City Sights: Bikes in Long Beach

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

Back here, Paleo Retiree contrasted the asshole bicycle culture of the United States versus the more civilized one in Berlin. This got me thinking about the city I work in, which as I mentioned in the comments, has set itself the goal of being The Most Bicycle Friendly City in America. But this is southern California! Our motto might as well be, Give Me A Car or Give Me Death! Trying to graft a European-style bike culture here has as much a chance of success as, say, trying to put a baboon heart in a human, right?

Well, I’m happy to report that after a good month-and-a-half of observing and riding the streets of Long Beach on my own bike, the vibe here is far closer to laid-back and respectful Berlin than the too-pumped-up-American-biker/athletes described in PR’s post.

First, the city has gone out of its way to build a sound infrastructure for bicyclists. Here’s a map.

Many of the streets in the downtown area have dedicated bike lanes that are physically separate from car traffic by a curb.

These lanes even have their own traffic signals.

As nice as it would be, the whole city doesn’t have these dedicated lanes. In most parts, you share the road with cars just like anywhere else.

Some of the signage.

See that “Courtesy Counts” one? Regardless of where you’re riding, I’ve found both the cyclists and drivers to be conscientious and considerate towards one another. Sure, occasionally some cyclist won’t be paying close enough attention or some driver will get frustrated that a cyclist isn’t moving fast enough, but for the most part everyone plays nice. None of the wannabe-Tour-de-France hotdogging that Paleo Retiree was complaining about.

Christopher Alexander writes:

Build a system of paths designated as bike paths, with the following properties: the bike paths are marked clearly with a special, easily recognizable surface (for example, a red asphalt surface). As far as possible they run along local roads, or major pedestrian paths. Where a bike path runs along a local road, its surface may be level with the road — if possible, on the sunny side; where a bike path runs along a pedestrian path, keep it separate from that path and a few inches below it. Bring the system of bike paths to within 100 feet of every building and give every building a bike rack near its main entrance.

There are bike racks all over the city. The racks, which have a Pop Art whimsy, are usually thematically related to whatever business they’re in front of, e.g. coffee cups in front of cafes, the carrot in front of the community garden, and the guitar in front of a music shop.

Being that the city has its share of hipsters, a few of the racks were yarn-bombed recently.

Bike shops are plentiful.

A couple weeks ago, the rear wheel on my bike became misaligned and was rubbing against the frame. I took it into City Grounds, the place in lower-center, and the dude didn’t charge me to fix it. At the place in the lower-left, when my reflector broke they gave me one for free. Nice!

Here’s my sweet, sweet ride.

Notice how many have baskets, bags, and racks attached. These are practical tools meant for getting around the city. Lots of beach cruisers and touring bikes as opposed to racing ones.

Here are some people I snapped.

This guy was delivering sandwiches.

Maybe take the dogs for a run? Well, one of them anyway.

We never get off our phones, no matter what.

Damn, she’s cute, though. Let’s take another look. (I need to get a camera with a better pervert mode zoom.)

I like this next photo which was taken near the transit corridor. You got the train platform, cars, cyclist, and the pedestrian in the background. A healthy urban environment gives citizens multiple options to get around.

(Let’s not talk about the terrible bank building in the background right now, OK? It deserves its own post.)

As I’ve hopefully shown, the city’s commitment to bicycles has been strong and the local citizens have responded. On weekends especially, I see whole families — mom, dad, and the kids — all out on their bikes leisurely going up and down the streets. Even the civic art has been affected.

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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6 Responses to City Sights: Bikes in Long Beach

  1. The only problem with biking in Long Beach would seem to be having to breathe the air. I used to live there and commute to LA, and I could smell the city limits–an unmistakable petroleum reek–when I drove home. Perhaps it’s better now.


    • Blowhard, Esq. says:

      I’ve been working there for a year and I haven’t once noticed any petroleum smell. And I’d be the first to complain about that — I’m a primadonna about that sort of thing.


  2. Sir Barken Hyena says:

    How nice, but that bank building really is terrible, hehe.

    In central Phoenix they’ve done a not terrible job of making it bike friendly. It’s a plain grid with main streets every mile, which are suicidal for a cyclist. But every half mile are minor 2 lane arterial streets that used to have 4 lanes; the extra space has been turned over for bike lanes. So the traffic isn’t crazy, the speed limits are lower, 35 I think, and it feels safe to ride there. That and the canals which cut through make it fairly bike friendly. But during the summer, hey forget it!

    Whenever I’m in SoCal it’s apparent that the drivers are pretty friendly. Nothing like the gawdawful North East.


  3. Pingback: Long Beach Bike Festival | Uncouth Reflections

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