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Long Beach: Future Biketopia

March 22, 2009

lb-bike-pathsLast week, the city of Long Beach announced the launch of an aggressive bike friendliness campaign, with a chic logo to boot. Plans were given for three major bike infrastructure projects between Downtown Long Beach and Belmont Shore, and snazzy photoshop renders were provided:

  • New protected bike lanes in Downtown Long Beach, eastbound on Broadway and westbound on 3rd St., from Golden Ave./LA river to Alamitos Ave. A lane of traffic would be removed, and car parking would be preserved. Bike traffic would be protected by parked cars and planters.
  • New bike boulevard on Vista St. from Temple Ave. to Nieto Ave. in Belmont Shore. “Traffic calming” elements like traffic circles, as well as lane markings for bikes, may be added (may be added?). Touted as a “cost effective” option.
  • 2nd-st-sharrowsSharrows and colored bike lanes on 2nd. St. from Livingston to Bayshore. These will provide “strong visual cues to motorists that bikes are present” and “legitimize bikes on the street”. Gosh, I hate it when I’m biking on the street illegitimately. Sharrows may not be as cool as the planters downtown, but still, a set handsome green quadrilaterals on the street couldn’t hurt.

Plans are also in the works to beef up connections to the Long Beach section of the LA River Bike Path, as well as for a new bike path along the abandoned trolley right of way between 7th/Ximeno and the Willow Blue Line station, though those will have to wait until these preliminary plans are implemented. No timetable for the construction of these nifty bike lanes has been released as of yet, but the fact that they took the time to make cool renders of these projects is promising.

In addition, Bike Long Beach is hosting the first everLong Beach Bike Festival, Friday and Saturday, April 3 and 4. It promises to be a little less scholarly than the LA Bike Summit held earlier this month; instead of high-minded discussions on the nature of urban biking in Southern California, there will be live music and beer. But there’s also going to be a bike fashion show, in which models will forsake strutting down the runway and bike sexily out instead. There’s also going to be a cycling race series, with both pros, amateurs, and a police vs. firefighters race (or as I like to call it, the doughnuts vs. dalmatians race). The bike race should be a nice petroleum-free counterpoint to the noisy-as-hell Long Beach Grand Prix taking place two weeks later.

The Bike Long Beach plan is certainly a great start toward the city’s lofty goal of becoming “the most cycling friendly urban city in the United States” (that’s right Portland, you’re going down!) But even if Long Beach builds a bike paradise within its borders, bikers will still be marginalized on the city streets unless the rest of the metro area beefs up its bike network too. Unlike Portland, Long Beach is not the center of a metro area and the lives of LBCers are interconnected with those living elsewhere in LA. If bike planning stalls in the rest of the area, Long Beach will never realize its bike friendly dream. But conversely, the potential success of Bike Long Beach could catalyze bike friendly planning throughout the whole metro area (fingers crossed), and Long Beach will become the hub – pun intended – of a bike friendly metropolis. Hey, it could happen.

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