Yesterday, the Beverly Hills City Council had a “study session.” In a city where Council has said that they won’t consider any bike lanes that remove parking or vehicle travel lanes, staff had placed an item on its agenda to add bike lanes to a four block section of Beverly Blvd, between Doheny and Santa Monica. This was previously discussed at the Traffic & Parking Commission meeting on September 7 (view the video here, around the 1:23 mark), where it passed 3–1 (with only the Chair against it).
The new bike lanes could be accomplished without removing anything from car space, but just by narrowing the unnecessarily wide 12' lanes. This would connect the bike lanes to Santa Monica Bl’s existing bike lanes, and to future planned bike lanes on Beverly Bl in West Hollywood (Doheny is the border between the two cities), and to future planned bike lanes on Doheny Dr in the City of LA (Doheny is City of LA just south of Beverly Bl to Burton Way). It would also make the street safer for all, since narrower lanes discourage speeding by drivers. I’ve personally biked on this street a few times a month and it’s the least pleasant part of my Rosewood -> Santa Monica Bl. connection.
Despite the fact that there were no trade offs to implement these bike lanes, we got word yesterday morning that a Councilmember was going to pull the item off of consent, and likely try and kill it.
It’s not easy to get people to physically show up at 2:30pm on a Tuesday to a city council meeting, and yet that’s exactly what we needed to do — find Beverly Hills residents that were willing to go and make public comment in support of the bike lanes, and against any delay.
We rallied. We called allies, did a call to action to Streets For All’s list of people that live in Beverly Hills, and I personally called people to go, some of whom had never been to a city council meeting in their life despite living in the city for years.
Prior to the meeting, we were able to get 10 emails into city council from residents who wanted the project. We were able to get seven residents to speak in favor live, in person (watch the meeting, starting at 44:00). Other than the Chair of Beverly Hills’ Traffic and Parking Commission and one other caller, the public comment was completely in favor of implementing the bike lanes now, without delay.
After public comment, Council debated. Les Friedman — the Councilmember who pulled the item off of consent — said he wasn’t against the project, but wanted a “12–18 month delay” for unspecified reasons (there were legitimate concerns about the condition of some of the concrete in the street where the bike lanes would go, but in response staff said that they’re already repairing the concrete, and it will be fully repaired before the bike lane is installed). Oddly, the Chair of the Traffic and Parking Commission parroted the exact same words, saying it was the “right project” but that “we needed to push pause” for “12–18 months.” I’m still not clear why Les and the Chair were in lock step.
Councilmember Nazarain agreed with Les, stating that while she felt it was “very important to have bike lanes, and to follow our street plan and our climate action plan, and to have connectivity” that she was in favor of starting with sharrows (on a 30mph street where cars routinely go above 40mph!) and waiting. At this point, we thought we were doomed — out of a five person council, two had already come out against the project in the first three minutes.
Next, Councilmember Bosse asked a few questions of staff, and then stated that she would be willing to let the project proceed. A chink in the armor!
After that, Councilmember Mirsch, after asking some questions, came out in full throated support, saying he saw no reason to delay. Another chink! After this, Les came back and seemed like he might change his mind, but after asking more questions (and getting confused thinking the street had existing street parking, which it doesn’t), he reaffirmed he wanted a delay.
The tie came down to Mayor Gold — who is not often great on issues around bike lanes. He asked a number of questions, and hemmed and hawed, but ultimately said he would support it. 3–2. And that was it.
While adding bike lanes to a 1/3 of a mile of a single street may seem inconsequential, it wasn’t. First, it helped boost the morale of local advocates, the Commission, and even city staff that were so used to being told no, even when there were no tradeoffs to vehicle space. Second, it made Beverly Hills a leader — they will have protected bike lanes first, which should lead to West Hollywood upgrading their planned Class 2 (door zone) bike lanes to Class 4 (protected) bike lanes on their stretch. It will also put pressure on the City of Los Angeles to put bike lanes on their stretch of Doheny and align the lanes and geometry with its neighbors to the West and East, and create a great network in the area. I would love to see Doheny/Beverly become the first protected intersection in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood — leading to more throughout the region, including along L.A.’s High Injury Network (6% of streets that cause 70% of injuries and deaths), which is especially prominent in South L.A., East L.A., Mid City, and the Valley.
Mostly, it felt great to start off the day full of dread (a Councilmember pulling something off of consent in cahoots with the Chair of the relevant committee isn’t a great place to start), work hard, have people turn up (this made all the difference), and ultimately win the day by a nailbiter.
Hopefully it gets easier to do road safety projects in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Culver City, Santa Monica, and in the City of Los Angeles after the 2024 election. This was a small, yet critical win in the right direction.