convenient, safer and less stressful than other means of travel.

With one major exception.

The journey through Beverly Hills is usually, by far, the most dangerous part of my trip.

That is not to say that some parts of my trip through the city aren’t safe and enjoyable. The bike lanes that were recently painted on Burton Way are among the best in the LA area; wide enough to keep riders out of the door zone, while moving us safely out of the way of traffic.

The problem is getting to them.

When travelling east from Century City, cyclists have only a handful options to pass through Beverly Hills.

Olympic Blvd is a high speed thoroughfare much of the day, yet dangerously over-congested during the long rush hour periods, safe for bike travel only at night or on weekends.

Charleville Blvd is a safer alternative, though it forces cyclists to either stop at every intersection or flaunt the law in order to conserve energy, while dodging impatient drivers unwilling to share the road. But it takes riders too far south to connect with those bike lanes on Burton Way.

Wilshire Blvd is simply too congested, dangerously unridable most of the day.

Little Santa Monica through the Golden Triangle connects directly with the Burton Way bike lanes, but the narrow traffic lanes force cyclists to ride directly in front of aggressive, and too often, angry motorists. It is an unpleasant place to ride during the day, and dangerous at rush hour.

As a result, many riders prefer Santa Monica Blvd, even though it currently offers a cramped space for cyclists next to traffic that can vary from high speed to severely congested, often in a matter of blocks. And puts riders at risk of being cut off by frequent buses and both left and right-turning vehicles, whose often out-of-town drivers aren’t looking for bicycles on such a busy street.

Carmelita and Elevado Avenues offer much more pleasant options, but again have the disadvantage of having stop signs on every block, and are too far north to provide a viable alternative for most riders.

We need a safe route through your city. We need bike lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard.

By installing bike lanes on Santa Monica, you will provide bike riders with a safe, convenient route through the heart of Beverly Hills, while creating a single, nearly continuous bikeway from the 405 Freeway to east of La Cienega in West Hollywood. The resulting Westside bikeway will bring bike riders — and their spending power — into the heart of Beverly Hills.

Meanwhile, pass-through riders will be easily able continue on to West Hollywood or Century City, or drop down a single block to connect with the bike lanes on Burton Way.

In addition, you will improve safety and traffic flow on Santa Monica by moving cyclists out of the way of traffic — not just on Santa Monica, but on all the streets mentioned above, as cyclists will be encouraged to take Santa Monica rather than streets like Charleville or Little Santa Monica.

In fact, studies have shown that painted bike lanes reduce injuries for all road users by as much as 50% — and up to 90% for protected bike lanes. Bike lanes also act as traffic control devices by channelizing both cyclists and motorists into their own separate spaces and encouraging compliance with traffic regulations.

And bike lanes are a vital step in transforming Santa Monica Blvd from today’s traffic-congested barrier blocking access to the rest of the city, to a complete street that will enhance livability for residents and encourage the tourism local businesses depend on.

Best of all, next year’s planned reconstruction of the boulevard provides a rare opportunity to implement bike lanes at virtually no additional cost, saving future generations the cost of adding them later to correct your mistake if you fail to vote in favor of them tonight.

In fact, a vote in favor of bike lanes creates a unique opportunity in which everyone benefits — motorists and residents, tourists and businesses owners. As well as bike riders who want to pass through the city, and those who want to stop and frequent the city’s many shops and cafés.

I urge you to do the right thing. And cast your vote tonight for a better, safer and more livable future for everyone who lives, visits or passes through Beverly Hills.

Sincerely,

Ted Rogers
BikinginLA.com

Lots of news — SaMo Blvd bike lanes, CicLAvia 2014, misguided SaMo Op-Ed piece, possible Olin charges

Sold out auditorium for the recent Southern California Cycling Summit; see below.

Sold out auditorium for the recent Southern California Cycling Summit; see below.

Let’s catch up on some of the recent news.

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First up, Westside riders owe a big thanks to Mark Elliott of Better Bike.

Elliot has led the fight — almost single-handedly at times — to improve safety and ridability in the traditionally bike-unfriendly Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills.

A comparison to a lone salmon swimming upstream would be putting it mildly; the mythical Sisyphus would be more apt.

Yet somehow Elliot persevered, resulting in a 1-year “pilot program” to install bike lanes on Burton Way, and bike lanes and sharrows on North Crescent Drive. While I’ve never had cause to ride Crescent, the Burton Way bike lanes have become my favored eastbound route out of the city — when I’m willing to risk my life riding through Downtown Beverly Hills to get there.

