When Long Beach installed roundabouts and traffic circles as part of a “bike boulevard” along Vista Street in Belmont Heights, the plan was to not only beautify the street but to also create a safer passage for bicyclists and pedestrians by forcing drivers to slow down.
The curbed islands decorated with foliage, however, caused some concerns when school buses and emergency vehicles encountered difficulties in driving around the circular medians.
The City has since modified the infrastructure, but city officials are now receiving pushback from some residents, who are opposed to the structures being proposed in other parts of the city, particularly due to the potential loss of residential parking and concerns about roundabouts being placed along a longtime Christmas parade route.
In light of recent objections, Long Beach Traffic Engineer David Roseman has sent out a letter to residents indicating that he would work with designers and the community to “minimize loss of parking.” He said the City’s main concern, however, is “safety for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, roundabouts are intersections in which entering vehicles must yield to traffic already in the circle. In the case of traffic circles, incoming traffic is controlled by stop signs or traffic signals, or is not controlled at all. In Long Beach, the first roundabout, commonly but mistakenly referred to as “The Traffic Circle,” connects Pacific Coast Highway, Los Coyotes Diagonal and Lakewood Boulevard.
The most recently proposed roundabouts and traffic circles are part of several federally and state-funded projects to develop a newly integrated bike-infrastructure system that would include new bike boulevards, “sharrow” lanes (similar to those on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore) and other street alterations, stretching from downtown to the city’s northern edge.
As part of the City’s bike-friendly efforts, plans include installing one roundabout (at Pacific Avenue, 36th Street and Country Club Drive) and one traffic circle (at Pacific Avenue and Bixby Road) in the Los Cerritos neighborhood and a 9.4-mile route with nine roundabouts and 11 traffic circles on Daisy Avenue and Myrtle Avenue from Broadway to 70th Street, in addition to similar proposals for 6th Street and 15th Street.
More than 60 percent of people who took a survey at a community meeting in January about the Pacific Avenue Bike Corridor Project said they approved of the roundabouts and traffic circles. According to city officials, more than 3,400 public notices were sent out about the meeting and 122 survey forms were received.
Some residents in the Los Cerritos area, however, continue to express opposition.
The main hurdle has been the loss of residential parking. According to Steve Tweed, Long Beach transportation planner, each roundabout, which costs about $75,000 to install, generally requires the elimination of 30 feet of parking on four legs of an intersection, equivalent to the loss of about 16 parking spaces per roundabout. Though traffic circles are smaller than roundabouts– costing $45,000 less to install– they too require the loss of parking, he said. Among those raising objections is Los Cerritos resident John Deats, who lives at Pacific Avenue, 36th Street and Country Club Drive. The longtime resident said in a previous article in the Signal Tribune that a proposed roundabout at the intersection would remove about 150 feet of parking from the front of his home.
“I question [whether] it is worth the detriment of the quality of people’s lives, having parking stripped away from them,” he said.
Seventh District Long Beach City Councilmember James Johnson, however, said it was nearby residents who insisted that the roundabouts be added to the project to make the streets safer since the original proposal involved only adding bike lanes.
“The idea of roundabouts, from the community, was they felt it would help slow traffic from Pacific Avenue and decrease through traffic,” he said.
Johnson added that roundabouts and traffic circles would not only provide children with a safer street to ride bikes to nearby schools but would also encourage healthy activity and free up traffic on the road for drivers.
“We’re trying to improve mobility,” he said “The more people ride bikes, the more it increases quality of life for those residents… One of the largest groups of users of bikes is kids going to elementary school… We need to make sure they’re safe. And, the more people exercise, the more it’s good for health. It’s also good for traffic relief, because the more people get on bikes, the fewer cars we have. And those people who do need to drive of course will have less traffic.”
Tweed added that, at this point, the amount of roundabouts and traffic circles being proposed is still “negotiable,” adding that residents still have time to provide input as the City is currently in the design phase and plans to come back to the community with final designs for the Pacific Avenue and Daisy Avenue projects this fall. He said construction of both projects wouldn’t begin until sometime next year.
“We’re still going round and round with [residents],” Tweed said. “… We’re pretty confident this will come forward, but there may be some changes to the initial concepts.”
City officials have also assured residents that the roundabouts and traffic circles proposed on Daisy Avenue would not impact the annual Daisy Avenue Christmas Tree Lane Parade, which has been a staple in the Wrigley neighborhood since 1953. Still, some residents said they have concerns.
“I’m against it if it’s going to interfere with the parade,” said Maria Norvell, president of the Wrigley Area Neighborhood Alliance, Inc., which has organized the parade for decades. “I don’t want a lot of change. It’s the only parade that goes into the neighborhood.”
According to the latest conceptual designs by KOA Corporation, plans call for installing two roundabouts along the parade route, with one at Burnett Street and another at 28th Street along Daisy Avenue.
Tweed, however, said he has already put up cones during a pervious parade to indicate that the roundabouts wouldn’t impact the annual procession, adding that residents have already vetted the projects through a dozen community meetings.
“I’ve been to enough Wrigley meetings to know this should and will not impede the parade,” he said.
Johnson agreed that there would be no impact to the parade route. “You can take that to the bank,” he added.