Even with cars whizzing close by, local residents are now able to ride their scooters and bikes up a major overpass and near freeways to traverse between Compton and north Long Beach on a dedicated bike path.
Some wearing backpacks as the new school semester begins, cyclists may now take advantage of Long Beach’s newest bike lane that stretches along Artesia Boulevard from Atlantic Avenue near Jordan High School to El Camino College in Compton. The bike lane provides a safe passage, according to city officials, for cyclists crossing the busy thoroughfare that extends over the Los Angeles River and the 710 Freeway and underneath the 91 Gardena Freeway.
Long Beach Traffic Engineer David Roseman said in a phone interview that the new bike lane is “coordinated all the way from Jordan High School, over the river and on the other side of the river, to make a connection to the community college.” He said the project, which cost about $200,000 in grant funding, involved moving car lanes around to create a traditional bike lane without having to widen the street.
Providing more “connectivity” to adjacent cities is just one of the goals of Long Beach’s General Plan Mobility Element that was updated in July. With hopes of creating a healthier environment and alleviating traffic congestion, the City plans to make major investments in mobility infrastructure in the next few years, whether it’s for public transportation, pedestrians, bicyclists or motorists.
The new Artesia Boulevard bike lane is part of Long Beach’s efforts to create an interconnected bicycle-circulation system throughout the city. After establishing the City’s own Bicycle Master Plan in 2001, Long Beach has received millions of dollars in federal and state grants to build new bike infrastructures.
Aside from new bike lanes, the City has led the way in bicycle-friendliness efforts, starting with its green “sharrows” on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore that are designed to enable bicyclists to share the road with drivers, way-finding signage and a “bike boulevard” on Vista Street seen as a traffic-calming feature. Such projects are now being implemented citywide.
Two major projects on the horizon involve extensive bike corridors along Pacific Avenue and Daisy Avenue. These projects are mostly funded with state and federal grants through the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro).
The $1-million Pacific Avenue project calls for adding sharrows along Pacific Avenue from Ocean Boulevard to Pacific Coast Highway. The bike route would then continue on Pacific Avenue with a Class II bike lane up to Spring Street, winding through neighborhoods in the Bixby Knolls area, including San Antonio Drive.
Roseman said the City expects to request bids for the project in March 2014. The City Council would then be expected to approve the project in June or July, and construction would be completed by the end of next year. Consultants are in the middle of the design phase, and the project still requires approval from Caltrans, he said.
Bike enthusiasts have lobbied for the project, saying the route would create a safer passage for cyclists of all ages. Some neighbors, however, have voiced concerns about the loss of parking, a new traffic signal proposed at Wardlow Road and Pacific Avenue, and the addition of “roundabouts” at intersections in Los Cerritos and Virginia Country Club neighborhoods.
Despite mixed views, Roseman said the plans for Pacific Avenue are moving forward after a survey showed that a majority of residents support the project. “For us, the matter is concluded,” he said. “And we’re moving forward with the design. We think the survey results speak for themselves.”
The Signal Tribune reported in its March 22 issue that the survey was conducted at a community meeting in the Arts Expo Center in Bixby Knolls. Results showed that 122 survey forms were returned. Overall, 69 percent of the respondents agreed the “proposed infrastructure changes represented an overall enhancement to their neighborhood.” On a scale from 1 to 10, the average answer was an 8 when respondents were asked whether they favored the project.
Still, some nearby residents are convinced that the survey’s results were not a true reflection of the community’s wishes, adding that city officials are pushing the project forward without reaching a full consensus.
Richard Gutmann, a 50-year resident of Wrigley Heights, requested public records, including emails and letters of public-works officials and consultants. He said the documents show that city officials are aware that residents don’t want the proposed roundabout at Pacific Avenue, 36th Street and Country Club Drive and the traffic circle at Pacific Avenue and Bixby Road.
The Los Cerritos Neighborhood Association conducted its own survey earlier this year, fielding 115 residents in the community and concluding that 64 percent were against the roundabout and 76 percent objected to the traffic circle.
Gutmann said the City’s survey results weren’t “representative of the neighborhood,” adding that residents are also against the traffic signal, which he said would create “cut-through traffic” in the Los Cerritos neighborhood.
Still, Roseman said the project has already been vetted through numerous community meetings, and construction is slated to start next year.
As for the Daisy Avenue project, the City plans to install a nine-mile-long bike boulevard that would extend from the new courthouse downtown on 3rd Street to the northern boundary of Long Beach. The boulevard would start on Daisy Avenue at the south end, cut over to Pacific Avenue and then Atlantic Avenue in the Bixby Knolls area and end up on Myrtle Avenue in north Long Beach.
Roseman said city staff is recommending approval for another bike-boulevard project on Delta Avenue in west Long Beach. He said LA Metro’s board should vote on funding for that project later this month.
“These grant-funded projects take a little bit of time to develop,” Roseman said. “We should have quite a bit of stuff in construction in about a year.”