For the past year or more, Elliot has led the fight to include bike lanes on a reconstructed Santa Monica Blvd when it goes under the knife in 2015, providing a vital missing link between existing lanes in West Hollywood and Century City.

Despite overwhelming odds and the opposition of the city’s paid consultant and members of the Blue-Ribbon Committee established to study the issue, his efforts have once again carried the day, winning approval by a 9-2 vote of the committee.

Then again, the fight isn’t over yet.

The committee’s recommendation now goes to the Beverly Hills City Council for approval next month, on a date to be determined. Hopefully, we’ll get enough advance notice of the meeting to show up and voice our support.

But for the first time, it looks like we might actually get a near-continuous Santa Monica bike lane stretching from the 405 in West LA to east of La Cienga in WeHo. And we have him to thank for it.

Of course, there still are problems to be solved.

……….

Next up is the newly announced CicLAvia schedule for 2014.

This year offers three of the exceptionally popular Open Streets events, minus last year’s overly crowded CicLAvia to the Sea and the long-rumored San Fernando Valley CicLAvia. Both are promised for next year, though the former may see a reconfigured route to overcome some of the problems that resulted in near-impassible blocks of bike-congestion on Venice Blvd.

Yet even with just three events on the calendar, it looks like a strong line-up.

The Iconic Wilshire Boulevard route returns on Sunday, April 6th, once again following LA’s main street from Downtown to the Miracle Mile — although Mark Elliot has hinted that Beverly Hills might like to get in on the action. The route visits some of the city’s finest architecture and historical sites, as called out in this guide from the Militant Angeleno.

CicLAvia takes the summer off — perhaps because that Valley route fell through? — before returning with a reconfigured Heart of LA route through the Downtown area on October 5th. This year’s route extends from Echo Park to East LA, as well as traveling the length of Broadway from 9th to Chinatown, with a stop at the relatively new Grand Park.

Finally, the first holiday season CicLAvia will take place on December 7th, with its first full foray into South LA. The route will range from Leimert Park, the cultural center of the Southside, to Central Avenue, the birthplace of West Coast Jazz and home of the legendary Dunbar Hotel. Can’t wait to read the Militant’s guide to this one.

Of course, the question is, does any of this really matter?

And the answer is, of course it does. In ways that many of us, myself included, may not have realized.

LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne has written what may be the best and most insightful analysis of what CicLAvia is and can be. And the role it plays in transforming our city for the better.

It’s a must read.

Just don’t read the comments.

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On the opposite side of the coin, there’s this misguided Times opinion piece from a long-time resident of Santa Monica, who blames bikes and urban planning for all the traffic problems in the city.

In it, he laments the young urbanites who have invaded his city, while simultaneously proclaiming that the majority of the city’s 92,000 residents can’t ride bikes and live too far to walk to the city’s newly hip urban core.

So wait.

Despite the influx of moneyed young people, most city residents are too out of shape — or maybe just too lazy — to get on a bicycle? They can’t be too old, given the number of riders I know in their 70s, 80s and even 90s who somehow manage to ride on a regular basis.

And if no one can ride, where do all those casual bike riders come from?

As someone who used to work in the city over decade ago, I can testify that Santa Monica’s traffic problems existed years before more than a handful of bike lanes appeared on the street. It frequently took me over an hour to drive the 6.5 miles from my beachside office to my apartment just 6.5 miles to the east — and not because of any bikes on the streets.

And don’t even get me started on virtually impassible Lincoln Blvd, which has long been avoided by bicyclists — despite being a designated bike route — because of the heavy automotive traffic.

Then he complains about bicyclists who position themselves in traffic — “because they can!” — moments after complaining about the bike lanes that move riders safely out of the way.

For someone who claims to have lived in Santa Monica for nearly three decades, he doesn’t seem to understand the city very well.

Or urban planning, for that matter.

Or bicycling, at all.

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The investigation into the December 8th death of cyclist, entertainment lawyer and former Napster exec Milt Olin is nearly complete. According to the LA Times, the case will be presented to the District Attorney to determine whether charges will be filed.

The Daily News reports the Sheriff’s Deputy who killed Olin when his patrol car somehow drifted into the bike lane on Mulholland Hwy could face a charge of vehicular manslaughter, or possibly even felony manslaughter.

