James Johnson, with a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and law degree from the U. C. Berkeley School of Law, is probably the best-educated person to ever serve the Seventh City Council District. That’s why it is so difficult to understand his obstinate support of bicycle paths that are not only unpopular in his own district, but almost certain to hurt local businesses.

A reading of Long Beach’s Bicycle Master Plan makes it clear that the numerous bike routes planned will make it more difficult for motor vehicles to traverse Long Beach — a city that is already very hard to get around in during peak traffic periods.

Long Beach hopes that so many people will be lured away from their motor vehicles to use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation, that the remaining traffic can easily be handled by what is left of the streets after creating the bike lanes.

Good luck with that plan! Has Johnson or anyone else in city government ever taken a good look at how very few bicyclists use the bike paths that are currently in place? I have, and users are practically non-existent. But try to get Johnson or the city traffic engineer to admit it.

Johnson earned his undergraduate degree in economics. Surely Harvard taught him that people will avoid businesses because they don’t like getting caught in traffic jams, and taking away or narrowing traffic lanes for bicycle paths (that aren’t even used), will only exacerbate the problem.

Residents of the Los Cerritos neighborhood are especially galled by Johnson’s insistence that a new traffic signal be placed at Wardlow Road and Pacific Avenue because it will encourage traffic to cut-through their residential neighborhood. It will also add to the already terrible traffic jams on Wardlow Road created by frequent Blue Line trains crossing just a half block to the west.

Local residents made their position very clear when the city first approached the neighborhood association about the project. Did the city listen? No, an email by Long Beach Transportation Planner Steve Tweed to a consultant, obtained under the Public Records Act, leaves no doubt about how residents actually feel: “As we conducted our community outreach with the Los Cerritos Neighborhood Association (neighborhood north of Wardlow on Pacific) they have objected to our proposal to install a traffic signal at Pacific Avenue@Wardlow Road and bike lanes on Pacific Avenue north of Wardlow Road to San Antonio Drive.... So we are now looking at offering something to the neighborhood in exchange for their approval to install the signal and bike lanes up Pacific Avenue.”

Tweed continues, “After our last neighborhood meeting on May 9 [2012], we heard a lot of opposition to our proposal and have been asked by council to look at these (2) specific intersections [Pacific Avenue and Bixby Road; Pacific Avenue and 36th Street] and recommend intersection treatments (i.e. bump-outs, gateway median, realigned intersection, traffic circle, etc.) that may calm the neighborhood fears and present those concepts back to the neighborhood....

Neighborhood fears were not calmed, so the city invited a bunch of bicycle club members to one of the community meetings and conducted a survey. Predictably it showed bicyclists support building bike paths. Subsequently, the city has falsely (and repeatedly) claimed Los Cerritos residents are in favor of everything they want to do.

Richard Gutmann and Anita Pettigrew are members of the Wrigley Heights Committee.

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