Stretching from the northern tip of the 9th District where Long Beach meets Paramount all the way southward to the current court house downtown, the project to build a bike boulevard catering to the more marginalized and less affluent neighborhoods of Long Beach was key to the city’s proposed ideal of becoming the “nation’s most bike friendly city.” At the time, City Manager Pat West knew that a city-wide program catering to biking could easily be created via grants: they would be easy to write given the mantra’s wide applicability.
Sumi Gant, often referred to as the Transportation rain-maker, wrote one of these early grants in 2007 which proposed to two bike boulevards, one of those being the current in-design north-south bike boulevard. The other proposed path, starting at 14th near George Washington Middle School at Pacific Avenue, it would make its way north to 15th and stretch east to the traffic circle, catering to the 1st, 6th, and 4th Districts; it is well on its way. Each of these proposals were written under application for Caltrans’s Safe Routes to School, a program intended to encourage walkable/bikable routes to school to curb childhood overweight and obesity issues.
The bonus? There are state safe route programs (SR2S) and federal safe routes program (SRTS) administered by Caltrans—each of which match each other. Typically with federal grants, the city must match the grant; however, in this case, the federal grant was matched with a state grant, relieving the city of any construction costs for the project.
Clearly, 2007 was not yesterday. In order to, in the words of Bicycle Coordinator Allan Crawford, “kick-start Long Beach’s bike boulevards,” the city demonstrated the possibilities of such paths by projects in other parts of the city including the 2nd Street Sharrows, the Vista Street Bike Boulevard, and the separated bike lanes in downtown via Proposition C money. Crawford insists completing these projects first was not about further marginalizing the much-ignored north and western communities of Long Beach. And now, the momentum can be built upon through their grant monies.
“It was an easy sell to say, ‘Let’s do things on 2nd Street and Vista’ and attract attention to the city and get us a lot of momentum,” explained Crawford. “And it was always the intent to start there but quickly move north and west. We knew those were the under-served parts of the city, we knew those were the areas we wanted to get to—but we knew we needed the momentum to get us there.”
These community meetings foster that ideal and, while the city knows what worked and didn’t work with regards to the aforementioned projects, it is understood that no one understands a community better than the community members themselves. And thus far, significant changes have occurred out of these meetings: shifting the route by a block here and there, adding a roundabout—these are parts of the community involvement.
The next three meetings are:
– November 19 at 7:30PM in Veterans Park located at 101 E 28th Street.
– November 20 at 7:00PM in Drake Park, located at 951 North Park Circle.
– November 21 at 6:00PM in the Rescue Mission, located at 1335 Pacific Avenue.