I moved to Long Beach with my wife just over five years ago and we fell in love with the city almost immediately.
That honeymoon ended three years ago when my elderly aunt was killed right in front of us as we crossed Broadway. A speeding driver hit her while she tried to navigate Broadway at Orizaba. Cars heading west regularly traveled over 50 mph in what is posted as a 30 mph zone. The configuration of the street, four lanes with no center median, left pedestrians like my aunt caught midway across Broadway because of the extreme width of the street.
After my aunt’s death we met with Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, who promised us that the city would finally take action to save lives after we learned that there were decades of studies on how to make the street safer, with no meaningful action.
Two years ago, my wife was hit by a car while riding on her bike. That car was also traveling well above the speed limit at Redondo. The collision left her in critical condition with multiple broken bones and head injuries, injuries that she is only now recovering from. At that point, I was doubtful the City Council or the Mayor would ever make the kinds of changes that had been in those traffic studies.
Today, I have to admit I was wrong. I am so proud to live in a city where we have politicians with the courage to make the changes that, while there will invariably be critics, make Long Beach a great place to live and work. I am a partner at ZGF Architects, with roots in Portland — where we helped shape that city into the walkable/bike friendly place communities around the world envy. There were critics there as well, but the politicians and the community worked to make it the city it has become.
I also lived in Copenhagen, one of the best cities in the world for sustainability and mobility. That city also chose to transform itself, adding bike lanes, configured very much like the one on Broadway, into a network of bike paths more than 30 years ago. It is now a city where the majority of the population rides bikes instead of cars, even with a frigid Scandinavian winter climate. Imagine what Long Beach can become.
Driving Broadway from the 710 east to Bluff Park every evening, I navigate the road diet and reduced speeds of 35 mph. But that has not impacted my drive time more than 2-3 minutes at the peak commute. I now ride my bike on Broadway and the only challenge to a safe ride has been from individuals who violate the existing traffic laws.
I am an optimist and expect that once people see this configuration for what it is, a democratic approach to alternate modes of transportation that is safe for pedestrians, cyclists and autos, everyone will embrace it. I know it has taken an enormous amount of energy and resources to implement the work. We need to trust the experts who have seen the positive impact these kinds of initiatives have had in other cities.
There have been calls to “study” improvements, or put it back the way it was. I would urge everyone that we need to be patient and let the city complete the bike lane network. We can all benefit from a city that devotes its public realm to people, not cars. My aunt, who spent her life in Long Beach, would be proud of the changes. You are making to “her” city, a place that we can all be proud to live in.
Ted Hyman is a Bluff Park resident.