A proposed new bicycle lane for southbound San Vicente Boulevard in Beverly Hills received unanimous support from the Traffic and Parking Commission at its Sept. 2 meeting. If approved by City Council, the lane would run from Clifton Way to Wilshire Boulevard to complement the bike lane already on the northbound side of San Vicente.
Proponents of the project say it would better connect the Beverly Hills stretch of San Vicente to existing commuter bike lanes in and around the city, including lanes on Burton Way and lanes farther north on San Vicente inside Los Angeles city limits.
The project would not reduce the number of traffic lanes on San Vicente but would reduce the width of each of the three southbound lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet to make room for the six-foot wide bike lane.
“To install bike lanes on San Vicente wouldn’t require any significant trade-offs with vehicle lanes or parking,” said Beverly Hills Transportation Planner Jessie Holzer at a Traffic and Parking Commission’s September meeting. “So, bike lanes can be installed as part of ongoing street maintenance.”
One resident raised concerns at the Commission meeting that narrowing vehicle lanes would create a potential safety hazard.
“To make it 10 feet wide instead of 12 feet, which was done by the wisdom of our founding fathers as well as state engineers, this city will be creating a clear and present danger of cars sideswiping each other,” said Beverly Hills resident David Gringold who questioned if 10 feet is wide enough to accommodate buses and other large vehicles.
However, the National Association of City Transportation Officials website says 10-foot lane widths are appropriate for urban areas and have positive impacts on safety by reducing traffic speeds. Lanes that are 11 to 13 feet wide are only recommended for high-speed roadways.
“As far as I’m concerned, slowing down the speed on San Vicente is not a bad idea,” said Commission Chair Nooshin Meshkaty in response, “because San Vicente can sometimes be used as a good highway because the lanes are wide and cars can speed through.”
Meshkaty applauded the project proposal, saying it is another step closer to realizing the Beverly Hills Complete Streets Plan which was approved earlier this year and lays out wide reaching goals to reduce vehicle traffic and encourage multimodal transportation. The proposed expansion of bicycle lanes throughout the city was among the most hotly contested aspects of the Complete Streets Plan during the community engagement and review process that lasted nearly two years.
“I understand the opposition, but we need to evolve,” Beverly Hills multimodal transportation advocate Kory Klem told the Courier. “This is not about the political expediency of making a few people happy. This is about the future of our city.”
Klem, who spoke out in support of the San Vicente project during the Traffic and Parking Commission meeting, has been an active participant in many of the city’s community engagement initiatives around cycling safety. He says he has seen a strong appetite for more bike lanes within the community and Beverly Hills is lagging behind cities like Los Angeles which have been expanding cycling lanes for many years.
The San Vicente bike lane would have relatively low impact on traffic lanes and parking. However, other bike lane projects identified in the Complete Streets Plan that require lane buffers, like the pilot project proposed for Roxbury Drive, could have major impact. These require robust community review, according to city staff.
The San Vicente bike lane project is expected to include road markings at intersections to alert drivers, pedestrians and cyclists of the potential hazard, along with new continental crosswalks at intersections and other safety measures. The bike lane proposal is expected to be finalized this fall and will then be presented to the Beverly Hills City Council for consideration.
“It’s so close to the Metro station it just feels like it’s all really relevant to what’s happening in that part of the city,” said Traffic and Parking Commissioner Ron Shalowitz, referring to the Purple Line station under construction at La Cienega and Wilshire Boulevards. He suggested that increasing cycling access to the future transit center is part of the city’s first/last mile goals for public transit.
Shalowitz also noted that the San Vicente Bike lane would be in line with the city’s climate goal to completely neutralize carbon emissions in Beverly Hills by 2045. “If we can ride more bikes, we can take some more cars off the road,” Shalowitz said.
Other bike lane projects in the pipeline that will soon be reviewed by the commission include proposals for North Beverly Drive, Spalding Drive and Charleville Boulevard-Gregory Way.