“Could” being the key word.

It’s also possible, if not probable, that the DA will decline to file charges based on the evidence presented by the Sheriff’s investigators. And no word on whether charges will be filed against the department if it’s found that the deputy was following policy by using the onboard computer in his patrol car while driving, as some have suggested.

And while the department has gone out of its way to stress the independence of the investigation and deny any special treatment, they have guaranteed that the results will be second guessed — no matter what they conclude — by investigating a death involving their own deputy, rather than turning it over to an outside agency such as the CHP.

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The Metro Board approved a motion calling on the transit agency to look into a countywide bike share program (Item 58).

While there’s no guarantee such a program will actually be approved, it could provide deep pockets to back the system, while avoiding the Balkanization caused by competing and possibly incompatible programs in various cities.

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(L-R) Anthony Reguero, President PTE Events, Chris Carmichael, author Time-Crunched Cyclist, Rahsaan Bahati, President Bahati Foundation and Michael Bell, Oakley.

(L-R) Anthony Reguero, President PTE Events, Chris Carmichael, author Time-Crunched Cyclist, Rahsaan Bahati, President Bahati Foundation and Michael Bell, Oakley.

I received a press release this past weekend from the Bahati Foundation about the SoCal Cycling Summit 2014, held at Oakley Headquarters in Foothill Ranch, CA.

Unfortunately, I found out about it long after the January 14th event was over.

I say unfortunately because I’m a big fan of the efforts of the foundation, founded by former National Criterium champ Rahsaan Bahati, to bring the joy of bicycling to inner city youths.

And because I would have enjoyed hearing from famed cycling coach Chris Carmichael, author of The Time-Crunched Cyclist.

Summit attendees representing a diversified audience that ran the gamut– Olympic medalists, serious weekend enthusiasts as well as international competitors, filled the 400-seat amphitheater to hear Carmichael discuss his revolutionary time-crunched cyclist technique. “The SoCal Cycling Summit is a wonderful platform for our foundation to share its vision in providing assistance to inner-city youth through cycling,” said Rahsaan Bahati, founder Bahati Foundation.

“Athletes want to stay engaged in the sports they love, but it can be a difficult balance for working parents and career professionals. The time-crunched athlete program is a new approach to endurance training, one that actually takes advantage of a busy athlete’s limited training time. It’s been successful for tens of thousands of athletes, and I look forward to sharing the program with everyone at the SoCal Cycling Summit,” stated Carmichael.

Maybe next year.

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Things aren’t looking good for long-planned bike lanes on North Figueroa Blvd, which had been approved and ready to implement until new City Councilmember Gil Cedillo appeared to throw a wrench in the works — despite his previous support for the plan.

As a result, the LACBC is calling on bike riders to contact the councilmember to express their support for the lanes, especially if you live or work in the area.

Since the candidate forum we sponsored in 2013, we have seen bike lanes installed on Colorado and the Eagle Rock bike lanes extended to Colorado.  All that is left to complete the backbone network in Northeast LA is N. Figueroa.

The residents of Northeast LA are scratching their heads thinking why haven’t they been installed yet?  After all, they were packaged for last year’s projects alongside Colorado/Eagle Rock.  This is a good opportunity to raise the question and urge Councilman Cedillo to keep his promise and install bike lanes on this very important corridor. Please join us TODAY for a day of action urging Councilmember Cedillo to add bike lanes on N. Figueroa between York and San Fernando!

Call Cedillo’s office and share your thoughts.  Dial his downtown office (213) 473-7001 and let his staffer know why you think bike lanes on N. Figueroa are good for everyone.  Then, email alek@la-bike.org and let me know how it went.  Remember to stay positive!

You can find a sample script here.

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Finally, the CEO of Ford gets it. Even if certain residents of Santa Monica don’t.

 

One last chance to fight for Santa Monica bike lanes in the Biking Black Hole of Beverly Hills

Please forgive the short notice; I’ve been a little under the weather today.

Okay, maybe a lot.

But there’s a meeting tonight that could make a huge difference for the safety of cyclists forced to ride through decidedly bike-unfriendly Beverly Hills. As well as encouraging more people to take to bikes and relieve the near 24/7 traffic congestion through the city.

If city officials actually care enough to listen, that is.

