Bike Lane Plan in Beverly Hills Takes a Strange Turn

Update: 929 pm – When the consultants called the 16′ travel lanes “shared lanes,” I assumed they meant that the lanes would have Sharrows. I was wrong. They’re just proposing two 16′ mixed use lanes, which under state law cyclists have to stay to the right in.

Bicyclists, both those that live in Beverly Hills and those that bike through it, are hoping that a Blue Ribbon Commission that was formed to discuss the redesign of Santa Monica Boulevard will finally create the backbone of a bicycling network in Beverly Hills. However, a new report by consultants hired by the city makes that outcome less likely. The report was released just days before the Blue Ribbon Committee meets for the last time tomorrow to make recommendations to the City Council.

Design-concepts-stackIn truth, this wasn’t supposed to be a debate about bicycle lanes. The Commission’s goal was to redesign the street with an attractive median and not impact mixed-use traffic flow. When the consultants returned with a plan to change the road design so that there would be a planted median with two twelve foot travel lanes on each side, Mark Elliott, the organizer of Better Bike Beverly Hills who sits on the committee noted that the design could create problems for car drivers, as bicyclists would take the lane (as they are allowed to under state law) and cars would have to wait or pass them.

The widening of Santa Monica Boulevard has been controversial, but with safe passing and vehicle speed issues on the table, the city seemed willing to reconsider.  All of a sudden, bike lanes were on the table again.

“The reconstruction of Santa Monica Boulevard is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to remake our signature corridor as a multimodal complete street. But that wasn’t on the table when the city began this process,” writes Elliott. “Were it not for our dogged support for multi-modal mobility and the support of riders, this corridor would simply remain a motor corridor like it is today.”

Elliott led a pretty impressive media campaign, getting published in all of the myriad of media sources available in Beverly Hills. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition also got involved, writing letters to the City Council and encouraging people to attend the three public hearings held on the street design. The first two meetings were dominated by bicycling advocates. The third is tomorrow night.

But just when it seemed that bicycle lanes would finally be added to the mix, the city’s consultants released their own recommended plan for city action.  The recommended plan does call for the widening of Santa Monica Boulevard, but oddly does not include bicycle lanes. Instead, the consultants outlined a plan for a 16 foot lane on the outside of the right of way.

In other words: a controversial road widening is doable. But bicycle lanes? What are we, Culver City?

“It seems pre-cooked: an end run around the many members of the public who addressed the committee and are seeking a striped lane simply to make it safe for us to ride a corridor where 50,000 vehicle ply it daily,” Elliott continues. “We have stoplights and sidewalks and crosswalks; why not facilities for safe cycling?”

While a strong turnout is expected at tomorrow night’s commission meeting, the final decision on the road design rests with the City Council. The Council is expected to vote on the matter in February, and could overturn the Commission’s decision, no matter which way it goes.”

Beverly Hills City Council’s votes are oft determined by a swing vote. Mayor John Mirisch and Vice-Mayor Lili Bosse are both vocal supporters of bicycle lanes. Mirisch spoke of the importance of creating a safe and inviting bicycle and pedestrian environment in his installation speech. Bosse appointed Elliott to the Blue Ribbon Commission. On a five member Council, only one more vote is needed to insure that bicyclists, both those in the city and those passing through, have a safe place to ride.

Tomorrow’s meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission begins at 6:oo pm in Beverly Hills City Hall.

  • Thanks for your coverage – and for Mark Eliot’s — what Better Bike BH has up is incredible. I provided input. I understand it may not mean as much, from someone who does not live in the city. BH, however, has not held up to its end of the bargain in maintaining safe, equitable transportation facilities. I hope staff pushes back at the recommendations of their consultants regarding the omission of bicycle infrastructure.
    This is such a critical litmus for how far can this city go in retrofitting their streets to cut collisions and the volume of close calls (for collisions). My personal beef is over the tri-fecta where Beverly, Canon and Lomitas intersect just before Sunset. If the people of BH can’t get the redesign of Santa Monica Blvd right… dang.

  • mcas

    Wait — so, if I ride over the Sharrow (as the design is intended) — I would have 12 feet to my left for a driver to pass me? That would put me in a really, really weird situation — and legal limbo. I would have to choose to either ignore the Sharrow and ride closer to the curb or take the entire lane since 12 feet is ‘too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side’ as defined in VC 21202.

