Terrible Beverly Hills Says No To Santa Monica Blvd. Bike Lanes
Beverly Hills will not be getting new bike lanes on North Santa Monica Boulevard, despite having the room for it. Reasons include various types of hypothetical danger. Though Beverly Hills is already planning to spend $25 million redoing a stretch of North Santa Monica Boulevard, this revamp will not include adding bike lanes, Better Bike reports. The Beverly Hills City Council has officially decided 3-2 against bike lanes, with those three votes belonging to Mayor Julian Gold and councilmembers Willie Brien and Nance Krasne. This goes against the suggestion of Santa Monica Boulevard Blue Ribbon Committee, a group formed by Beverly Hills City Council to gather and reflect on public input regarding the revamp, who recommended adding bike lanes last year. Beverly Hills councilmembers Lili Bosse and John Mirisch were in favor of bike lanes.
Though bike lanes generally make a neighborhood feel more welcoming, and studies suggest they make the streets safer, the councilmembers did have their reasons.
Krasne said she didn't want the bike lanes because biking on that street was too dangerous. So, she voted against bike lanes—a thing that makes biking safer. Makes sense. She instead recommended that riders use South Santa Monica Boulevard. However, because her alternate route is also a hazard for cyclists, she suggested that maybe they could get rid of curbside parking there and install a bike lane. Better Bikes believes that this other bike lane is merely a distraction that will never come to fruition.
Some residents of Beverly Hills haven't been too keen on bike lanes either. Previously, the Beverly Hills Homeowners Association argued that bike lanes would cut into Beverly Gardens Park (though as Curbed LA notes, this appears to just be a narrow parkway), and that bike lanes would "create dangerous conditions."
In a letter printed in Beverly Hills Weekly, the Homeowners Association wrote:
Bike lanes on heavily impacted boulevards create dangerous conditions. Of course, there are so-called “White Paper” analyses that argue just the opposite in theory. But would it offend your common sense to suggest that a bike lane on the north side of SMBlvd would create an un-safe condition when motorists make right hand turns across the bike lane to proceed in a northern direction while traveling in the west bound lane? Also, our common experience informs that we have a “blind spot” while driving that occurs in the rear right side which would necessarily endanger both the driver and the unseen cyclist while making that right turn heading northbound. New York City had in excess of four thousand bike related accidents/deaths last year. When these tragic and and dangerous events occur on impacted streets, the City also incurs substantial additional liability. Common sense and common experience suggest that bike lanes are not appropriate with SMBlvd.
To be honest, we're not entirely certain what all the bike accidents and deaths in New York City have to do with this small stretch of Beverly Hills. When it comes to the parkland, however, there was a proposal that would have added bike lanes without encroaching on parkland, though Better Bikes reported that the council ultimately agreed last week to a wider boulevard that had room for bike lanes.
That same letter from the Homeowners Association estimated that "70 to 80 percent non-residents" would be using the bike lanes, which was another reason why they were opposed. Yes, of course, why should people who don't live in Beverly Hills feel safe when biking through it?
To give you an idea of how nerve-wracking biking without lanes can be, here's a video a Metro employee shot from his point of view, biking from Highland Park to downtown Los Angeles.
Editor's Note, July 29: We're told that Beverly Hills hasn't entirely scrapped the idea of striping bike lanes along North Santa Monica Boulevard. The idea may be revisited after the City evaluates striping South Santa Monica Blvd. with bike lanes instead. (You can hear Mayor Julian Gold say he'll hold off on the North Santa Monica Blvd. striping for now about two hours and nineteen minutes into the video found here.) Better Bikes, as noted above, believes that the South Santa Monica Blvd. bike lanes are only a distraction, calling it a "red herring" and an "empty proposal." Therese Kosterman, the City of Beverly Hill's Public Information Manager, called some of Better Bike's statements "inflammatory" in an email to LAist.