Tonight is the final meeting of the Santa Monica Boulevard Blue-Ribbon Committee, formed to weigh public input before making a recommendation on how to proceed with the planned reconstruction of the former famed Route 66 through the city. Including proposals for bike lanes, which have bizarrely been placed in opposition to a planted center median.

Even though, as Better Bike’s Mark Elliot makes clear, the roadway could easily accommodate both.

The inexplicable opposition to bike lanes was made clear when the consultant hired by the city dropped an unexpected “preferred option” that included widening the roadway to include a center divider and an ultra-wide 16″ right lane.

But no bike lanes, even though they could easily fit within the widened street.

As Elliot explains, that appears to be intentional. The design, an effort to discourage riders on the newly designed street by preventing them from legally taking the lane. And the timing, an effort to short circuit the public process and jam through a design that maintains automotive hegemony on a street that belongs to everyone.

Keeping bikes from besmirching their precious little enclave of the overly entitled.

So let’s make no mistake.

Bikes — and pedestrians — can easily be accommodated in the reconstructed roadway at little additional cost, providing a street that benefits everyone, safely and efficiently. And connects with bike lanes in Century City to the west and West Hollywood to the east to create a complete bikeway through most of the Westside.

The alternative is a short-sighted decision that discourages bike riding at a time when it is rapidly growing in popularity, and when alternatives to automotive transportation are desperately needed.

Especially in traffic-choked Beverly Hills.

They can make room for bikes, and take a modest step in improving the situation. Or be cursed by future leaders and city residents who will have no choice but pay the high price to correct their error at a later date.

And failure to include bikes on the street would only invite the sort of lawsuits city leaders have used themselves to fight other projects, including the planned Subway to the Sea. Particularly when it flies in the face California’s Complete Streets policies, as well as such overwhelming public support.

The meeting takes place this evening starting at 6 pm at Beverly Hills City Hall. Be there if you can, or fill out the online comment form.

As for me, I’ll be home nursing sick head.

But I plan to be at the Beverly Hills City Council session next month when the city formally decides on how to move forward. And whether to slide back into the Biking Black Hole they’ve only begun to tentatively step out of.

……..

Speaking of Elliot, thanks for his recent call for donations to help support my work here at BikinginLA, among other deserving organizations. With the redesign of this site and the move to an advertising and sponsor-supported model taking much longer than anticipated, I can use all the help I can get.

If you do make a contribution based on his recommendation, consider giving part of it to support Better Bike. Mark Elliot has been relentless in fighting for your right to ride in a city that has been far less than welcoming to us.

Update: Thanks to Vanessa Gray and Danila Oder for the generous donations.

San Diego-area cyclist killed on Sunday

Yet another Southern California cyclist was killed over the weekend.

According to a number of news reports, a 50-year old Poway woman was killed while riding her bike in Carlsbad on Sunday; authorities are withholding her name until relatives can be notified.

The North County Times reports that she was riding north on South Rancho Sante Fe Road with her boyfriend when she attempted to turn left onto Calle Barcelona near the border of Carlsbad and Encinitas.

As she entered the left turn lane, she hit the curb on the center divider and lost control of her bike; in a struggle to regain control, she swerved back into the left through lane where she was hit by an oncoming car. A photo from MSNBC shows that the driver clearly tried to stop but was unable to avoid her; she died at the scene.

In light of the recent debate over the unacceptably high rate of bike deaths in Orange County — more on that later today — she did not run a red light or stop sign and wasn’t riding in a group, well behaved or otherwise. And whether she signaled or was riding side-by-side had nothing to do with this collision.

Not that any death is acceptable, of course.

This time, at least, it seems to be a case of rider error. Police note that drugs or alcohol don’t seem to involved, though no mention is made of whether the driver was distracted or exceeding the speed limit.

This also serves as a reminder that it’s always important be aware of road conditions and the traffic around you, and can be better to let yourself fall than struggle to stay upright and risk getting hit by oncoming cars.

Even when you’re not in full control of your bike, it’s often possible to choose when and where you want to land by shifting your weight in the direction you want to fall.

For instance, had she let herself fall to the left instead of struggling to stay upright, she would have risked going over the narrow median and landing in the path of south bound traffic; if there were no cars coming, that might have been a viable option. Or she could have made herself fall to the right, which probably would have kept her in the left turn lane and out of the way of through traffic.

Either way, she might have ended up hurt.

But chances are, she’d be alive.

It doesn’t do any good to play armchair quarterback and analyze what she should have done. She reacted in the moment, undoubtedly out of instinct and fear.

