Southern California invests in bike paths

Long Beach begins work path; Belmont Shore sees 100-percent increase in riders

Nobody walks in L.A., that’s the word from the locals and complete with its own pop song, but in neighboring Long Beach the locals might not be walking, rather, they’ll be riding a soon to be constructed new network of separated bike paths.

The new path is the first of its kind within city’s downtown.

This comes as transit experts noted that many would-be bike commuters in the seaside community turn to cars instead, simply because there is little room in the street lanes for bikes. City planners also discovered that more than 79 percent of people that work in downtown Long Beach drive to work alone — yet are close enough that pedal power could be a viable alternative.

In light of the study, Long Beach has begun construction on separated bike pathways that cover two streets and run for a mile each in the city’s downtown. While a small start, these are the first of the kind for Southern California, and it is already believed this could influence the rest of the greater Los Angeles area.

“The Long Beach experience has definitely been, ‘if you build it, they will come,’” says Sumire Gant from the City of Long Beach, who has been the point person on this project. “As we have added bike lanes, sharrows, bike boulevards and bike parking, people of all ages have been finding a good reason to change their route to the new facilities.”

Gant says that they are also finding that people see these bike lanes as an invitation to dust off their bikes and take them out for a spin, including for short errands to the store or the gym, as well as for getting to school and work.  

“The green sharrow lane we installed in Belmont Shore has increased bike ridership by 100 percent,” she adds.

The project has also taken notice from area groups, including the L.A. Country Bike Coalition, which has long pushed for these lanes in the area. With the Long Beach pathway, which is slated for completion in mid-March, Gant believes that despite the car culture of South California, other cities will get on board.

“I do see some movement,” she says. “A lot of the $18 million in bike grant funding we've received has come through L.A. County Metro, and we've partnered with the City of Los Angeles on a couple of new bike projects that are in the works.”

 A lot of our success, she says has started locally from Long Beach’s Mayor and City Council members taking a leadership role in the vision of making the city the most bicycle friendly city in America.

“I see signs that Mayor Villaraigosa and other L.A. Council members are stepping up as well,” says Gant. “Southern California will always have its car culture, but with our great weather and generally flat topography, I have no doubt that we'll see that the bike culture and the car culture can thrive side by side - we just have to build the infrastructure to make it possible.”

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