As the summer ends, it seems an appropriate time to look at that ongoing effort to make Long Beach the most bicycle-friendly city in the country.

    Origin of that particular goal can be debated, as can the ultimate value of reaching it. There have been many sincere advocates for pedal power as an alternative transportation, a solution to pollution, a healthier population and more.

    Added impetus undoubtedly has come from the availability of federal grants pegged specifically to adding more bicycling opportunities. The feds have a penchant for offering boatloads of money if you’ll just further a program, and local officials are loathe to leave anything resembling money at the table.

    But we’d argue that sometimes spending money just because it is there isn’t always a prudent approach. All those extra police officers hired with COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) looked great when the feds were paying for them, for example, but keeping them on the payroll after the federal money ran out became a bit of a problem.

    At least there were some clear benefits from that program, and studies to prove it. Can the same be said of the more radical bicycle initiatives?

    For example, the green “sharrows” have been in place on Second Street in Belmont Shore since mid-2009. The idea was that the broad green stripe would convince bicyclists it was okay to ride in the street, and convince drivers to share the lane with said bicyclists.

    The “pilot project” has been in place for more than two years now, and as far as we know, no study has been released showing that the experiment has been a success or failure. In fact, it is still uncertain what would constitute a success.

    Are more people riding bicycles on Second Street? Hard to tell; it has always been a pretty popular destination. Anecdotal evidence shows that the sharrows haven’t done much, if anything, in regards to getting bicyclists off the Belmont Shore sidewalks. A different set of anecdotal evidence, this one from bicycle riders, makes it clear the safety factor isn’t much better — certainly not as much help as bicycle lanes.

    Downtown, the imposing bicycle lanes on Broadway and Third Street can still be said to truly be in their pilot phase. The grand opening was only six months ago, so it is a little more understandable that there is little hard data about their impact.

    But how many bicycle riders have you seen using them? And how often have you seen a driver pull in behind that new line of parked cars and wait for traffic in that lane to get going again?

    Then there are the, let’s call them whimsical, bike racks that have popped up all over town. We’re as strong a proponent of public art as anyone, but we thought bike racks were supposed to be utilitarian things. It’s tough to see many of these pieces of art getting much use.

    And to get back to the COPS grant analogy, what are we going to do once the money runs out?

    In fact, that already has started to happen. The office of bicycle transportation, or whatever it has been called, has shrunk in the last year, when grants to pay the salary for a bicycle master plan coordinator ran out. The Public Works Department is doing what it can to keep the plan moving forward, but in case you haven’t heard, there’s a bit of a budget crunch in the city.

    Who is going to repaint all those bike racks when the chains, bikes and vandals do what they do? The sharrows already have been repainted once, presumably with federal money. Are we going to do it again with city money? And those fancy downtown bike lanes surely are going to require some maintenance.

    Pilot programs are supposed to be for a set period and should be followed with some form of honest evaluation to decide whether they have accomplished the purpose. We haven’t seen any indication that the sharrows or

the whimsically-shaped, brightly painted racks have created lots of warm fuzzies for Long Beach.

    The bike paths on the beach and along the embankments on the city’s rivers clearly get plenty of recreational use. They have proved their worth.

    Give us an unbiased study of the impacts of these new initiatives, and we’ll be happy to abide by the result — friendly or not.

(7) comments

Quick Comment
Quick Comment

Hey SM good point on the parking garage, but wait a minute don't drivers have to pay to park there and also pay to park along the streets of downtown? Plus they pay registration fee's for their cars, which helps to pay for road improvements. What do bike riders pay?

-Beach Ball

MexicanSongBird
MexicanSongBird

As an avid cyclist [ commuting, touring, recreation, sport ] for over 36 years, I'm acutely aware of the need to continually raise the awareness of motorists that the road is something to be shared with cyclists for everyone's safety. In California if a cyclist is riding in the "door zone" [the 2-3 feet just left of parked cars] and a motorist opens their door and causes the cyclist to tumble, the cyclist is considered at fault. If cyclists ride outside the door zone, they face the wrath of motorists insisting that we're impeding traffic and have no right to the space.
From my perspective, the sharrows on 2nd Street simply remind everyone the road is for sharing. It's time to hurry up and slow down.