The point is to train yourself to respond in a conscious and deliberate manner, and maintain as much control over the situation as possible.

Even when you can’t control your bike.

………

The Beverly Hills City Council will discuss the reconstruction of Santa Monica Blvd through the city at tonight’s council meeting. This will provide an opportunity for cyclists to argue for bikes of be accommodated in the new plans, and end the current dangerous black hole between the bikeways of West Hollywood and Century City; current plans include consideration of a bike lane in one direction only. The meeting starts at 7:30 pm at Beverly Hills City Hall.

………

The Source offers instructions on how to load your bike onto a bus; helpful advice for those of us who haven’t tried it yet. UCLA offers a new Android app for campus bike lockers. Mayor Villaraigosa plans a Wednesday press conference to officially announce CicLAvia. If Long Beach is truly going to be one of the nation’s most bike friendly cities, it has to design bridges that work for everyone. An actor who was about to quit the profession stars in the upcoming movie Peloton as a cyclist who was about to quit the sport. Santa Rosa gets a bike-activated beacon to warn motorists about cyclists on the road ahead of them. Just Another Cyclist jumps into the helmet debate with both feet, offering an all-too-rare cool-headed look at both sides of the question. Sharrows are coming soon to my hometown. A Colorado cyclist pepper sprays two attacking dogs and their owner, who ends up getting a ticket. The biggest bike news in DC since Tony Kornheiser’s infamous anti-bike rant, as the nation’s capitol unveils its long-awaited bike share program. A personal crusade to stop the salmon cyclists. A New York cyclist is killed on an environmental tour in New Brunswick. A beginner’s guide to fast descents. Bike pools allow you to connect with other cyclists who want to share a ride. Both British teenage inmates who busted out by bike are now back in custody. A new study shows Brit cyclists and motorists would rather not share the road, thank you. After a Bangalore bar bouncer collided with cyclist while escaping after punching a cop, the bar owner takes the rider to the hospital and promises to buy him a new bike.

Finally, if you think riding in L.A. traffic is hard, at least it beats riding underwater.

Fighting for a bike-friendly Beverly Hills and a safer Santa Monica Blvd

I’m not a fan of Beverly Hills.

Aside from the over-the-top pretension of Rodeo Drive — where I have yet to see a single bull rider and which I strive to avoid at all cost — I’ve long been angered by the city’s complete and total lack of biking infrastructure.

To the best of my knowledge, Beverly Hills does not currently have a single inch of bike lane within its city limits. Look at any local bike map, and it might as well read Here There Be Dragons, as bike routes disappear without a trace into the undiscovered cycling country of 90210.

And the recently approved bike plan — which I’m told is nothing more than the 1977 plan, repeatedly re-approved with little or no change for over 30 years — calls for placing bike lanes in the alleys of the downtown triangle, lest they remove a single lane of parking or let bikes sully the city’s pristine image.

So when Mark Elliot contacted me recently to include a link to a new group of bicyclists fighting for a more bike-friendly Beverly Hills and to make Santa Monica Boulevard safer for cyclists, he had me at hello.

But instead of merely adding a link, I thought the issue was important enough to let him have the floor today. And ask him explain to you why Beverly Hills needs your help.

And what you can do about it.

………

If you’re a two-wheeled veteran of the Southland’s mean streets, you know that we take our life into our hands every time we settle into the saddle for some not-so-good-natured give and take with motorists. Not that it’s always negative; on the best days we can pantomime mutual agreement that all road users are entitled to the blacktop. Whether motorist, cyclist, or pedestrian, the arrangement is that we respect the rules of the road and get where we’re going safely.

Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way. Studies show that we not making substantial progress on reducing cyclist deaths and injuries as a result of traffic collisions. If you are a regular rider of the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor through Beverly Hills, you don’t need studies to tell you how dangerous it is to ride this missing piece of the proposed regional bike backbone. Now’s your opportunity to make change: join with Better Bike BH to make Santa Monica Blvd. a bike-friendly through-route connecting the bike lanes in West Hollywood and Century City.

Policymakers like to talk about safety, but Santa Monica Boulevard is symptomatic of a broader problem: cyclists are second-class citizens on our roads with possible dire consequences for those who take to two wheels.

