Bike Infrastructure Ride

DIFFICULTY LEVEL |  Easy

TYPE OF RIDE  |  Infrastructure

DISTANCE  |  9 miles roundtrip 

MAP OF RIDE

Charlie's Long Beach Infrastructure Ride

Charlie’s Tour

Long Beach is beginning to be known around the world for its innovative bike infrastructure.

Starting in 1996 with the first Bikestation in the US, modeled after similar stations in Europe, Long Beach started to set the trend for innovation in the US. Since that time, the City has added separated lanes in our downtown area, bike boulevards, green sharrows (also known as super sharrows), roundabouts, circles, bike traffic signals, over 1300 bike racks and most recently parklets: although not directly related to bicycling, are enhancing Long Beach’s complete streets.  We also have an outstanding separated path along our waterfront.

This tour will allow you to see all of these features in a relatively small area. The entire tour is about 9 miles long and can easily be completed in 90 minutes or less.  However, we encourage you to take your time, stop along the way and get an understanding of the infrastructure as well as to see and enjoy our great city. This is the same route that Charlie Gandy uses for his guided tours of the Long Beach Bike bike infrastructure (thus the name…Charlie’s tour).  Charlie has guided hundreds of people from around the world through this tour.  The common response is, ”Wow! What a difference well designed infrastructure makes in how I feel when riding my bike in a city environment. It is such a comforting experience.”

The lengthy description below is intended to not only provide directions, but to also give a description of the infrastructure’s benefits.  There is a turn-by-turn description at the end of the section.

The Bikestation The Tour starts at the Bikestation: located on the First Street Transit Gallery between Long Beach Boulevard and Pine Ave.  If you need a bike for the tour, Bikestation has them for rent.  While at the Bikestation, take a look around- and ask if you can go upstairs to see the bike parking area.  Locals can store their bikes here and have secure 24 x 365 access for under $100/yr.  Repair and maintenance services are also available along with an opportunity to buy some supplies.  In addition, companies like British Airways keep a fleet of bikes here for use by their flight crews during their layover.

From the Bikestation the tour heads east (left out of the Bikestation) down 1st Street.  **Please note: it is illegal to ride on the transit mall, so we suggest that you walk your bike to Long Beach Boulevard before starting the ride.**

East Village Art District: A Bike Friendly Business District One block past Long Beach Boulevard, at the corner of 1st and Elm, you will enter the East Village Art District, one of our Bike Friendly Business Districts – affectionately known as a BFBD.  Bike Friendly Business Districts are characterized by an abundance of bike parking (note the bike corral and numerous racks). Business owners and employees in these districts make use of cargo bikes and work bikes for getting to and from work, as well as for work trips and errands. Many of the businesses also participate in the Bike Saturday program, where if you ride your bike to the establishment, you will receive some type of discount or other promotion.

Also note the bulbed-out curbs on the corner of 1st and Linden.  These serve to not only enhance the appearance of the corner and provide more space for sidewalk dining, but to make the street safer for pedestrians by calming traffic.

First Street

Continue east on 1st Street  for another two blocks. Then take a quick right on Alamitos and then a quick left to stay on 1st Street. First Street is a quiet one-way street, just one block off Ocean Blvd, which is one of the major E-W routes across the city.  What we have tried to do is provide bicycle routes that are just off of the major thoroughfares.  We find that most bicyclists find these much more enjoyable to ride than the busy thoroughfares where they contend with a large number of faster moving vehicles.

Also — check out the mid century modern architecture along the street.

Take First Street for approximately one mile to Junipero Avenue.  Junipero is on the far side of Bixby Park.  If you happen to do this ride on a Tuesday afternoon, check out the Farmer’s Market, which is held in Bixby Park from 3:00 to 8:00 (7:00 in the winter).

Go right on Junipero, cross Ocean Blvd and drop down to the Beach Bike Path.

The Beach Bike Path

The Beach Bike Path was installed in the early 1990’s and gets hundreds of bicyclists, joggers, walkers and skateboarders a day.  It is one of the most widely used bike facilities in the City.  In 2013 we anticipate adding a parallel walking and jogging path that will be separated from the current path by about 15 feet.  The intent is to make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians on this very well used facility.  The new path will be created from Decomposed Granite, which will be a better, softer surface for walking and jogging.

