Why Should We Care?

On my way back from the Santa Monica Museum of Art’s excellent Tour da Arts on Saturday, I stopped in the 90210 for a meeting with Better Bike Beverly Hills.

Now, some of you might ask why we should care about what I myself have called the “sequined moth hole in the fabric of Los Angeles.” Isn’t it full of nothing but show-off snobs, overconsumers in Escalades and Range Rovers?

Well, yes, it is…but that’s not all there is to it. There are several reasons to support more bicycling facilities in the Gilded Cabbage–aside, that is, from the eleven bike racks which form the totality of that city’s support for the “Most Efficient Machine Ever Made.”

Santa Monica Boulevard through Beverly Hills
For one thing, most people emulate the wealthy, even as they deny it. Poor people and middle class people both. So if you can get some pearls and some pinstripes rolling along Cañon Drive on Bromptons, Gazelles, Civias, or any other glitzy velo, you’ll see the herd following. After all, they don’t sit in traffic jams because they like it; it’s because for over a century, cars have been sold as status symbols–something French philosopher André Gorz saw long ago.

For another thing, not all BHs live north of Sunset, by any means. About one-third of the residents are renters, and about one-third make less than $75,000 a year–in fact, about a fifth of its residents make less than $30,000 a year. It’s (slightly) more diverse than you’d think.

And perhaps most important from a regional standpoint, one of the major crosstown cycling routes–Santa Monica Boulevard–goes right through it. There are bike lanes east of Beverly Hills, in West Hollywood; there are excellent bike lanes west of Beverly Hills, from Century City to Sepulveda–but there’s nothing on that fast, crowded, narrow stretch of Santa Monica that passes right through Beverly Hills’s “Golden Triangle.”

And that’s the main project Better Bike Beverly Hills is pushing. (That, and more than eleven bike racks for an entire city….)

In other words, if you ever go to the Westside from Hollywood, especially if you’re a rush-hour commuter trying to pedal to work, you probably go through Beverly Hills–with your heart in your mouth.

Check out Better Bike Beverly Hills. They’re working for you.

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 26, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the shout-out! We’re indeed a diverse community, and looking ahead, that diversity will drive us toward the tipping point in bike uptake. Already we have a vibrant small business community with more work bikes in service than most folks would expect. If we can get even a small fraction of the legion of office and shop workers who flow in – mostly by automobile – to use a bike, we’ll see change immediately.

    Then there’s the resident community. A demographic in decline has been older folks – a real loss in terms of community character. In their place, though, comes a raft of households of non-related singles, precisely those who could see themselves on a trendy Brompton or a fashionable cruiser (with skirt protector, like in Europe).

    Finally we have our family households just dying to get those kids out of cars and onto bikes for the school commute…if only an example were set for them. A few high-profile avatars who pedal their kids by tandem or trailer (as I see frequently in the Bay Area) would suggest the practical advantages – not to mention pure pleasure – of escaping the drive-to-school scrum.

    It’s all upside, as they say, once we get this ball rolling. That tipping point will come much sooner than any of us might expect.

    Thanks for debunking the myth that it’s all gloss. Our new City Council promises to be a shift away from the gold plating of the recent past to deal with substantive transportation policy issues. Stay tuned!

    Mark Elliot
    Better Bike Beverly Hills

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