According to the National Highway Transport Safety Administration’s analysis, 716 cyclists were killed nationally in 2008 in collisions with an additional 52,000 injured. Two-wheelers were both 2% of all traffic fatalities and 2% of injuries too. Since only one-half of one percent of us mounts a bike regularly for transportation, cyclists seem disproportionately represented among the dead and injured in collisions.

That number killed has not appreciably changed in a decade! Worse, kids under 14 were 11% of those fatalities, but comprised more than one-fifth of all collision injuries in that age group. Now, the good news is that kids 14-and-under fatalities dropped substantially over the decade – falling to near one-third of the 1998 level. The bad news is that overall deaths have not diminished, meaning that older folks are making up a larger proportion of those fatalities.

Consider that the average age of cyclists killed in traffic collisions has marched steadily upward and now is 41 years of age (NHTSA data as of 2008). Even at my ripe old age of 45, I can’t rest easily. While I’m over the statistical hump, I use my bicycle for much of my everyday transportation and ride recreationally, so I’m on the road much more than the average cyclist.

And I am riding roads that are much less-safe than roads nationally. I start and end most of my rides in Beverly Hills where I live. Our fair city is a particularly dangerous place to ride because the population increases by a factor of four when weekday commuters flow in. Key east-west corridors of Wilshire and Olympic accommodate about 25,000 vehicles per day on average – routes so heavily traveled because we are a key piece of the Westside transportation network.

Moreover, Beverly Hills is the Westside’s third largest employment center and it’s growing rapidly. Motorists compete for an increasingly scarce resource – road capacity – and in that mix of harried commuters, older drivers, and notoriously dangerous younger drivers, we cyclists are literally marginalized. We’re pushed to the edge.  Also a hazard are the relatively short blocks and many intersections. Add a dollop of entitlement and a sprinkling of road rage and, well, you see the problem.

Actually you feel the problem. Intimidation and harassment are constant companions on the streets of Beverly Hills (and much of the urban area too). I have to look out for myself because my city’s not looking out for me. There are no bike lanes, share-the-road-markings, or signage that, at a bare minimum, would remind under-educated motorists that I have a right to the road.

I’ve been riding in urban settings for many years and am confident in my own skills, but it is the unpredictability of my encounters with motorists that leave me sometimes shaken. We all have my anecdotal stories, but one of my favorites recalls the driver with whom I shared a long descent down Benedict Canyon. First the driver nearly clipped my leg on a particularly fast stretch, but because of stop lights, he had two more bites at that apple. After the third (!) very close call I took him to task.

Cyclists shouldn’t have to literally argue for their safety. It’s the responsibility of transportation planners, engineers, and law enforcement to ensure that the roads are safe for everyone. Though I’m not necessarily uncomfortable in the vehicle mix, I do wish that my city recognized me and my fellow cyclists as first-class road users.

What can be done? For starters, let’s pick the lowest-hanging fruit. Santa Monica Boulevard is an obstacle course of hazards for the cyclist. Dips, troughs, and moguls force the biker into the left third of the lane, which undermines the laws’ requirement to ride to the right and plunges the cyclist into the path – and ire – of the harried motorist. The corridor receives twice the volume of Wilshire and Olympic (50,000 vehicles per day on average) and would seem to be ideally positioned as a bike-friendly through-route connecting the bike lanes in West Hollywood and Century City.

We have an opportunity to offer our vision of a bike-friendly Santa Monica Boulevard because Beverly Hills is about to undertake improvements over the next 2-3 years. Scoping is just now underway, and we want to kick off the process with good ideas and models of success.

How can you make a difference? Join up with the ‘Better Bike BH’ effort to that includes cyclists rather than literally marginalizes them. We hold meetings every Sunday at 4 pm at Peets Coffee (258 S. Beverly Dr.) in Beverly Hills. Join the Google Group to receive meeting notices and follow our progress on the Better Bike BH project wiki. We’ll need your help to put in place the missing piece of the region’s bikeways backbone. With your participation, we can make Beverly Hills safer and more enjoyable for cyclists of all ages, and ensure that alternative transportation users can get where we’re going safely too.

It never rains in California…

This is what greeted us today on a crisp, 42º morning, when the clouds finally cleared after a week of rain.

And yes, that is the Hollywood sign on the hill in the foreground.

A simple adjustment in biking infrastructure, part 2

Let’s consider another easy fix the city could make right now, at virtually no cost.

Take the bike lanes along the recently rebuilt Santa Monica Boulevard.