As you look offshore you will see a series of islands with tall structures.  These are not condos or hotels, but oil islands.  Long Beach and the surrounding areas have a rich history with the oil industry and the city is fortunate to derive income from its ongoing production.  As you look to the right you will also see the Queen Mary and the Port of Long Beach.

Once on the path, continue east for approximately one mile to the Belmont Pier. During the summer months, this well-used pier is one of the stops for the AquaLink, a boat run by Long Beach transit connecting to both downtown and Alamitos Landing.  For another fun cycling adventure, we suggest that you come back and put your bike on the AquaLink, head over to Alamitos Landing,  where you can head south into Seal Beach and into Huntington Beach. If you desire a shorter ride, bicycle back to Belmont Shore and into Downtown.

From the pier continue along the bike path, in front of the Olympic Pool, which has been used twice for Olympic Trials and is the home for the PAC 12 swimming and diving championships.  As you pass the pool you will see a number of sand volleyball nets.  Perhaps you will catch Misty May, the Olympic champion volleyball player from Long Beach- or one of her protégées playing a little beach volleyball. As you look offshore you are likely to see a large number of kite surfers.  Long Beach is the ideal location for kite surfing with our onshore winds and the breakwater providing relatively smooth waters.

Once you reach the end of the path, continue straight across the street, past the roller hockey rink and handball courts and onto Bayshore Ave., where you will parallel Alamitos Bay for two blocks.

At the stop light, turn left onto 2nd Street and ride in the Green Sharrows.

The 2nd Street Sharrows

The Green Sharrows are a Federal experiment where we were allowed to use green paint to delineate the appropriate place for bicyclists to ride.  The term sharrow is applied to a lane that is shared by both bicyclists and motorized vehicles.  As a bicyclist, you should be riding on the green paint.  This does two things for you: (1) it keeps you out of the door zone and (2) it makes you more visible to drivers as they enter the street or pull out of a parking space.  Also note the number of bike racks along the street.  On a typical Saturday or Sunday afternoon expect to see upwards of 200 bikes parked along the street. From the merchants perspective, this is a great asset, as it frees up spaces for others who may live too far away to comfortably bicycle to the area.

You are going to ride about 10 blocks on 2nd Street to get a feel for the Sharrows.  How does it feel to ride in a lane that is clearly marked for bicyclists?  Do you feel safer?  What was the reaction of the drivers?

There are numerous coffee shops and restaurants along the street. Stop in and ask them what they think about bicycling in Long Beach and in Belmont Shore. And of course…we encourage you to shop and dine while in the Shore.

At Granada (just past Bank of America) take a right.  This is one of the quieter streets in Belmont Shore that does not require special treatment to make it great for bike riding.   At the end of the street (just one block) take a quick left– then a right–and another left to stay on Granada.  This will take you up a short hill to the Vista Street Bike Boulevard.

Vista Street Bike Boulevard

The Vista Street Bike Boulevard was the first bike boulevard in southern California and the first of many being built in Long Beach.

A bike boulevard is a street where bicyclists are given special treatment.  There are roundabouts and circles to slow traffic. Traffic diverters have been installed where bikes are allowed to proceed, but motorized vehicles are required to turn.  You will also see a small number of stop signs for bikes on Vista Street.

Vista was chosen as a bike boulevard for three major reasons. One it connects four schools, making it an ideal route for children to bike, walk and skateboard to school.  Two, it is a quiet residential street that was ideal for bicycling and walking. And thirdly, it helped create a bicycling link from the east side of Long Beach to the downtown area.

The Vista Street Bike Boulevard is about 1.5 miles long.  It has 6 circles, two roundabouts and a traffic light that was installed for traffic diversion.  You will go through the first circle (circles are smaller than roundabouts) at the corner of Argonne and Vista.  Three blocks later you will get to the first roundabout.  At the roundabout you will see the curbs are bulbed out and the roundabout itself is larger than the circles at the other corners.

As a result of putting in the bike boulevard, bicycle and pedestrian traffic have both increased on the street.  Most notably in the first year, we doubled the number of children walking and tripled the number of children bicycling to school along the boulevard.

