A Golden Opportunity

Beverly Hills considers itself a “city of gold,” both literally and figuratively. City hall bears a gilded dome, it’s home to Tiffany’s and dozens of other jewellers selling actual gold, and the glitzy retail district wedged in between Wilshire and Santa Monica is called “the Golden Triangle.”

But there’s a bit of that which glitters that they’re missing sight of right under their noses, and BetterBike.org, BevHills’s up-and-coming bicycle advocacy group, took a few of us on a tour of it last Sunday.

It’s a remnant of LA’s fabled Pacific Electric regional transit system, where the Red Car trolleys ran for years and years, providing fast, clean mobility to much of the county before being bulldozed out of existence by conspiracy and highly-subsidized car travel. You can see a most appealing segment of it in the photos below–it’s a quarter-mile or so of abandoned right-of-way alongside Santa Monica Boulevard, just west of Wilshire.

Old PE right of way in Beverly Hills

Old PE right of way in Beverly Hills
Okay, so it doesn’t look too appealing in the photos–just some dirt and gravel behind the shops on Little Santa Monica, bisected by a chainlink fence.

But use a little imagination…suppose that where the fence is there was a row of little storefronts, restaurants, and cafés. Visualize a little greenway too, with benches, fountains, plots of flowers, café tables, chessboards, whatever. And then a sidewalk, and then a bike path taking riders safely along that daunting stretch of Santa Monica between Wilshire and Century City…where another bike lane begins. Taking perhaps dozens–someday hundreds–of riders past those storefronts, benches, and bistros. Workers riding to lunch from Century city and the aforementioned Golden Triangle. Crosstown commuters feeling a little hungry after a long day at work. Nearby residents looking for a gift for Aunt Madge, a special wine for tonight, a little bracelet for a spouse or lover. There would be no room to park cars for these stores if you built them, but plenty of room to park bikes…and lots of folks could just walk over.

It would be a sort of linear town square.

That’s what BetterBike’s Mark Elliott saw when he looked over this patch of dust.

Imagination’s been in short supply in Beverly Hills lately–they just re-adopted their bike plan from 1977, which has not been acted on since then, though it’s only a few pages long. And they’re fighting the idea of including bike lanes on Santa Monica at all when they resurface and restripe it soon…though West Hollywood on the east and LA on the west offer bike lanes on that major crosstown street.

But what a golden opportunity they’re missing here!

Let’s hope that BetterBike can capture their attention, because we could all benefit from a little “bicycle district” here that would be good for merchants, good for residents, draw visitors from all over, and help complete a major route that’s used by crosstown bike commuters.

Dare we hope…?

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 22, 2011 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Great write-up, Rick – and terrific photos too. I’ve put a wrap-up on the site with a bit of the PE history for context: http://betterbike.org/2011/08/pacific-electric-ride-recap/

    The patch you see here was proposed for a 3-story commercial development only this past spring. With the land long-time zoned for transportation, the developer – and two others with contiguous parcels – need a zone change. A rezone raises the policy question of what to do with all of that golden former right-of-way all along the boulevard! More ungainly development, or, as you say here, a vision? To be decided….

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  1. [...] is already in trouble, just four months after it was adopted. Richard Risemberg points out that the biking black hole of Beverly Hills has a golden opportunity to do something that would benefit cyclists — and everyone else. Stephen Box says Metrolink [...]

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