In just a few short years, they’ve become one of the most popular riding routes through the Westside — largely because they’re among the few dedicated bike lanes than run on a major street. And the only ones I know that don’t run next to a parking lane, eliminating the risk of dooring.

On the other hand, you do have to deal the poorly designed crossover lanes, which force cyclists to dodge cars entering and exiting the roadway, as well as buses that cut into the bike lanes little or no warning.

bus-bike1Then there’s the way they end abruptly, dumping unsuspecting cyclists into the middle of a heavy high-speed traffic lane.

Although a large part of that problem, on the east end at least, stems from the transition from Los Angeles to Beverly Hills, which seems dead set against allowing bikeways to besmirch their gilded streets. If any city ever needed a Critical Mass…

One major advantage these lanes offer is the limited number of cross streets — only Beverly Glen, Westwood, Veteran and Sepulveda cross from both directions. All other streets enter from one side only, such as Avenue of the Stars and Century Park East and West in Century City, which enter from the south, and Selby, Kelton and Camden in Westwood, which come in from the north.

SM-Bike-Lane-1However, that means cyclists riding on the opposite side of the road often have to make a decision whether to obey the law, or common sense, when faced with a red light, with a clear lane in front of them and no cross traffic from any direction.

Some stop and wait alongside the idling vehicular traffic until the light turns green, for no other reason than it’s what the law requires. Most, however, proceed through the light, recognizing that stopping serves no purpose, in terms or safety or rationality — putting them at risk of a ticket, and pissing off every driver waiting for the light to change.

But all it would take to address the situation is one little sign at each of those intersections, saying “bikes proceed on red.”

That’s it.

Overnight, bike flow is improved and scofflaw cyclists are made legal — with zero impact on traffic.

The only possible risk would come from careless drivers who might drift into the bike lane while completing their turns on the boulevard. And even that could easily be addressed by placing a simple barrier — anything from plastic cones to a brief raised curb — on the outer edge of the bike lane.

Or better yet, install a raised curb along the entire length of the bike lanes, broken only by intersections, and crossover exit and entrance lanes.

Then cyclists would enjoy L.A.’s first separated bike lanes, at minimal cost to the city.

And the cars, motorcycles and other assorted motor vehicles that currently use the bike lanes to bypass stopped traffic would be banished once and for all.

This same approach could also be used on southbound Ocean Blvd in Santa Monica, another roadway where cyclists have to choose between breaking the law and stopping for no apparent reason.

……..

Gary writes movingly about that heartbreaking photo of Kylie Bruehler at the funeral of her tandem-riding parents. Even the positive Joe Linton criticizes L.A.’s proposed bike plan, while Stephen Box says stamp it Return to Sender and the BAC demands an extension of the comment period. Box also says a lack of bike parking makes cyclists second class citizens. While L.A. makes plans, Long Beach makes bikeways. GT shares a great route when you want to work hills. Will Campbell risks his credibility to register his bike. Oakland police try to link an online threat against cyclists to a hit-and-run driver who stood over his victim before fleeing the scene. More great photos from the Path Less Pedaled. Bob Mionske’s Blog takes a critical look at a wreck blamed on a sidewalk cyclist, which leads to a call for better police training. Famed framebuilder Dave Moulton continues his discussion on the evolution of frame design. Chicago Now takes a critical look at Critical Mass. Finally, a truly frightening photo of the aftermath of an S.F. dooring incident.

Just poor planning? Or are they trying to kill us?

When I ride my bike, I tend to stick to routes I know, and take side streets whenever possible.

That gives me an intimate knowledge of the danger spots; because I know the streets, I know where I’m likely to run into trouble, so I can be ready for it.

For instance, when I take the bike lane on Main Street in Santa Monica, I know I’ll have a long, straight route where I can get up a good head of speed, often approaching — or sometimes exceeding — the speed of traffic. But I keep a close watch for taillights and drivers behind the steering wheels of parked cars, so I can avoid getting doored. And I have to be prepared for cars that suddenly cut in front of me and stop in the bike lane to back into a parking space.

If I keep a close watch on the oncoming cars behind me, though, I can easily cut out into traffic and take the lane for as long as it takes to avoid any obstacles.

Closer to home, I often take Ohio through Westwood, which gives me a nice, relatively quiet street to ride. East of Westwood Blvd, I look out for cars that dart out from the side streets without looking for bikes coming downhill at 25 or 30 mph; west of the boulevard, I know that cars tend to pass too closely. Sometimes intentionally.