The increase in the number of students walking and riding bikes to school is partly a result of installing the roundabouts and circles, requiring traffic speeds to drop substantially.  Before installing the roundabouts, typical speeds on the major cross streets (i.e., Park and Ximeno) were  over 35 mph.  After their installation, traffic speeds have dropped to 20 mph or lower.  Many of the intersections that now have the circles previously had four way stops.  These have now been converted to two-way stops, and speeds along Vista at these intersections are between 15 and 20 mph.

The final feature that was added to the bike boulevard was a traffic light at the corner of Vista and Redondo. This light was installed to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to safely cross this intersection, while allowing motorized vehicles to only make a right turn.

After going though the traffic light at Redondo, you will take a jog to the left and right to stay on Vista. In two more blocks you will come to the end of the bike boulevard at Temple.

Go right on Temple for two blocks then take a left on 3rd Street. On 3rd Street,  go 6 blocks to Junipero where you will take a right (north).  Go 3 blocks on Junipero to 4th Street.

4th Street / RetroRow Sharrows

RetroRow is another one of Long Beach’s Bike Friendly Business Districts. As with our other BFBD’s, there is ample bike parking, merchants encouraging bicycling, many of whom  offer Bike Saturday Discounts.

In mid-2012 the City put in Sharrows on 4th Street from Junipero Ave to Alamitos Ave.  The purpose is to provide a safer environment for bicyclists as well as motorists, while encouraging bicyclists to ride on the street versus the sidewalk.

As with the 2nd street green sharrows, the sharrows on 4th street are placed near the center of the travel lane.  Again, this is intended to get the bicyclist out of the door zone and far enough out into the travel lane where they are clearly visible. We have also spaced the sharrows fairly close together (<150′) to ensure their visibility to motorists and to bicyclists.

As you ride the sharrows, note the behavior of the motorists.  Our experience has been that most motorists seamlessly come up behind the rider, move into the center turn lane and then back into the travel lane after safely passing the bicyclist(s).  What is your experience?

In 2012,  we also added two parklets on 4th Street in RetroRow.  These were requested and paid for by the restaurant owners.  Their purpose is to add curbside dining in areas where there is not enough sidewalk space to permit sidewalk dining. These have been incredibly successful.  The restaurant owners have seen a marked increase in business: resulting in greater profitability and have added more wait and kitchen staff to their roster. Several other restaurant owners in other parts of the city have now requested parklets for their establishments.

After passing the parklets, continue a few more blocks to Orange Avenue. Go left on Orange for three short blocks to 3rd Street. Then go right on 3rd.

Once on 3rd Street, ride three blocks west to Alamitos.  As you approach Alamitos, move to the center of the lane as you will want to be on the left side of the street just past Alamitos where the separated lanes begin.

Separated Bike Lanes

In mid-2011, the city installed separated lanes on two one-way streets that transect downtown Long Beach; Broadway and 3rd.  The 3rd Street lanes take bicyclists from Alamitos Avenue to the western end of downtown and the Broadway lanes go east from just past the 710 freeway to Alamitos.

The purpose of the lanes is to provide a safe place for bicyclists to ride in our downtown area and to encourage more residents, students and commuters to bicycle on a regular basis.

In addition to installing the lanes, the city put in bike specific traffic signals at several of the intersections.

In the first year after installing the lanes, we saw a 30% increase in the number of bicyclists on 3rd and Broadway, an 80% reduction in the number of bike related accidents, and a 50% reduction in the number of motorized vehicle accidents.  The reduction in motorized vehicle accidents is most likely due to the slightly reduced vehicle speeds, which have dropped from an average of over 30 mph to between 27 and 29 mph.

After crossing Long Beach Boulevard, proceed over just one more block to the Promenade.

Promenade

The Promenade is an area dedicated to pedestrians and bicyclists. This open space has attracted several new restaurants to downtown Long Beach and has become a favorite haunt for locals and well as tourists.  Again, note the number of bike racks along the Promenade inviting bicyclists to ride their bikes to the area to dine and shop.

After crossing Broadway, where you will see the second of our separated bike lanes, proceed one more block back to 1st Street and the Transit Gallery.  You will see the Bikestation just to your left.

We hope that you have enjoyed your tour of this sample of Long Beach’s Bike Facilities. We are anxious to hear from you and what you think of the facilities.  What did we do well? What can we improve upon?  If you have comments or questions for us, please go to the contact us section of our website, and send us a message.

Regards,

The Long Beach Bike and Pedestrian Team

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