For Long Beach and Los Angeles, What a Difference a Few Years Makes

In 2009, the gap between Long Beach and Los Angeles when it came to transportation planning was non-existent. While great data isn't available for the time since then, Long Beach has made great "leaps towards livability" starting with the famous Green Sharrowed Bike Lane. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/russroca/##Russ Roca Photography/Flickr##

“Los Angeles isn’t Long Beach.”

The previous sentence isn’t just completely obvious, for years it was a common excuse as to why Los Angeles wasn’t embracing bicycle and pedestrian friendly projects as quickly as its neighbor to the south.  A recent report by the Alliance for Walking and Bicycling shows that as recently as 2009, the sustainable transportation gap between the two cities wasn’t so great.  After all, it was the summer of 2009 that Long Beach installed the green sharrowed bike lane in Belmont Shores, kicking off an impressive  run of building progressive bicycle infrastructure and embracing other innovative programs such as the Bicycle Friendly Business Districts.

In 2009, a higher percentage of commuters were “people powered” in Los Angeles and the twenty year growth rate for bicycling was much hire in L.A. than in L.B.  Meanwhile, Long Beach was lost over one quarter of its pedestrians, while L.A.’s pedestrian decline was in the mid single digits.  Anecdotally speaking, Long Beach has probably reversed those numbers in the last two years.

As benchmark reports and other data come in future years, it will be interesting to see what gap, if any, opens between the two cities.  In the meantime, a quick comparison of Long Beach and Los Angeles from the “Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2012 Benchmarking Report.”  Remember, all these numbers are from 2009.

Levels of Biking & Walking

Share of commuters who bike to work (pg. 45)

 National average: 0.5%

Average among cities: 0.9%

  1. Long Beach: 1.0%
  2. Los Angeles: 0.9%

Share of commuters who walk to work (pg. 46-47)

National average: 2.9%

Average among cities: 4.9%

  1. Los Angeles: 3.5%
  2. Long Beach: 3.0%

Growth/decline in bicycle commuters ‘90-’09 (pg. 205-206)
(should compare to population growth/decline)

National average: 64%

Average among cities: 116%

  1. Los Angeles: 81%
  2. Long Beach: 13%

Growth/decline in pedestrian commuters ‘90-’09 (pg. 207-208)
(should compare to population growth/decline)

National average: -12%

Average among cities: 3%

  1. Los Angeles: -6%
  2. Long Beach: -26%

Percent of traffic fatalities that are bicyclists (page 57 & 59)

 National average: 1.8%

Average among cities: 3.1%

  1. Long Beach: 4.1%
  2. Los Angeles: 2.4%

Percent of traffic fatalities that are pedestrians (page 56 & 62)

National average: 11.7%

Average among cities: 26.9%

  1. Los Angeles: 31.9%
  2. Long Beach: 30.9%

Bicyclist fatality rate (fatalities/10K bicyclists) (page 57 & 59)

National average: 4.2

Average among cities: 2.4

  1. Long Beach: 2.8
  2. Los Angeles: 1.9

Pedestrian fatality rate (fatalities/10K pedestrians) (page 56 & 62)

National average: 5.0

Average among cities: 4.0

  1. Long Beach: 7.2
  2. Los Angeles: 6.4

Percent of federal transportation dollars to biking and walking (page 86-87)

National average: 1.6%

Average among cities: 1.6%

  1. Long Beach: 0.9%
  2. Los Angeles: 0.6%

Per capita funding to biking and walking (page 86-87)

 National average: $2.17

Average among cities: $1.80

  1. Long Beach: $1.48
  2. Los Angeles: $0.43

Percent of adults who are obese

National average: 27%

Average among cities: 25%

  1. Los Angeles: 26%
  2. Long Beach: 26%
  • Resident

    Looking at pedestrians, three statistics stand out for both LA and LB:

    1. Both spend much less than average on pedestrians, especially compared to other cities.

    2. Both have pedestrian fatality rates far higher than average, especially compared to other cities.

    3. Both have very low and declining rates of pedestrian commuters compared to other cities.

    While Streetsblog readers won’t be surprised that these statistics are correlated, pointing out specifically how this happens and how the outcomes can be reversed is essential. At a narrative level, both cities have emphasized moving more cars as their top priority, with pedestrians and cyclists formerly as an obstruction, now merely an afterthought. Think about how LA has removed crosswalk markings.

  • Charlie Gandy

    Thanks for this benchmark overview Damien.  Anyone interested in seeing what has happened in Long Beach in the last two years is welcome to join one of our Long Beach by  Bike Tours.  Next one schedule for March 10, 10am, Long Beach City Hall Plaza.

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