  • Brian_H

    So who is the consultant?

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Is that right? 12 feet is too narrow to ride side by side, but the lane would be 16 feet – having 12 feet to your left seems like it might be enough space for a car to go safely. At any rate, a 16 foot lane could easily be striped as an 11 foot mixed-use lane and a 5 foot bike lane instead, which is pretty common elsewhere.

  • Forget the Median . Do we really need more shrubberies?

  • Yeah, this seems like the clear solution. Pretty lame that it’s getting pushback.

  • doctor flexmatrix

    what the frak… this is the 21st century, we have to build bike lanes, everywhere. this is crazy.

  • mrsman

    I believe a bike lane in this area would be a great thing. Santa Monica is a major connector of traffic. All the traffic from Melrose and Beverly get dumped onto Santa Monica heading west.

    Around the intersection of Santa Monica and Beverly Blvd (between Palm and Maple) the street is actually six lanes wide. Without physically widening the street, they were able to shoe-horn in 6 traffic lanes (2 west, 2 east, left turn lane, right lane turn right on Beverly), with 10.5 foot lanes. With narrowing lanes to 10.5 feet, we can keep the current 5 traffic lanes on the rest of the boulevard and add bike lanes without the need to cut into the Beverly Gardens Park.

    Of course, as your pictures have shown, three feet isn’t that much and with a 66 foot right of way, you can have 5 11′ lanes of traffic, 2 5′ bikeways, and 2 6″ separators. There is no reason we can’t put in a 6 inch curb to separate the bike lanes from the traffic to provide protected bike lanes here. There is no parking or driveway access and few alleys all the way from Doheny to Wilshire. And since there is no street parking, there is no need to provide a 3 foot dooring zone.

    Other issues concern the bus turnouts. These are actually a good idea, they are just not implemented well in Beverly Hills. In between Canon and Crescent, there is a bus turnout, but the bus has a difficult merge back into traffic. Let’s say instead that the bus turnout were extended into the next corner. Now the buses have the option of either turning right or merging back into traffic. And since the merge point is occurring at the intersection, instead of just before the intersection, there are tools that can ease the transition, like the bus priority signal (similar to what exists at Santa Monica and Vermont in L.A.)

    The current setup of the street screams for a westbound bus only lane, just before Wilshire. There, the right lane forces a right turn and the next lane is straight or right turn. But that next lane ends across the intersection. If that lane were restricted to buses, it can seriously help with the transfers to the Wilshire route buses.

  • Be Better to let the Bicyclists use the Existing Right Lane. Teach kids to take the lane. Might have to have cops talk to certain motorists about having to move over to the left lane to pass the bicycles. Let the Cyclist accelerate, it might take 90 seconds , but he will reach 30mph! Slower people on bicycles (who don’t race) should be allowed on the sidewalk, if it pleases them, unless they go too fast, in which case they should use the roadway. It would be a Courtesy for a Cyclist to move over to let traffic pass, but it’s Not required. If the speed limit is too high (for drivers to feel capable of controlling their vehicles), then it can be lowered. The speed limit could be lowered as low as twelve kilometers / hour , any lower you might as well walk.

  • This is a joke, right?

    Teach kids to take lane on Santa Monica Blvd? You might not love your children, but I love mine, and I simply do not trust drivers enough to encourage any child or adult to “take the lane” when bicycling on that street or any other major street.

  • I believe in more enforcement, and lowering the speed limit. People don’t have the reflexes to drive a car at 30mph. Sad but true. We have to lower the speed limit. The car is Not a Bullet Train; if you want to travel at 135+, then vote Yes on the referendum for “High Speed Rail”.
    There are some pranksters out there, driving cars, who think it’s a joke to sneak up behind a cyclist and blow the horn when they’re ten feet away. When I started carrying a camcorder in 1992, that B.S. stopped.

  • Sirinya Matute

    So, the city has posted the PDF of the powerpoint presentation it gave yesterday. It appears that the consultants recorded that the blue ribbon committee did *not* support a class 1 or 2 bike lane configuration… But it was not a unanimous decision. Psomas should have been allowed to (or required to) return with renderings that included them.


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