Beverly Hills Residents Split Over City Bike Lane Goals
A long-range bicycle lane plan for the City of Beverly Hills has been met by residents with mixed feelings as it slowly rolls out. The city has identified more than 20 streets where new bike paths are being considered as part of the proposed “Holistic Bikeway Network.”
Each project in the network will have to receive individual approval from the City Council, the first of which gained conditional approval Sept. 18. This was a pilot project on Roxbury Drive. There are five similar projects identified for City Council review in the current fiscal year. Public comments on the issue in city commission and council meetings have been split between bike lane evangelists pushing for more lanes, and residents who fear bike lanes will create traffic hazards and congest roadways in the city.
“What is more important, safety or faster travel? This is the first thing that the residents need to decide,” said Traffic and Parking Commission Chair Nooshin Meshkaty during a Nov. 4 hearing for a bike lane proposal on North Beverly Drive. “Do they want highways through the city, or do they want safer streets for their family and their children?”
If approved, the Beverly Drive project would start at Santa Monica Boulevard and go up to Will Rogers Memorial Park where Beverly Drive, Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Drive all intersect.
“I walk my dog in the neighborhood every day, sometimes twice, and I have become very aware that oncoming, often speeding, cars may or may not stop at the intersections with stop signs,” said Beverly Hills resident Audrey Hutchings in a letter that was read during the Nov. 4 commission meeting. She voiced concerns that adding a bike lane in the area would create added safety risks. “Just because Beverly Drive is a wide street that could handle the extra lane doesn’t mean we should do it.”
While many residents have raised safety concerns about the bike plan at recent public hearings, city officials and staff rely on the research of organizations like the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTA) which say that bike lanes and narrower vehicle lanes slow traffic and improve safety.
The bike plan is a key part of the city’s Complete Streets Plan which was adopted April 20. Complete Streets is a 176-page document that lays out the long term plan to make Beverly Hills friendlier for cyclists, pedestrians, bladers, scooters and other alternative transportation. Increased safety is one of the key goals. Other Complete Streets goals include improved air quality, more equal access to transportation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
“In short, the goal is to provide a transportation network that allows people to make choices about how they can move around the city,” Assistant Director of Public Works Daren Grilley told the Courier in an email. “The Complete Streets Plan is a long-range document and there is not a timeline for all bikeways, however, the accompanying [Complete Streets] Action Plan identifies certain high priority bikeway projects to be studied and/or implemented in the first five years following adoption of the plan.”
The Traffic and Safety Commission unanimously recommended a plan for Beverly Drive that would include a bike lane between curbside parking and the vehicle lane. If approved by the City Council, the Beverly Drive bikeway would include buffers on either side of the path adding extra distance between the cyclist and traffic, as well as people getting in and out of their cars.
Some of the proposed projects in the plan imply major changes to parking and vehicle lanes, including protective barriers on busier streets. The Beverly Drive proposal would only require paint striping and could be implemented as part of regular pavement painting maintenance in 2022, according to city staff. A finalized design is expected this winter.
Other projects under review in the bike plan include bike paths on San Vicente Boulevard, Burton Way, Spalding Drive, Clifton Way-Le Doux Road and Charleville Boulevard-Gregory Way.
“For forty years we’ve literally prioritized the automobile over the human and we have to shift that,” Beverly Hills mixed-mode transportation advocate Kory Klem told the Courier. Klem has been outspoken and an active participant in many of the city’s cycling initiatives, including the Complete Streets Plan. “Complete Streets is meant to do that—align us with our goals and prepare us for the future of the subway and the environment.”