Why, oh, Why Doesn’t Long Beach Have a Ciclovía?

April Economides (left), manager of the upcoming Bike Nation Bike Share program in Long Beach, and 2nd District Councilmember Suja Lowenthal (right) at CicLAvia this past weekend. Photo: Pete Marchica

Following the success of this past weekend’s CicLAvia, with some 100,000 bikers, skaters, and walkers invading the streets of Los Angeles, the only question down south became: why, oh, why doesn’t Long Beach have a ciclovía?

The answer was astoundingly succinct – and not much surprising: it wasn’t a matter of discussion, which has been going on for years, but one of money.

“Together with a local organizing committee, we have been in talks with the producers of CicLAvia, regarding a similar event in Long Beach,” said bike advocate and 2nd District Councilmember Suja Lowenthal before attending CicLAvia. “It’s an expensive endeavor, one whose bill the city cannot foot on just it’s own.”

When the city wrote and received its grant for its Shared Streets Campaign in 2008, it was contemplated that some of those monies could be used for a ciclovía-type event.

In fact, organizers from CicLAvia came down to Long Beach, looking at possible routes that could fit the length and came up with a possible 3-mile stretch – about a third of this past weekend’s CicLAvia – running from downtown up towards Martin Luther King Park.

After meetings with the Office of Special Events and Filming (the bureau of the City Manager Department which oversees every major event in the city from the Grand Prix to the Marathon) and the LBPD, taking on the costs of such an event became glaringly clear according to Allan Crawford, the Bicycle Coordinator for the city.

In a nutshell, there seemed to be a question of ethics: to sacrifice some of the city’s initiatives which focused on permanent biking and pedestrian safety/accessibility – take, for example, the partnering of Bike Long Beach with transit authorities to create better ways to share streets – in exchange for an annual event seemed antithetical to creating a bike friendly city.

“We kicked around the idea of a chain-of-pearls type event which significantly reduces costs,” Crawford said, where instead of closing off entire segments of streets, one closes individual segments. “But that kinda defeats the purpose of what you’re trying to do. And it’s street closure, it’s the police workforce – that’s the money. It is just simply hard to guarantee safety, make sure it makes sense for the biking community, and do it all without a large chunk of change.”

Given the monetary constraints, the city has opted to make the progression of the proposed project more collaborative by pairing with Bikeable Communities, one of Long Beach’s local nonprofit advocacy groups. Together, they hope to not only gain the capital needed to take on such an endeavor, but the proper planning policies to make sure the event is safe and accessible.

“A number of our business associations, including the Downtown Long Beach Association, are supportive. Our councilmembers are supportive. Our police are supportive,” Crawford continued. “But since it comes down to the money, we have talked about doing something in conjunction with Bike Fest” – the city’s largest biking event with multiple rides, tours, informational gatherings, events, and, of course, craft beer – “on the Sunday following the festival.”

It seems that, under this vein, they are similarly following L.A.’s model: have the city initially foot the bill for the ciclovía and eventually gain sponsorship (Bike Fest is sponsored by Wells Fargo).

Let’s hope they can make it happen.

  • marcotico

    This is why I think Ciclavia needs to keep repeating the same route and grow organically.  The route should eventually have permanent infrastructure like holes of bollards, or moveable gates, that everyone knows will be shut one Sunday a month (eventually every Sunday…one can dream).  A permanent reminder to drivers that on a regular basis these streets become a park. 

  • Tony Cruz makes a brilliant point to further contextualize the monetary issues at hand: the Bike Fest Tour costs somewhere in the range of $120 to $140 grand without road closures minus the first mile.

    “In my opinion,” he told me via email, “the reason CicLAvia has had so much success is because of it’s location combined with the number of LA landmarks along the route. The landmarks add a lot of cache to CicLAvia. For instance riders that are part of my Cruz Cycling Club spend time during our club meetings planning out their stops at the differnet landmarks and what to check weeks in advance.  

    “Do you think Long Beach can compete with the number of participants compared to the LA ciclovía given the number of landmarks Long Beach has? And when I say compete, I’d be totally ecstatic with 15-20k riders attending the first one. What do you think of a route along Ocean and the beach bike trail that connects the downtown and second street for the first LB ciclovía?”

    I think that route would be monetarily sound though the point of shutting traffic down via closure of streets gets a bit lost because the beach doesn’t have cars on it. Of course, my personal dream route would be Appian Way til it becomes 4th at Colorado Lagoon, through Retro Row, down Alamitos, across Ocean, down Pine into the Aquarium. Again, I emphasize dream because, frankly put, the cost could be beyond exorbitant and unless we had tens of thousands of people, would look sadly empty.

    So I also thought about a loop — say part of Ocean, part of Pine, part of Shoreline Drive — that people can continuously be kept within without miles of roads being closed (but still keeping major ones fully closed to emphasize the purpose of it).

  • Roadblock

    (April is on the left in the picture.) 

  • We need to ensure a Long Beach CicLBvia reaches out to a diversity of hoods, not only the more affluent beach side ones. L.A. has set an excellent example in this regard. One event could have hubs in Cambodia Town’s MacArthur Park/the Homeland Cultural Center, downtown’s MoLAA, Ocean Blvd.’s LB Museum of Art, Retro Row, and Drake Park/Willmore. Another could involve Wrigley, Bixby Knolls, Cal Heights and, again, Cambodia Town. Between the new financial help Ciclavia organizers are offering and community sponsorships, it seems like we could make one happen in Spring or Fall 2014. Thank you for your article!

  • Jason

    This would of course be cool, but I can’t help but feel that I’d rather the city spent the money on new bike infrastructure and bike traffic education.

    Sure, LA can brag about CicLAvia all they want, but I’d rather be able to bike anywhere I want in my city safely and efficiently.

  • PC

    Bizarre. In all the conversations that I’ve heard or been in with other cyclists since CicLAvia began, nobody has ever said a word about landmarks.

    And yes, putting a ciclovía on a beach path or a place like Shoreline Drive (essentially a freeway with intersections) would indeed defeat the purpose of it. And it just plain sounds unappealing. I doubt that too many who tried it once would come back.