Long Beach Shifts Cycling in to High Gear
Although their proximity to car-dominated Los Angeles can't be denied, southern neighbor Long Beach has put the money and effort behind making cycling an attractive and safe mode, and it's already paying dividends.
Bicycling Magazine's 2010 rankings for bike-friendly cities ranked Long Beach a respectable 23rd, but that doesn't satisfy them. In fact, their goal is to ultimately make Long Beach "The Most Bicycle Friendly City in America," a bold statement that adorns the art at City Hall (photo by Greg Page/Page One Studio).
With a bike-friendly mayor and big support from the city council, their plans are ambitious. But most importantly they are think big and thinking fast. A couplet of physically protected cycletracks, sharrows with unique green striping, Southern California's first bicycle boulevard, and hundreds of additional bike racks are just a few of the items already in the ground or coming very shortly.
This video doesn't even touch upon their comprehensive education program in place for students, police, and transit operators. Ahhhh, well - I guess we'll just have to go back and cover that on another trip (and then go sit on the beach.)
Charlie Gandy: [0:02] I'm Charlie Gandy. I'm the Mobility Coordinator for the City of Long Beach. Long Beach, as you may not know, is just south of Los Angeles in Southern California. It's an incredibly beautiful beach town. [0:12] About three years ago citizens elected a bunch of bicyclists to the City Council. They didn't all run on a bicycle agenda, but they have run on bicycle friendly agendas. And now that the bicyclists have representation on the City Council, they gave direction to the city staff and said, "We want to make this a great bike city." The vision of becoming the most bike friendly city in America has become a catalytic, a bold statement that has caused a number of things to occur.
[0:37] Businesses look at Long Beach differently. Residents and people looking to move here, looking at Long Beach differently. And then, artists, such as Patrick Vogel, who said, "I'm an artist and what I can contribute to this is to help visualize what that beautiful bike friendly could be."
Man 1: [0:53] We have all kinds of infrastructure that's just coming online that people are starting to enjoy. So, we're seeing a really big upsurge in people commuting by bike. We have been in business since 1996. You can come here and park your bike for free during our business hours from seven in the morning until six at night. Rentals are up. Repairs are up.
Woman 1: [1:12] A lot of people right now in this time with the economy the way it is don't have cars. People are biking it instead. Long Beach seems to be making improvements to safe riding. They're putting in a bike lane here. They've put in bike lanes over on First Street.
Charlie: [1:26] In the next three months we'll be installing the protected bike facilities on Third and Broadway through Downtown Long Beach. We fully expect this to be a transformational experience for those that live in Long Beach. We fully expect it to have the same sort of safety record that Eighth and Ninth Street have achieved in New York City. We've reallocated the space in the street to accommodate those that live here, that work here, that buy things here versus privileging those that would just drive through here fast. [1:54] We used to have a sidewalk where the curb went right through here. We extended it all the way out so we still have two through car travel lanes here, but we shortened the distance for pedestrians by about 50 percent.
Man 2: [2:05] I love it, not just for my business but for the neighborhood. It just brings more foot traffic to there. It's a very little investment, and we keep it up. We clean the sidewalk. We put patio furniture and activate it.
Charlie: [2:19] Parking space is going to be the first conversion that we make, a bike corral in Downtown Long Beach because we buy into the notion that we can put somewhere between eight to 12 customers by bike in a stall such as this versus one car customer.
Man 3: [2:35] Having bikes around here is basically what people take down here, and we are a bike shop so they should have some type of parking for them.
Man 4: [2:42] Bike riders are great. I love them. They're just cool people, and they need a place to lock their bikes.
Charlie: [2:49] So, what we've done also is install, embed in the street, bollards so that with a simple key we can pull that up and close off this street. Because on a regular basis we have art shows, festivals, farmers markets, and then we have parties. Last June we painted this green stripe. It's a six foot wide green "share a lane" with the silhouettes. All this is doing is articulating existing law that are about the space in the street where cyclists are safely riding. [3:18] They're not in the door zone, when this door opens they get hit, and they're not on the sidewalk. And at the same time we've told motorists not only do bicyclists exist here but we invite them here because they're customers and because they're residents and because they're carrying on an active, healthy lifestyle.
[3:33] Man 5:We're starting to see a rise in simple odd things that we never sold before, lanyards that hold laptops so people can take them to their place of business, wherever they're working. We never sold those before, many more bicyclists and all the parking spots that Long Beach has done.
Charlie: [3:50] We're riding on what's going to become the Vista Bike Boulevard. In two months we will have installed seven traffic circles along this route, a diverter up here, some decorative street signs celebrating this as a bike boulevard, the first one in Southern California. When we first started this, we engineered five traffic circles along here, but people were so happy to see us dealing with traffic issues that we expanded to seven. [4:16] The activities, the innovations that we're doing in Long Beach are on a broader stage. Our proximity to Los Angeles has us in conversation with them about what's possible in Southern California in this car oriented culture that's looking to do something else.