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04/24/2011: "Making Tracks in Long Beach"
Yesterday, I threaded my way through Downtown, rode south on Broadway to Imperial, then cut east to catch the Los Angeles River bike path for a jaunt to Long Beach.

Though I was tired, it was a worthwhile ride...not just because of the river, which I love to cruise along, but because Long Beach was set to celebrate the opening of its new cycle tracks, the first in Southern California: a pair of separated bikeways along a couplet of one-way streets in the heart of the LBC's downtown.

Set between the curb and an asphalt median, and further buffered from traffic by car parking on the outside, the facilities include decorative planters (designed by a longtime local artist) and dedicated traffic signals to reduce the chance of conflicts with left-turning drivers.

Lots of people showed up from all over Long Beach and even, like me, from LA. Here's a little slideshow of the pix I took while I was there:

The speakers included the much-loved Charlie Gandy, mobility coordinator for Long Beach, and Dr. Suja Lowenthal, active local cyclist and a powerful proponent of urban cycling on the city council, plus a variety of other politicians and business people.

Indeed, a dominant theme in all the speeches was how bicycle facilities such as these can serve to improve not only safety and air quality but the incomes of local businesses. Besides that cyclists can window-shop more easily than harried drivers, and require much less room to park, the road diets that opened up space for bikes also slowed car traffic, improving safety for pedestrians and, incidentally, making it more likely that motorists too will see an interesting shop or restaurant and decide to stop for a bit.

I gave in to the fatigue of a very busy couple of weeks, and took the Blue Line back to downtown LA. As the train rolled through Long Beach streets to the city's northern border, where it enters a dedicated right-of-way, I noted that the LBC had placed dozens of new bike racks all over town, not just in the city center. Their commitment to cycling is earnest indeed.

I got off the train by LA Live, another typical LA megaproject that does little for its neighborhood besides draw in congestion, and rolled down Pico toward home, wondering when LA would start to pay as much attention to the details of of life on the street and sidewalk level as Long Beach.

It would do us good.

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