As unlikely as it may seem, the City of Long Beach has taken significant steps this week to making the above rendering a reality – or at least having it redone by a much more expensive design team. Last week, the Long Beach City Council succeeded in convincing the port to commit to building a bike/pedestrian pathway on its proposed replacement for the Gerald Desmond Bridge.
Initially, the news looked bad. The Port’s Final EIR released in July had no plans for a bike or pedestrian pathway, despite the fact that the existing bridge does. This EIR was appealed and put before a council vote last Tuesday, with many members of Long Beach’s cycling community in attendance. And though the council voted to keep the EIR as is, they insisted the port include a bike/pedestrian lane during the upcoming design phase.
Robert Garcia , Councilmember from Long Beach’s first district and a staunch advocate for the bike lane, had this to say the following day:
The Port has agreed to include a dedicated bike and pedestrian lane into the design plan that will go out to bid. This is a huge win for those of us who support increased bike and pedestrian mobility.
Daniel Brezenoff, Garcia’s legislative director, elaborates on what the Port has agreed to do.
“The port gave a commitment to include bike lanes in the design phase when it begins and to incorporate them into the bridge if costs allow,” he notes. While the design of the bridge will be conducted by the port, Brezenoff feels that “the Council will be monitoring the process and I think will be pushing to simply find a way to include bike and pedestrian lanes one way or another.”
During the design process, the public will be allowed to give their input to the port. The city council will also have a measure of control over the bridge in that it controls the bridge’s funding. While the council is unlikely to completely defund the bridge at any point, its funding power could give it leverage toward getting the bike/pedestrian lane built, as long as the council maintains its support for the lane.
While these developments seem generally positive, the Grunion Gazette’s Harry Saltzgaver offered a more subdued take:
Robert Kanter, the port’s director of environmental affairs, offered a compromise for the bicycling community, saying the port would request potential designers to offer a bike lane alternative on the bridge, but noted that there are no bike trail connections on either side of the bridge.
It should be noted that, depending on where the bridge is considered to end, that last statement is not entirely true. The LA River bike path runs under the east side of the Ocean Blvd. approach to the bridge, and the under construction bike lanes on Broadway and Third will terminate two blocks north of that area. However, it’s important to remember that nothing is certain until the bridge is built. Nevertheless, Brezenoff remains optimistic, noting that the port has made a “serious commitment” to the bike/pedestrian lane. He also highlights Garcia’s efforts to improve the aesthetics of the bridge, including adding bridge lights, as an attempt to make the bridge an “iconic” structure.
For those who have pushed for the port to build a bicycle and pedestrian lane – in keeping with its claim to be a “green port”- this is a truly encouraging sign. But in order for the lane to be built, the cycling community must remain active. Now would be a good time to thank the port for its commitment, and remind them to stick to it. The Port of Long Beach can be contacted here.