If anyone knows me well in Long Beach, I have had many dreams of bicycling infrastructure and events, but there is one which stands out most significantly: the ciclovía.
L.A.’s own CicLAvia instills a jealousy within me that has made me perpetually strive to make on in Long Beach materialize–even to the extent of praising the organizers of the Grand Prix for creating a ciclovía-like track this past year. I rode some eleven miles with Olympian and Long Beach Bike Ambassador Tony Cruz and Long Beach Post executive editor and fellow “wrider” Sarah Bennett. And yes, I asked why, oh why, do we not have a ciclovía?
Well, we are genuinely one step closer–to such an extent that I am even confident in saying that we will indeed soon have one, given Vice Mayor Robert Garcia is proposing at tonight’s City Council meeting that Long Beach apply for the recent Metro grant which will disperse some $2 million across the Los Angeles County for cities to spread the CicLAvia love.
“I genuinely think our chances of getting this grant are high,” Garcia said. “We’re the second-largest city in the county, a West Coast hub for cyclists all over the state, and a model for mid-sized cities across the nation in regard to bicycling infrastructure. The question of, ‘Why not?’ is more pertinent at this point.”
In a deep sense, he is quite right: L.A.’s event costs some $350,000 to produce each time, with the nonprofit who organizes it paying forward 40% while the City funds the other 60%. To keep the naysayers at peace, the funds are never drawn from the General Fund but generated through federal and state programs–something that Long Beach is clearly itching to do.
As always in Long Beach, it wasn’t a matter of no one having the idea–organizers of CicLAvia even ventured down to Long Beach, looking at possible routes, and came up with a 3-mile stretch along MLK Blvd–but one of money. After said possibility was presented with a cost of $100,000, there seemed to be an ethical qualm amongst the Bicycle Powers: Should we spend that much money on a one-time event that might be successful versus using those monies for permanent infrastructure?
Garcia thinks the grant bypasses this–and the chance to create what he calls CicLBia becomes more tangible. (He pronounced it “sick-lah-bia” and, admittedly, “labia” immediately comes to mind–perhaps something different, Robert?)
“I am not involved in the technical aspects of anything,” Garcia said when asked about physically developing a ciclovía as Cruz, Bennett, and I had prototypically attempted to do. “I would approach an outside organization to do that. My goal is simple: to get the city to push forward with making this happen.”
If Long Beach does happen to score a grant–which, I am admittedly with Garcia on the fact that it seems antithetical to the grant’s purpose to not shell out a 20th of it towards Long Beach–then we would still have to properly address how to materialize the event.
Mainly, this would be activating neighborhoods properly so that businesses can actually witness the benefits of having people on body-motored wheels rather than cars. I assure you, even after eleven miles of riding, it is easier said than done as Long Beach is “patchy”: its neighborhoods weave in and out of business districts and landmarks, where as Los Angeles–far more dense–can provide ciclovía paths that provide continual business and recreational stimulation.
But I’m nerding out ahead of myself. I need to patiently wait for that grant money to arrive.
Metro, your move.