Long Beach Goes Long, While LA Lollygags

Last Saturday I saddled up earlyish and headed to downtown to pick up Broadway for a long jaunt south to Imperial Highway. Imperial has nothing of the splendor of empire to it, but it does get one over to the Los Angeles River quickly enough, and on a cool, soft morning the bike path alongside that broad concrete channel had its unexpected charms.

However, I wasn’t after just scenery that day: I was headed down to Long Beach for the opening of its brand-new separated bike paths–a Southern California first.

Riders on a Long beach cycletrackCyclists gathered, pols and wonks speechified, cameras clicked and whirred while Neil Young bleated over the loudspeakers, and in the end we got a pretty good idea that Long Beach is firmly committed to making itself a real walking & cycling city–with the goal of becoming, as they put it, “the most bicycle-friendly city in America.”

I think they’re getting close, too. They have the county’s first bicycle boulevard, the country’s first Bikestation was built there in 1996 and is putting up new digs right now, and there’s a fairly comprehensive network of old and newer bike paths, lanes, and routes covering most of the city, not just its downtown. Plenty of bike parking, too, aside from the Bikestation–I hadn’t slept well and so took the Blue Line partway home, and saw new stylish bike racks on sidewalks all the way out to the edge of town.

They also understand that urban bicycling supports more than the supposedly “liberal” values of a clean environment, good public health, and freedom of choice; it’s also good for business. Speaker after speaker, including an enthusiastic member of the Downtown Long Beach Association, praised the new cycle tracks’ potential to boost merchant income along the route.

Bicycle traffic signals in Long BeachThe tracks run along a one-way couplet–Broadway heading one direction, Third the other–and are separated from the street by asphalt berms in the more congested areas, as well as handsome planters, and wide painted medians in less busy parts. Car parking on the street side of the medians provides an extra buffer. And–this was particularly delightful!–dedicated bicycle traffic signals, coordinated (of course) with the car signals to forestall left hook accidents. (Left as the lanes are on the left sides of the one-way streets.) They have also painted the lanes bright green at driveways and other points of potential conflict.

How accommodating were the lanes?

Heaps of kids rode along with the crowd without any worries on anyone’s part. And the ride leader was Octavio Orduño–who is 103 years old.

Hell, the LBC has gone way beyond the “8 to 80” formula!

I was back in Los Angeles by four, remembering the day as if it were a fading dream.

LA…well, we can dream, can’t we?

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  1. By Streetsblog Los Angeles » Today’s Headlines on April 28, 2011 at 8:24 am

    […] Separated Bike Lanes: Los Angeles Goes Long (Flying Pigeon) […]

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