On Monday evening, Mayor Pro Tem John Erickson and City Councilmember Chelsea Byers sponsored a motion that would commit the City of West Hollywood to only build protected bike and scooter infrastructure going forward.

“Some community members were wondering why certain streets in our city were moving forward without protected infrastructure for people with bikes, or for those that actually use scooters, or any other type of transit to get them off the sidewalks,” said Erickson. “We have made considerable investments and efforts in increasing pedestrian safety in all ways – ensuring we have better access for those choosing not to use a car.”

He added it would be unfortunate to leave this kind of infrastructure to a council 20 years from now, and concluded, “If you can create a better and safer mode of transit for people, they will use it.” He pointed to how effective it’s been on Fountain Avenue, and aspired to provide this infrastructure along Beverly, which he identified as “A major pathway for bikers.”

The specific recommendations in the Erickson/Byers motion are as follows, outlined in the staff report:

  1. Direct Community Development Department (CDD) staff to develop a policy by which only protected bike facilities will be planned and implemented in West Hollywood, without removing any proposed bike facilities in the City’s General Plan.
  2. Staff to conduct outreach to residents and businesses to gather input and incorporate the findings as feasible into the draft policy for City Council consideration.
  3. Staff to return to the City Council as soon as feasible with different options to amend applicable plans to achieve the above-referenced policy goal.

Public Safety Commissioner George Nickel came to speak during public comment and touted the obvious safety benefits. But he hoped residents would be surveyed to see how many would be willing to give up driving through town if the protected infrastructure is developed. He doesn’t see much environmental benefit if people remain unwilling to give up their cars.

“For Anyone who’s tried to ride their bike on West Hollywood’s painted bike lanes, it becomes immediately apparent how little safety they provide,” said resident Parker Friedrich. “Our city has the capacity to be a great city for bicycle use,” he continued, “Most people like riding their bikes; most people don’t want to die while doing it. It’s not complicated,” he concluded in support of the proposal.

Seven Graham, who moved to West Hollywood in 2015, stated he had just biked to Santa Monica the other day for a film screening. On the way, he said he felt safe going through what he claimed to be protected bike lines in Beverly Hills, but not in the unprotected bike lanes of West Hollywood. “People [in the B.H. section] steer clear. They respect cyclists. You feel like you’re going to be okay,” said Graham.

Councilmember Lauren Meister raised concerns as to whether the proposal would prevent further use of “sharrows,” raised or median bike lines, and painted bike lanes going forward. “Maybe it needs to be broader to say our policy should be to use the safest type of lane possible for a particular street, on a case-by-case basis,” she suggested. She added that there are some streets where what the policy is prescribing wouldn’t really be possible and the city may need the flexibility to use a “sharrow” instead.

Councilmember John Heilman also sought more clarity. He assumed the proposal is suggesting protected bike lanes will always be the preference when possible, but said, “I don’t see us really talking about any particular streets right now because we don’t have those before us. So, I don’t see how we could direct staff to amend any existing plans without knowing whether it’s feasible or what the cost would be.”

“Our hope is that this policy would reframe every opportunity we have with the streetscape to aim for that highest protective facility possible,” Byers responded. “And then – as your suggesting, councilmember Meister – not let go of the opportunity to create a lane, but start from that lens of safety and work our way down.”

Francisco Contreras, a Long-term Planning Manager with the city, confirmed that the staff sees the motion as a route to making protected bike infrastructure as the default only where feasible and applicable.

With clarifications seemingly accepted, the motion passed unanimously, 5-0. Staff will now be able to bring specific plans for feasibility and targeting streets like Beverly Boulevard back for the council to further consider.

Photo by JARAMA

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