Long Beach: Belmont Heights Medians Are Complete with Slower Traffic and More Pedestrians

Trees being installed last July. Photo courtesy of BHCA.

First there were fire hydrants and now there are trees and plants–simple yet beautiful trees and plants.

Call me overly obsessed about the simple things (this is easily the fourth or fifth piece in which I’ve discussed Long Beachers doing seemingly small things that have large impacts) and I could very well respond that you’re right. But that’s not necessarily a pejorative thing, on any urban landscape level.

Take the Belmont Heights Community Association (BHCA), led by its President Dianne Sundstrom and a few Belmont Heights folks, including my favorite Long Beach historian of all time, Maureen Neeley of HouStories.

They saw Broadway–a street with which many have gripes, of which I am included in continually speaking out–and noticed issues that make it the opposite of a Complete Street: speeding traffic, people either can’t cross or are too afraid to do so, and it overall lacks a sense of safety (particularly important given the large amount of families and schools that make Belmont Heights one of the most desirable neighborhoods to live in).

Though, as Sundstrom put it, “Fundraising is a difficult and lengthy process,” they still kept up a battle to safety-guard Broadway for almost a decade and the results have finally come in after they planted 6,000 plants this past weekend (that’s not a typo: six-thousand plants).

The beautification project, spanning Broadway between Park and Nieto, was initiated almost 10 years ago by residents.

“The primary goal was to slow traffic in order to create a safer area for pedestrians, including students at Lowell and parishioners at St. Bartholomew’s Church,” Sundstrom said. “A secondary goal was greening and beautifying the area.”

A final arrangement of plants complete the medians. Photo courtesy of BHCA.

Meeting with Studio One Eleven architect Michael Bohn and LBFD Chief Mike Duree, years of plans finally began to materialize to create large medians and clearly marked crosswalks. With businesses and donations largely accounting for the greenery and private fundraising–with the help of Councilmember Gary DeLong–in order to install the $10,400 irrigation system, the BHCA was well on its way to completion.

And though they are indeed large and though they make U-turns a tad more tedious to make, the medians are now complete with trees planted last July and the low-lying plants this past Saturday.

The result: a beautiful, green dividing strip that has residents already noting the slower passing by of traffic and the comfort of more pedestrians.

“We’re very happy to finally complete a project that has improved pedestrian safety and will ultimately beautify the neighborhood,” Sundstrom said.

And so are we. Keep up the amazing work that is the simple art of beautification.

  • If you want to make sure cyclists are never allowed into your neighborhood, follow the lead of this very smart socal community — raised center medians, baby — best friends to the automotive industry, one of the worst enemies of would-be cyclists.

  • Peter, Broadway’s traffic is far too heavy and fast for any cyclists, hence why the bike path is located on Vista one street north of Broadway. Traffic engineers and bike folks (Charlie Gandy, Tony Cruz, Allan Crawford…) wanted a bike path on Broadway but it’s just not safe on any level.

  • John P

    I have to disagree there, this part of Broadway wasn’t too bad to ride on before the medians were installed, as it was wide enough to ride without worrying about the vehicle traffic. Now, it’s far scarier to ride, as the lane is so narrow.

    I do agree with you about other sections of Broadway, traffic is too heavy up the hill to just install bike lanes (to install a bike lane there, you’d have to remove a traffic lane, which doesn’t seem plausible in that area).

  • Well Vista isn’t a separated bike lane–it’s a bike path sharrow. I unfortunately believe that a sharrow would be the only option possible on Broadway due to immense gripes about parking, which is already limited especially as you head west.

    And though I humbly disagree with you about the portion of Broadway you mention being ‘scarier’ now (I’ve never seen more people comfortably walking nor traffic going slower than it currently does), I suppose I can see a point. But there is going to be a time where we have to realize that a separate bike path is not always possible and is, in fact, costly and difficult to implement on a city-wide scale–leaving us to create tricks to slow down cars as well as get riders more comfortable riding with traffic (e.g. on 4th in Bluff Heights) is key.

