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