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Long Beach Opens New Mark Bixby Walk/Bike Path along Harbor Bridge

9:48 AM PDT on May 24, 2023

Long Beach’s new Mark Bixby Memorial
Bicycle-Pedestrian Path – photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney as part of a general sponsorship package. All opinions in the article are that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of LABA. Click on the ad for more information.

Last Saturday, Long Beach celebrated the grand opening of its newest bicycle-pedestrian path. The recently completed Mark Bixby path, along the city's International Gateway Bridge, offers expansive views of the Port of Long Beach, the Pacific Ocean, and the city coastline.

map - via fact sheet
Bixby path and Ocean Boulevard Connector map - via Port of LB fact sheet
The Bixby Memorial Bicycle-Pedestrian Path on the LB International Gateway Bridge, facing east toward downtown Long Beach
The Bixby Memorial Bicycle-Pedestrian Path along the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge, facing east toward downtown Long Beach

The newly opened bikeway consists of two separate interconnected walk/bike facilities.

The Mark Bixby Memorial Bicycle-Pedestrian Path is a two-mile long path attached to the south side of the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge, which is part of the 710 Freeway. The new bridge opened to car/truck traffic in 2020. The bridge connects the eastern portion of the Port of Long Beach, across the Back Channel, to Terminal Island.

The east end of the Bixby path is at Pico Avenue and Pier E Street. From there cyclists can continue one long block north along Pico on a short (about 700 feet) two-way curb-protected bikeway, though mainly cyclists would continue east into downtown on the Connector, described below.

The west end of the Bixby path is the intersection of the 710 Freeway and State Route 47, essentially the south end of the Schuyler Heim Bridge. The facility currently dead-ends there in the heavily industrial area, with no connection to Wilmington or San Pedro (more on those future connections below). Due to the lack of a current westward bike/ped connection, the westernmost stretch of the path is being kept closed for now. The public can access the bridge path between Pico and the three overlooks in the middle of the bridge.

The path is named after Mark Bixby, the Long Beach bicyclist who led the successful advocacy campaign to get the path included in the Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project. Bixby was killed in a plane crash in 2011.

Ocean Boulevard Connector xxxx
The Ocean Boulevard Connector includes this stretch of barrier-protected bikeway on the south side of Ocean Boulevard

Just east of the Bixby path is the Ocean Boulevard Connector, which connects from the Port, across the Los Angeles River, into downtown Long Beach.

Most of the half-mile long connector is primarily a protected two-way bikeway along the south side of Ocean Boulevard (see above). The connector also includes a curved stretch of elevated path (see below) that takes it over the Pico on- and off-ramps.

The elevated curved stretch of the Ocean Boulevard Connector path. People are gathered (left) for the ribbon-cutting.

On the east end of the Ocean Boulevard Connector, cyclists can take a short stretch of two-way protected bikeway along Golden Shore to access the L.A. River path (shown on map above). Cyclists can also access Long Beach's extensive downtown harbor/shoreline/beach bike paths network by continuing south on Golden Shore, or go north a block to proceed into downtown via the protected bike lane couplet on Broadway and 3rd Street.

The newly opened paths are projects of the Port of Long Beach and the city of Long Beach, with funding from the Federal Highway Administration, the California Transportation Commission's Active Transportation Program (ATP), Caltrans, and Metro.

A crowd of over 300 people, including more than 200 on bike, showed up at the downtown Port Administration Building to hear elected officials and other leaders celebrate the grand opening of the new path.

Long Beach Vice Mayor Cindy Allen
Long Beach Vice Mayor Cindy Allen speaking at Saturday's bike-walk path grand opening

Many speakers at Saturday's opening ceremony acknowledged that the path would not have happened, in the words of the Port Executive Director Mario Cordero, without the "vociferous, aggressive" advocacy of Mark Bixby. Though the port ultimately built and celebrates its new path, it long resisted including the bikeway, and finally came around to supporting Bixby's proposal after the California Coastal Commission mandated its inclusion in order to permit the new bridge.

Harbor Commission President Sharon Weissman praised the path's overlooks as spectacular, calling them "the best views in the city."

Port leaders and city and federal elected officials praised Bixby, and presented proclamation certificates to his mother and widow. Bixby's brothers recounted his "love affair with cycling" from cross-country bike touring, to bike club racing, to advocating for Long Beach to become the bike-friendly city it is.

After the speakers concluded, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on the elevated portion of the Ocean Boulevard Connector, overlooking the port. Cyclists rode the three-quarters of a mile to the site, while others arrived by golf cart.

Ribbon-cutting for the new
Ribbon-cutting for the new Mark Bixby Memorial Bicycle-Pedestrian Path and Ocean Boulevard Connector

Below are photos of the new bridge bike/walk facility, from east to west, followed by speculation on how harbor area bikeway access would be extended in the future.

Heading west from downtown, the Ocean Boulevard Connector includes the existing sidewalk for pedestrians, and a barrier-protected lane (right) set aside for two-way bike travel. People on foot and bike have one signalized crossing at a feeder road that functions like a freeway onramp.
Signage on the Ocean Boulevard Connector spells out the current bikeway rules, including that the facility is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
The Ocean Boulevard Connector veers south/left to an elevated port overlook (sloping upward in the middle left). The International Gateway Bridge, with its iconic two towers, is visible in the distance (center).
The Ocean Blvd Connector overlook includes seating, harbor views, and a decade by decade history of the port embedded in the pavement
The Ocean Blvd Connector's elevated overlook includes seating, harbor views, and a decade by decade port history embedded in the pavement
Cyclists climbing the Bixby Path, which rises a height of 205 feet above the water.
The Bixby path runs along the south side of the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge. The bridge's twin towers are 515 feet tall, the second-tallest of any cable-stayed bridge in the U.S.
The new path offers spectacular views of the Port of Long Beach and the surrounding coastline
In the middle of the bridge are three outlooks, also called belvederes, with great views of the harbor. The waterway at the middle of the middle of the bridge is called the Back Channel.
West of the central outlooks, the bridge bikeway slopes downward onto Terminal Island. This part of the path was accessible for the bridge opening, but will be closed to the general public for the foreseeable future.
On Terminal Island, the bikeway levels off and has a signalized crossing at one off-ramp. Again, this area will be closed off until the path is extended.
This is the nearly the westernmost part of the Bixby Path, extending to Highway 47 on Terminal Island, also not open to the public at this time.

Currently, the path offers an out and back trip to the magnificent views from the bridge deck.

The International Gateway is one of three bridges connecting Terminal Island to the mainland. The other two bridges are the Schuyler F. Heim Bridge (north to Wilmington) and the Vincent Thomas Bridge (west to San Pedro). Those bridges are not currently open to pedestrians or cyclists.

Advocates are pushing for a protected bike lanes along the Schuyler Heim Bridge, similar to the Ocean Boulevard Connector. Schuyler Heim was recently retrofitted with relatively wide shoulders. The same agencies that praised the new Bixby path are evaluating what it would take to convert some of the shoulder space to bikeway/walkway, and how best to make path connections safe there.

Map of proposed future Schuyler Heim Bridge bike/walk path (red) connecting to Bixby path (green) - via tweet by @metamodernismyt

The Vincent Thomas Bridge has long been an impenetrable barrier for folks on bike. A bikeway there is also proposed, but is not anticipated to happen any time soon. Cyclists going between Long Beach and San Pedro typically take the long way around via Anaheim Street (recently upgraded for safer cycling) or put their bikes on LADOT Commuter Express route 142.

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