I advocate safety and nothing more. I do not advocate bike riding as a solution for anything, however, more and more people are interested in using a bicycle as an alternate mode of transportation for local trips and errands. As long as city streets have existed, the law has always given bicycles equal rights to the road; my only concern is that that right is also followed up with a concern for safety. Bike lanes and sharrows raise the awareness that cyclists are present and that makes for safer roads - for everyone.

Bike Racks: I see the racks used all the time.

Numbers show that bicycle friendly business districts have improved revenue. 2nd Street is a unique environment whose customer base is primarily local. With less traffic or slower traffic, the business on 2nd Street could really explode.

Quick Comment
Quick Comment

Editor, looks like you've been hit by the typical gallery of bike weenies.

Good, objective questions. Don't forget about Vista Street, which I now avoid because drivers can't figure out roundabouts. I'm not the only one avoiding Vista. I've yet to see a cyclist on it either.

Quick Comment
Quick Comment

I'm constantly amazed that I never hear any similar demands for proof a road improvement has demonstrated results when that is done for cars, but spend a small fraction on improving the conditions for cycling and people question cities spending "big $$" all of a sudden.

Yes it cost some money, yes it will require maintenance, yes cyclists will use it. When the city puts in automobile parking @ $25,000 per space on average for a parking garage are these questions raised? Yet at bike rack or coral costs a couple hundred to a $1000 for a large fancy one.

Get real folks. Question what is being spent for automobile infrastructure and you'll quickly realize the huge bang for the buck the cycling investment gets you.

-SM cyclist

Quick Comment
Quick Comment

It's so typical of the prevailing attitude in America - the need for immediate results & a general lack of patience. It's the reason we are an overweight society lacking in self-discipline. I can only applaud the City of Long Beach for it's efforts to provide a somewhat safe environment for those intent on exercise & good health.

I just wish I could suggest a catalyst that would prod an ever consuming and recalcitrant population, into enjoying a more rewarding lifestyle.

-90803

Katherine Serj
Katherine Serj

What kind of results would convince you that the non-recreational bike lanes were a sound investment? More people on bikes? Less people on sidewalks? Less car traffic? I, for one, have seen a definite increase in the amount of bike traffic just between this time last year and now. Like the poster before me, I, too, live in the downtown-ish area of Long Beach and commute via bike to places I would have normally driven to using the great new Broadway and 3rd St. lanes and I'm constantly seeing other people do the same. I posit that a motorist would see less bike-usage of the lanes in action, because, really, how much can someone concentrate on bike traffic when you're trying to navigate your own way downtown in the horrendous car traffic situation.

Perhaps, if there was a better bike infrastructure, people would be able to get to more places by bike and traffic would lessen on the roads. Long Beach has made bold beginnings towards a truly bike-friendly state, however, with so many gaps between bike lanes and bike friendly streets, it's difficult for new and inexperienced bikers to feel comfortable traversing the more intense, dangerous streets, thus they resort to car travel.

What would you rather the city money be spent on, or, what do you think "bike lifestyle" upkeep will take money away from?

RobPreece
RobPreece

We're all in favor of looking for results, but let's be honest about this. Maybe you haven't seen much traffic in the Broadway and 3rd Street bike lanes but I have--and I've been an active part of that traffic. For me, the Junipero and 3rd Street lanes mean that I can get to the senior center without excessive risk from traffic. I'm on my bike 5-6 days a week--taking trips I could have taken by car--largely because the bike lanes make this pleasant and safe(r). As for the Belmont 2nd Street share-lane, I agree that more education, both for bicyclists and car drivers, would be worthwhile. Yes, bicyclists should be encouraged to get off the sidewalks. Similarly, drivers could do a lot more sharing and a lot less cutting riders off.

Again, I don't know where you live. In my neighborhood (7th and Temple), there are bicyclists and skateboarders riding for transportation 24 hours a day. In my neighborhood, there are plenty of people who can get around without cars because Long Beach has made efforts to become bike-friendly. In my neighborhood, bicyclists and drivers need more training in how to get along. Suggesting that we bicyclists have to somehow prove that we're worthy of sharing the road with drivers, which is how I read this editorial, would have been welcome thinking... in the 1950s. I hoped we were past that.

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