    For me, if cutting down on space slows traffic and forces riders to ride with vehicles (as they should be doing in the first place), I am much more comfortable with that than speeding traffic with more space that prevents pedestrians and novice riders from engaging with the space at all.

  • Of course many of the residents there now can’t drive their oversized SUVs safely down this street … !

  • It’s more than cyclists: There are wider one-way alleyways in Long Beach than the narrow strips of street these medians have left for vehicles.

  • stealing some rhyme from Chomsky:

    the entire point of protected bike lanes is to allow people to bike on precisely those roads whose auto traffic is “far too heavy and fast”.

    i see this “too heavy and fast” excuse constantly, and part of the reason for that is because advocates are doing it wrong. every single street/road/path/tunnel/bridge needs to be bike-accessible, especialy those with “too heavy and fast” motor traffic.

    the “one block over” strategy is dying a slow death, but it needs to die an immediate death.

    the “one block over” strategy would have been like arguing, during the Civil Rights era, that black people should only have access to some streets. it’d be automatically seen as an unfair/unequal (and losing) strategy.

    at least equal access to all roads, all the time, right now.

    but i want a bicycle-based transportation system.

    if folks just want some token changes to the streetscape, and maybe a 5% bicycle mode share, then the “one block over” strategy is the correct strategy.

  • all vehicular cyclists should have to state that religion as a preamble to their comment.

    cost-wise, maintaining automobility locally and on a city-wide scale is far costlier — direct and indirect — than allowing people to bike by installing protected bike lanes.

  • A bit hyperbolic to be comparing accessibility on racial levels to accessibility on a bike. It’s almost a non-sequitur.

    Protected bike lanes are actually meant to encourage those who typically DON’T ride bikes… to ride bikes. The experienced bicyclist doesn’t need a protected lane just like a car doesn’t need an absurdly wide lane. Is it nice? Of course. Is it necessary? Arguable.

    The blunt reality is that SoCal built its infrastructure around cars and we have fostered a culture that is intensely focused on cars. I am not saying that we cater entirely to car folks nor am I saying we go utopic and ban cars–we need to have them work together. That is the efficient answer; not an extremist perspective. You have to ease a population raised on cars into bikes and for now, that means sharing the road so they know what bicyclists look like, how they behave, and how they as drivers should behave.

    Also, Broadway does have a protected lane downtown and, just as all the other protected lanes, ends at Alamitos and diverts you to either 3rd or 4th St.

  • i beileve your use of the word ‘hyperbolic’ is not proper. i know what you mean, tho – i just disagree. my guess is a search of the literature would show that myriad people called MLK’s speeches ‘hyperbolic’. “what’s the big deal? — there are other lunch counters, other bathrooms, other seats on the bus, etc.”

    protected bike lanes are only necessary if we want to allow everyone to bike.

    socal built and rebuilt its infrastructure around walking and horses, then bikes, then cars. now we’ll build it around bikes again — if we’re smart.

    i think the ‘you have to ease people into allowing them the ability to bike’ argument is not credible — just no evidence to suggest that people can’t or won’t adjust very quickly to a new reality. the most direct example i can think of — the bike boom in the 70s due to the oil embargo — people took to biking like fish to water. there’s no evidence to suggest there is such a thing as a ‘bike backlash’ — ‘bikelash’ — but there has always been an undercurrent of ‘car backlash’ — it ebbs and flows but it’s always there. people _hate_ cars.

    suddenly giving people the option to bike to their destinations is not going to shock anyone — except maybe in an extraordinarily pleasant way.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bike_boom#20th_century

    i think the extremist perspective is one which does not advocate for the immediate, emergency makeover of our entire transportation system. allowing everyone to bike to any and every place they wish to go should be priority number one.

  • Please. Those lanes are at minimum 10 feet wide. In Philly and Boston some lanes are 9.5 feet or a couple of inches smaller. SUVs handle it just fine – only slower.

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