Long Beach constructs first-ever separated bikeways

Sketch of the planned bike path going down 3rd Street at Long Beach Blvd.
Sketch of the planned bike path going down 3rd Street at Long Beach Blvd.
Courtesy BikeLongBeach.org

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The city of Long Beach plans to start work today on its first separated bike pathways in the city's downtown.

Transit experts have noted that many would-be cycle commuters have passed on the bicycle because they're worried about unwanted interactions with cars. Sumi Gant, Long Beach's transportation programs officer, hopes the bike pathways – separated from auto traffic by pylons, planters and paint – will help address those concerns.

"Seventy-nine percent of the people that work downtown drive alone to work," Gant said. "We think that if we install these separated bikeways, that more people will consider riding a bike to work sometimes."

The pathways will cover two streets for about a mile each in the city's downtown. They're the first of their kind in Southern California.

For people like the L.A. County Bike Coalition's Alexis Lantz, lanes like these are a much-needed addition to the landscape. "Protected bike lanes are something New York has done and other cities in North America are doing, but it's something that Europe has been doing for a long time," she said. "The more bicycle structure we have, the more inviting we can make our street space for everybody."

The bike path groundbreaking, planned for months, follows recent spats between cycling activists and Long Beach police. The City Council's also pushed to repeal Long Beach's bicycle license requirement. City officials say construction on the pathway should wrap up by mid-March.