The Hello Bar is a simple web toolbar that engages users and communicates a call to action. Long Beach on the path to becoming a top “Bike-Friendly” City | Travelin' Local

Long Beach on the path to becoming a top “Bike-Friendly” City

Feb 10, 2010 by Sean Belk

Riding your bike through a busy metropolitan city isn’t always a pleasant experience.

Whether you’re a novice or an expert cyclist, you’re sure to get a few jeers or honks from motorists on the road—or worse.

Without a doubt, vehicles and bicycles must coexist—and adapt to coexist–in this diverse concrete urban landscape of Los Angeles County, or else we won’t get anywhere, or get anything accomplished–literally, figuratively, environmentally, economically, and physically to accommodate the new reality of city planning. There’s no doubt that being “bike-friendly” is good for communities and neighborhoods.

Long Beach, for instance, is taking progressive steps toward converting itself into a more accessible and safer city for biking generations to come. The city’s eventual goal is to someday become ranked amongst the top tier of “bike-friendly” cities in the country.

Long Beach is Leading the Bike Way

For now, that vision is more wishful thinking than anything else, but Long Beach has been hard at work for the past few years, developing modern bike lanes, hosting international bike races and installing more bike stations to match the city’s transit system.

Harboring one of the country’s largest ports that produce high amounts of emissions and pollution from trucks and ships, Long Beach has followed suit with the rest of the state in implementing clean air initiatives. With gas prices rising and more traffic and smog produced by cars on the highways and streets, it’s cleaner and cheaper travel alternatives like biking or taking the bus that seem to be catching more attention these days.

As a plan for the future, the city has secured more than $10 million in federal and state grants for proposed city improvements through the year 2020. The city hopes to increase bicycle use from 1% to 5% in that time.

New Bike Changes are Coming

Working with the community, the city has planned new projects, including “bike boulevards,” proposed bike facilities complete with shower changing stations, bike share locations at schools, parks and transit stations, bike signage, and more bike racks.

Whether to create more tourism, a "greener" environment, or good ole’ fashioned quality of living, Long Beach is definitely on the “right path” toward becoming recognized for its “Bike-Friendly” efforts.

Trails and bikeways of Long Beach

Riding a bike is not only healthier for you and cleaner for the environment, it’s also a great way to view your surroundings. Some of the best bike paths in Long Beach are situated along the many rivers and channels that wrap around parks and wetlands, rife with nature. There are about nine different bike trails in a 10-mile radius in Long Beach.

San Gabriel River Bike Path

The San Gabriel River Bike Path is a common route that continues for quite a few miles. It connects to the Coyote Creek Bike Path, which then extends further into El Dorado Park, a common pit-stop to see flourishing trees and wildlife. One of the more scenic bike paths is the Shoreline Pedestrian Bikeway, a five-mile route, starting downtown. If you want to get a good view of the Queen Mary or the sunset over the beach, this path is definitely a must.

What are "Sharrows" and "Bike Boxes"?

As a way to add more bicyclists on the road, Long Beach has started introducing progressive bike lanes. Just last year the city introduced “Sharrows” in Belmont Shore on 2nd Street, where there exists a common shopping hub of storefronts, restaurants and pubs. The green-striped lanes with bicycle imagery paved on the street were created so both vehicles and bikes can share the space. Long Beach is the second city in the country to use the Sharrows aside from Salt Lake City, Utah.

To complement the Sharrows, the city more recently has paved “Bike Boxes,”–an intersection improvement design to prevent bicycle and car collisions, especially between drivers turning right and bicyclists going straight, on city streets. They are striped boxes on the end of the road with a white bicycle symbol inside, where cyclists can stop to be more visible while they wait for the signal. The benefits of these improvements are to increase bike safety by increased visibility and awareness.

Long Beach’s commitment to Bike Racing and Special Events

Amidst the city skyscrapers and waterfront homes, Long Beach is a picturesque destination where some of the world’s premier cycling events have been held.

In 2007, the city was host to 120 of the world’s top professional cyclists to compete for the finishing race of the Amgen Tour of California. The cyclists, many who compete in the Tour de France, concluded the 650-mile tour through California with a 7 to 10 lap circuit race.

Amgen Tour of California

This year, the city will hold its annual Long Beach Bicycle Grand Prix through the streets of Downtown. It will be a three-day event on May 7, 8 and 9, along with hosting relevant vendors, fashion shows, fixed gear contests, bicycle polo, BMX competitions and high-speed bicycle races during the Long Beach Bicycle Grand Prix. Bicycle advocates like Tony Cruz, a Long Beach resident, and a Tour de France and Olympic cyclist, has taken the lead in promoting the city’s bike-friendly initiatives and approach.

Riding the “Green” Trend

Albeit riding a bike is a cleaner alternative to driving and cuts down on pollution and carbon emissions, there still debate about how far this “green” initiative should go, and whether it actually cuts down on commerce and business prosperity.

One of the plans for Long Beach, as well as in other cities, is to install more space for bike racks, where cars would otherwise be parked. State Senator Alan Lowenthal, whose 27th district serves Long Beach, has even suggested for counties and cities to work with businesses to cut down on “free parking,” and has proposed new legislation to limit parking spaces on business property, with the hope of deterring people from riding automobiles entirely.

This proposal has been criticized by some residents, who feel that in these difficult economic times that cutting down on parking would actually decrease the amount of consumers and customers for local commerce. After all, if the state’s unemployment rate doesn’t improve in the next few years, not many people will have a job to ride a bike to.

But regardless, when Travelin’ Local, biking is certainly a fun way to get from point A to point B, where the air is fresh, and you really don’t miss a thing.

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