2010: a year of long beach bike friendliness faux pas

January 3, 2011

For better or for worse, 2010 was a gnarly year for Long Beach’s lofty bike goals. The city began to spend the more than $17 million in grant money it procured in order to become “the most bike friendly city in America,” but not without its follies. After getting praise for its painted green sharrows on 2nd street which were installed last year, the city went to town (pun intended).

Now call me cynical, but it all the new things seem a little ostentatious for a city who is laying off experienced teachers, losing tenants in its historic entertainment district and fighting increased north-district homicide rates. The foundational elements of a bike-friendly city should be simple–bike lanes and bike racks. The lanes that were painted on 1st and 2nd street between Alamitos and Cherry are an awesome example of this simplicity and an upside-down U plunged into some concrete will do for a rack.

So why is the city blowing money on oversized (and presumeably overpriced) newfangled installations that cyclists don’t need? Below are a few of the things I’ve noticed when riding around town and why I think they are a waste–or at the least a misguided use–of these bike-friendly funds.

BIKE BOXES

As seen preventing car-cyclist accidents in Portland and New York City, segregated bike boxes have now made their latest Long Beach appearance on the corner of Second Street and Marina Drive, behind the always-vacant Marina Pacifica Hotel. According to the city, the purpose of the boxes is to “avoid crashes between right-turning cyclists and motorists going straight” which would be all well and good if the intersection in question didn’t already have a dedicated right turn lane (concrete island is just out of view in this picture). Instead of stoplights that already protect cyclists, the city needs more bike boxes at intersections like Bay Shore and Second Street (installed last year as a complement to the sharrows), where motorists treat red lights like a non-existent stop sign.

BIKE CORRAL #2


The city’s first bike corral was a success. Placed in a head-in parking spot in front of LBFG bike shop in the East Village last year, the bus-shaped metal cage provided much-needed bike parking for a cycle-centric area. Bike corral number 2, however, missed that functionality mark. The city and newspapers’ pictures of the new bike corral on Pine Ave. look down the street with the same bus-shaped rack in the foreground. Not one (other than the one I took, above) shows the new corral in its other , sidewalk-oriented context. Perhaps this is because showing bike parking installed directly in front of one of the street’s abandoned buildings would make people think twice about the need for bike parking in that area. Or maybe it would raise the question why the money used to install the unnecessary corral wasn’t being used to start work on the building’s renovation which a window wrap on the ground level has advertised for more than a year (EDIT: I am aware that the two things are not funded from the same source, but I am making a rhetorical statement here as to where money is being put). Is the city afraid to remove a parking spot in places where it’s actually needed like 4th Street’s Retro Row or Belmont Shore’s 2nd Street?

CRITICAL MASS IMPOUNDINGS

For shame, LBPD, for shame. While City Hall is trying everything to tell the world that we are the most bike-friendly city in the country, you are in your offices next door plotting unnecessary sting operations from information given to you by permit-seeking ride organizers. The specifics of the entire melodrama can be read through an interview here, but the end result is that about eight vehicles from the police department stopped a cycling-awareness ride for no reason other than to impounded bikes and write bullshit citations to out-of-town riders who had not registered their bikes in Long Beach. Instead of granting LB Critical Mass organizers a police escort as requested, the department ignored their contact attempts and used their outreach as an opportunity to make an example out of the riders involved. “The laws must be followed,” the department said, yet no moving violation tickets were issues. So, which is it? Are you going to help cyclists do their thing or waste time and money making excuses to penalize us?

VISTA BIKE BOULEVARD

This past month marks the opening of the city’s latest bike-friendly pilot project: a 1.5 mile stretch of a minimally-used side street converted into a stop-sign-free “bike boulevard.” The installation of roundabouts instead of stop signs is a great idea for creating a fluid transitway for cyclists on Vista Boulevard, but unfortunately, cyclists who actually have somewhere to go will never use Vista Boulevard. Probably chosen for its proximity to Long Beach Bike Ambassador Tony Cruz’ personal residence instead of any other practical reason (like accessibility to any number of the city’s destination points), the street connects upscale residential neighborhoods and little else. Furthermore, in their haste to build the bike boulevard, the city failed to confirm Long Beach Transit’s claim that their buses could traverse the tiny roundabouts (they can’t) and LBT’s Termino route now has an extra mile tacked on so it can avoid the new bike boulevard. No word yet on whether the extra gas used for this route change entirely negates the amount saved by the reformed street itself.

DEDICATED BIKE LANES WITH BIKE SIGNALS (in progress)

My problem with segregated bike lanes is the same problem I have with bike signals and now they are combined into one pointless pilot project the city is implementing on two one-way streets Downtown. Bike signals and segregated bike lanes create a perception of bikes as “other” than cars, as vehicles needing special treatment like a concrete barrier to separate them from harm’s way and a stoplight that displays the exact same thing as the regular stoplight. I understand the intention of making drivers more aware of cyclists, but tearing up Broadway and 3rd Street to install planters between the bike lane and the parked cars only pushes bikes further off the road. Bikes should be perceived as moving vehicles on the road, as part of the general traffic flow with access to all lanes and regular traffic signals. These streets only need some paint for a bike lane to make it accessible. Seriously, bike signals? Are we fucking babies? How lame is that?

P.S. What about North Long Beach? Remember that whole other part of the city already alienated from downtown and the Eastside by both distance and socio-economic status? They need bike lanes to get down here for work and, no, the Blue Line doesn’t count.

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3 Responses to “2010: a year of long beach bike friendliness faux pas”

  1. julia rittner said

    “why the money used to install the unnecessary corral wasn’t being used to start work on the building’s renovation which a window wrap on the ground level has advertised for more than a year. ”

    And with this question, you reveal yourself to be a lazy blogger.

    Bike rack: Paid for by city with funds dedicated to bike-related uses.
    Building renovation: paid for by private owner of building, whenever he or she feels like it.

    Kind of obvious, dontcha think? Apples and oranges.

    As to that location being inappropriate for a bike corral since it’s in front of an empty building:

    1. There are about a dozen open businesses within 100 feet of the corral.
    2. The location was agreed to by the businesses on the block
    3. The building won’t always be empty

    again, pretty obvious.

    But maybe you just like to complain?

  2. julia rittner said

    “Furthermore, in their haste to build the bike boulevard, the city failed to check in with the transit department to test if their buses could traverse the tiny roundabouts ”

    More laziness.

    Actually, the city did its due dilligence, and LB transit incorrectly gave assurance the measurements were fine. LB Transit, not the city.

    Do you even bother researching your articles before laucnhing into critiques of peoples’ professional work, or do you just regurgitate what your friends say over beers?

    • fakebadtaste said

      I’m sorry that my complaints hit a sore spot for you and your professional work, Julia, but despite the frankly petty excuses you have made on behalf of the city, I stand by my opinions and my research. None of the sources I scoured mentioned anything about LBT assuring the city of measurements, but I thank you for the information and have made edits accordingly.

      What scares me more than your inability to look past my rhetorical devices to see the larger point of the post (that there are easier, cheaper and more logical ways to make this city bike-friendly), however, is that you are a city employee who actually has a say in these matters.

      Instead of wasting my tax dollars by trash talking personal blogs from your cubicle in City Hall, you should probably be taking my words as constructive criticism so that you can make more efficient decisions in the future. Save your anger and hostility for the ones who really deserve it and get back to work!

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