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The Backbone Bikeway Network Comes to Long Beach?

February 16, 2010

Earlier this month, the LA Bike Working Group has finalized its Backbone Bikeway Network, a plan which is simple yet hopes to revolutionize cycling in Los Angeles. The BWG has mapped out a network for Central LA, The Valley, and the South Bay. But unfortunately there are large chunks of the county they left out: Pasadena, the San Gabriel Valley, and (of greatest interest to me) Long Beach. Always one to take matters into my own hands, I decided to offer my own map for the Southeast, covering the area between East LA, Whittier, and Long Beach. Without further ado, I present:

While new networks and maps are always fun to look at, an extension of the BBN to Long Beach is perhaps of greater symbolic significance. Long Beach has received prominent recognition for its bike friendly policy, and establishing a more concrete connection between Long Beach and LA proper may serve to catalyze bike development throughout the whole area. In addition, other cities in the Southeast have made bike improvements of their own; Whittier recently opened a 5 mile bike path over an abandoned railway, and the San Gabriel River and Rio Hondo bikepaths have potential to become much more useful if integrated with a robust street network. These “gateway cities” could indeed be the gateway between bike policy in Long Beach and LA.

On a more practical level, the southernmost route in Long Beach is already semi-operational; the famous 2nd Street Sharrows are already open, and bike-only lanes on Broadway and 3rd are on the way. Also, SoapBox LA points to numbered bike routes as a means of fostering bikeability; such routes are already being instituted here in the LBC.

My one critique of the Backbone Bikeway Network is that it is a bit too focused on arterial streets at the expense of the potential usefulness of side streets. The point made by the Bike Working Group, that side streets don’t work well for long trips, is well taken. However, projects such as the 4th Street Bike Boulevard (or other future bike boulevards) fill an important gap for small and medium length trips. If this new network is a backbone, we still need bike boulevards and side street improvements to flesh it out.

Hopefully this map will inspire the Bike Working Group to craft an official Southeast BBN map, as well as another map for Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, which also have much to add to LA’s bike development. This is a promising start for what could be a great new bike system.

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