Is it a coincidence that just two weeks after facing angry Long Beach residents and business owners about the controversial “road diet” project on the city’s Broadway corridor, City Manager Pat West has decided to step down? The project, a signature objective of the avid bicyclist’s tenure, has been a disaster.
On July 22, he and Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce announced some “tweaks” to the design to try and mitigate the myriad safety issues created by the street makeover, but with business owners protesting, and accidents on Broadway spiking, it’s clear that “tweaks” won’t fix the inherent design flaws.
In defending the project, West repeated the false assertion that Broadway is a mostly residential area. He said, “The Broadway corridor is a residential corridor with some neighborhood-serving businesses. If you look at the type of uses, over 90% of the properties are residential.”
That statement, however, is untrue, and simply perpetuates the narrative necessary to get a bike lane project off the ground in Long Beach. Why? Because Broadway, despite being a main commuting and business artery for decades, had to be officially redesignated a “neighborhood street” in order to remove a car traffic lane. Therefore, businesses had to be marginalized in the city’s official characterization of the corridor, and the “90% residential” spin was born.
Second Street in Belmont Shore, by comparison, is designated a “regional destination”, which is one reason it keeps two car lanes in each direction.
There are a total of 133 storefronts on the mile-and-a-half stretch of Broadway between Alamitos and Redondo. In the same exact area, there are 157 single-family homes or apartment buildings.
It’s not a perfect comparison, because some businesses share the same physical building, so the term “property” can be defined in different ways, but clearly Mr. West’s claim that “90% of the properties are residential” is light years from our real neighborhood mix.
It’s no wonder Broadway establishments are upset about lost customers, parking and loading zones, having been thrown under the bus as simply “some businesses” just so bike lanes could be introduced.
And a chart produced by city planners in late 2017 shows that reducing traffic to businesses was the idea all along. There was to be an up to 33% decrease in car traffic, and the plan was to simply divert the cars to Third Street, just north of Broadway.
This was the brilliant idea — move cars from a major four-lane street by reducing it to two lanes, and then send that traffic to another, more residential two-lane street.
Public safety issues created by the redesign are obvious, even frightening. At the northeast corner of Broadway and Temple, for example, the same street space astonishingly serves four separate functions: it’s the automobile right turn lane, the driveway for a gas station, a stop for the Long Beach Transit bus line, and it’s the new bike lane! Imagine being a bicycle rider and having your “dedicated” lane populated all day and night by buses, turning cars, and traffic in and out of a busy gas station and you understand why residents are up in arms about the safety deficiencies of the project.
What sort of “tweak” will fix this?
And because all parallel parking has been moved some 10 feet away from the curb to accommodate the bike lane, this line of parked cars now blocks a driver’s view of oncoming traffic when exiting any driveway, making a merge a harrowing experience (the exit to Broadway from the 24-hour Rite Aid parking lot is particularly dangerous — and guess where cars have to stop when inching into traffic? Yup, smack dab in the middle of the bike lane).
Last Saturday night, my wife and I were almost hit by a speeding biker who yelled, “get out of the bike lane” as we were entering our Uber after dinner at Broadway’s La Paroloccia restaurant.
The Uber was properly parked in the yellow loading zone, I was opening the door for my wife to get in, and because by design you must walk through and stand in the bike lane while doing this, we got a scare and a middle finger as our dessert. Still shaken, driving west on Broadway, our car approached flashing lights, and we saw a multi-car accident at the Broadway/Hermosa intersection, with one car pushed up onto the sidewalk.
Again, what “tweaks” will fix these patently unsafe design flaws? I can think of one: for the health of our small businesses, and the safety of our residents, take it all out and give us our old street back.
Kirk Jordan is an Alamitos Beach resident.