Council Gives Bike Lanes the Green Light

In a win for cycling enthusiasts and environmentalists, the Beverly Hills City Council approved plans to add bike lanes to a 0.3-mile stretch of Beverly Boulevard, despite some safety concerns.

The lanes will be added between Santa Monica Boulevard and Doheny Drive, a roadway traveled by approximately 23,000 vehicles and 58 cyclists a day, according to a city report.

Between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2022, there were 42 collisions on this segment of Beverly Boulevard, two of which involved cyclists.

Council hopes that the installation of the lanes, which will be protected by narrow poles known as “delineators,” will improve traffic safety and encourage more bicycle use. The lanes will also connect to three other bicycle pathways, thereby closing a critical gap in the area’s bicycle network.

“I probably cycle six out of seven days here in Beverly Hills and I use it as my primary mode of transportation,” said resident Eytan Elbaz. “Having a protected bike lane on Beverly Boulevard is certainly something that I would use and would give me a bit more confidence to bike there more regularly, as there is a decreased chance that somebody runs into me.”

Public response to the proposed new lanes has been largely favorable. In a Sept. 7 meeting of the Traffic and Parking Commission, 25 community members spoke in support of the project and three spoke against it. The project received four votes in favor and one vote against it.

Those in favor of the project praised its positive impact on bikers and the environment, while those against it raised fears about traffic safety and concerns that it isn’t part of a continuous network of lanes. 

Nevertheless, these concerns were significant enough to prompt the council to take a close look at the proposed lanes during its Oct. 2 study session. 

Traffic and Parking Commission Chair Ron Shalowitz, who was the sole “no” vote on the lanes, shared his safety concerns. While he supports the location of the lanes, he believes installation should wait until the rainy El Niño season passes this winter, the city repairs sections of the road and considers other measures to slow traffic on the speedy thoroughfare.

“I do think it’s important, but right now I don’t think that the road conditions warrant it,” he said.

While council members recognized that slowing vehicle speeds and ensuring safety is a top priority, they ultimately did not believe that this necessitates delaying the project. 

“It seems to me clear that we need to have bike lanes, and the fact that it’s not a full network, well it’s certainly better than nothing, and hopefully can lead to a network,” said Councilmember John Mirisch. “With everything that I’m hearing, there’s no reason not to do it. There’s no reason to delay it.”

Public commenters in support of the project highlighted the fact that it will cause minimal disruption to the road’s layout as there is currently no street parking nor a middle turn lane. The only minor change required is narrowing the car lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet. 

Supporters also pointed to the benefits of connecting to existing cycling routes on Palm Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard as well as planned bike lanes on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood. Lastly, some cyclists praised the environmental and health benefits of increased bike use. 

“People who choose active methods of transportation live longer, they’re healthier, they interact with their communities in a way that would not be possible in a personal automobile,” said Jacqueline Ma, who commutes by bike to Cedars-Sinai, which is near the proposed lanes.

“The benefits of this lifestyle choice are significant and the benefits of commuting by bike are profound and worth the prioritization of this worthy project,” she added. 

The entire project is estimated to take $10,000 to complete and Mayor Dr. Julian Gold asked staff to report back to council if they anticipate the installation going 10% or more above budget.