Perhaps you have seen the “Bike Friendly City” signs recently installed in Downtown and throughout Long Beach. A look at Downtown will reveal many new bike-related features already in place, as well as exciting new developments that will solidify Long Beach’s ambitions to be the most bike-friendly city in the USA, a goal established by City leadership a decade ago.
Bike traffic in and near Downtown has increased significantly; According to data supplied by the “Eco-Totem” bike and pedestrian counters on the Beach Path and Promenade, bike traffic in May through July of 2020 increased by nearly 80 percent over the same interval in 2019. Riders are discovering the 168-mile network of bike lanes that make it easy to venture into every corner of the City. There are 13 bicycle “fix-it” stations located throughout the City — including one near the Downtown Civic Center — that are available for cyclists needing a quick repair or adjustment.
Bike parking has been made easier as well; The City has now installed 1,325 public bike racks throughout town. All of these features, along with actions implemented through the City’s Safe Streets Initiative, are increasing the safety of residents and visitors who use Downtown bike lanes and paths for recreation, shopping, and work or school commutes. For those using bikes to connect with other forms of transportation, the GoActiveLB Hub on First Street offers secure bike parking, registration, and other cycling essentials.
Long Beach has a rich cycling history, providing a picturesque backdrop for bike events since the ’70s. The sport of BMX — Bicycle Motocross — got its start here, and has since become an Olympic event. Two of the largest cycling clubs in the West, Velo Allegro and Lightning Velo, were founded in Long Beach during the road cycling boom of the ’80s. The Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour has given riders the opportunity to take in Downtown panoramas while savoring their post-ride moments at Shoreline Park. The Tour of California, which fielded some of the finest cyclists in the world, had its start or finish here several times during its 11-year run.
Long Beach is fortunate to have its own world-class cyclist as a bike ambassador; Tony Cruz, who competed at the highest level during his professional cycling career, now works as Community Programs Specialist in the Transportation Mobility Bureau of the Long Beach Department of Public Works, spearheading many cycling-related programs. “As a former professional cyclist I was fortunate enough to travel the world and ride on a lot of great bicycle infrastructure in other countries,” said Cruz. “I’m proud to share my riding experiences and be part of the team focused on implementing additional infrastructure to enhance safety and bikeability in Long Beach’s Downtown Core and Citywide.”
Long Beach cycling-focused programs administered by Cruz and his colleagues include Beach Streets, an event designed to showcase businesses and neighborhoods throughout Long Beach. For an entire day, the City closes major traffic corridors to cars and opens the streets to people walking and bicycling; The Tour of Long Beach Charity Bicycle Ride, an all-ages charity bike event which highlights different bicycle infrastructure around the city; 529 Garage, a national online database for bicycle registration, with which The City of Long Beach has partnered to easily pass along information in case of theft. Long Beach residents are encouraged to register their bikes at project529.com/longbeach or through the 529 Garage app.
Led by the Health and Human Services Department, the City of Long Beach hosts a variety of bike rodeos and events, including helmet and light giveaways, throughout the year. In an effort to provide biking and walking education and encouragement to children and their parents, City staff and volunteers visit a number of elementary schools during annual events including National Bike to School Day on May 5.
The jewel in the crown of Downtown cycling infrastructure — and perhaps the entire West Coast — will be the Mark Bixby Bike and Pedestrian Path on the Gerald Desmond replacement bridge, scheduled to open in two years, after a Port of Long Beach-commissioned connector bridge is completed and all safety protocols are in place. Bixby, who died tragically in 2011, was a high-energy Long Beach cyclist who pushed for the addition of a bike and pedestrian path when the bridge was in the planning stages.
“Riding or walking to the top of the bridge will give you an incredible view of the largest port complex in the US,” said Long Beach cycling advocate Allan Crawford. “From the path’s three observation decks you will be able to watch huge ships loaded with cargo, bound for all parts of the world, moving directly under you. You will get unparalleled views of our Downtown, our marinas, the Queen Mary, and our beautiful coastline from Newport Beach to San Pedro and Palos Verdes. It will become a destination to visit and enjoy.”
It is hoped that more and more Downtown residents and visitors will consider cycling as a transportation option. “What people are finding is that biking in the Downtown area is easy and often faster than taking a car,” said Crawford. “Our bike infrastructure and great Downtown vibe make this an ideal place for cyclists to live, work, and visit. They can easily substitute a bike for a car, providing the more environmentally sustainable options many are looking for.”