But when I drive my car, I don’t have to be concerned about things like that. So I frequently find myself driving down streets I seldom, if ever ride.

Like Pico Blvd, for instance.

According to the most recent Metro Bike Map, it’s designated as a bike route between the 405 freeway to Century Park East.

Evidently, they assume a lot of cyclists are going to ride along the 405, then sling their bikes over their shoulders and climb down from the overpass, since there’s no exit ramp there. Or else we’re going to ride Pico to Cotner — just before the freeway — and then take the onramp for a nice, exhilarating ride over the Sepulveda pass.

And who knows, that could happen. Because anyone crazy enough to ride through all the traffic and potholes along there is probably crazy enough to ride the freeway.

The next section, just east of Sepulveda, offers two narrow lanes in each direction, bounded by parked cars on either side. And there’s no room to ride in the parking lane, even if you did manage to avoid any swinging doors.

Which means that any rider there would be forced to take a lane on one of the Westside’s most crowded streets. Then try to dodge all the cars pulling in and out of all the various driveways, parking lots and valet stands, as well as one of the city’s busier shopping centers.

I suppose that explains why I’ve never seen a cyclist on that particular bike route. And I can only assume it was designated as a bike route in a blatant attempt to thin the herd, since I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without a death wish.

Then I find myself driving down other streets, such as Centinella, which was recently repaved and widened, leaving plenty of room for a bike lane now, in an area that desperately needs one. Instead, they put in nice, wide lanes and a center divider lane. The newly rebuilt Santa Monica Blvd, where they could easily extend the bike lane through Beverly Hills — or at least far enough to accommodate the route Will recently attempted.

Or Jefferson, which has three full lanes of traffic leading to and from the new Playa Vista development, yet no bike lanes to help move those people in and out of the area, or get riders to and from all the work places that have opened up in the former warehouse district south of Ballona Creek.

Maybe they assume riders will take the Ballona Creek bike path to get there. Except that it runs on the north side of the creek, with little access to the south side. And it presents it’s own set of problems.

I could go on (and on… and on…), but you get the idea.

Pick virtually any street in West L.A. If it’s a designated bike route, chances are, it shouldn’t be. Or if it could safely accommodate a bike lane, it doesn’t. And if by some miracle it actually has a bike lane, it usually doesn’t go anywhere, and dumps riders off in the most dangerous spot possible.

I think Timur hit it on the head. (If you haven’t read his blog, drop what you’re doing — once you finish reading this, of course — and check out one of the most intelligent, insightful and beautifully written sites in local cyberspace.)

The problem is that our entire bike system shows every sign of being designed by people who have never ridden a bike in their entire lives. Or at least, haven’t been on one that didn’t training wheels, streamers on the handlebars or playing cards attached to the spokes.

It’s a system that was designed to move cars with maximum efficiency, though little evident efficacy, with no thought paid to any other form of traffic or the effect it will has the surrounding community — like the mayor’s plan to turn Olympic and Pico into one-way streets, for instance. And whatever minimal effort was made to accommodate cyclists or pedestrians was obviously nothing more than an afterthought.

That why we need to add our comments to the new bicycle master plan, which the city is updating right now. (Yes, there actually is one now, believe it or not.) Then contact your council member to insist on adoption of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights — and do something concrete about it by insisting that Metro include a 1% each set-aside for cycling and pedestrian projects in the proposed 1/2 cent sales tax increase.

You don’t have to look very had to see the failure of bicycle planning around here.

And no one’s likely to do anything about it unless we stand up and make them.

 

The Times’ Bottleneck Blog’s questions SoCal bike routes, including one on a Ventura highway in the sunshine; you’re gonna go, I know. Once again, the city breaks the law by banning cyclists from the holiday light display in Griffith Park. Maybe we should get a group together and go anyway. LACBC celebrates it’s tenth anniversary with a potluck party. Thankfully, only Will Campbell’s shadow bites the dust, courtesy of a non-stop driver, then encounters the owner of these road we ride on. Back from vacation, Gary catches us up on the Brentwood Grand Prix, and urges us to support the subway to the sea. But who won the Manolos? Alex says goodbye to Spook. And finally, New York has over 3600 reports of vehicles blocking bike lanes; L.A. zero. Somehow, I don’t think that means it never happens here; maybe we just don’t have enough functional lanes that anyone out here thinks it matters.  

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