Is Long Beach Biketown USA?

The seaside city reinvents itself (again) by hitching its civic reputation to cycling culture

Finally, council member Rae Gabelich made a delicate attempt. "I would think this is a wonderful thing for us to strive to become," Gabelich began, before cautioning that the title might come across as a little "self-serving" and suggesting that using it to market the city "would be a little disingenuous" at the moment.

"I'm wondering how Miami, Orlando or Fort Lauderdale, or even San Diego, would feel about us taking that on and adopting it for ourselves," Gabelich speculated.

Council member Gary DeLong—currently running for Congress in the 47th District—jumped right on that one with a calculated cluelessness intended to blow questions of ethics out of the water. "I think what they would think is, 'Darn, I wish we had thought of it first,'" DeLong said.

John Gilhooley
Gandy in the only known photo of him not on a bike
John Gilhooley
Gandy in the only known photo of him not on a bike

Clever.

But Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske was next, and she had no interest in wordplay, instead taking the point-missing straight to its illogical extreme. "What would San Diego and others think?" she asked, then answered, "Who cares?"

Actually, Schipske showed she cared a little bit about what other cities might think, specifically in case they think about using the "Aquatics Capital of America" title, too. She recommended Long Beach trademark the name.

* * *

Meanwhile . . . um . . . Long Beach? Biketown USA? Buried deep beneath a budget deficit, surrounded by recession, the city is all a-buzzing—and okay, all a-bitching, too—about a major civic cycling makeover that puts it in the conversation about where everybody goes next. Where did this come from?

"It wasn't me," says Gandy. "I was attracted to Long Beach because the people I met here had their act together."

Gandy met a lot of people—big surprise—including council members Suja Lowenthal and Robert Garcia, Andrea White-Kjuss and John Case of Bikestation, and publicist Melissa Balmer. They were a cross-section of politicians, activists, insiders, business owners and a lot of folks who like to ride bikes. Gandy is especially focused on that last category.

"Like Saul Alinsky says, 'Only two things are powerful in politics: organized money or organized voices,'" Gandy offers. "My job is to organize the voices of the cyclists to be heard in the political process."

In this case, the voice of one cyclist in particular was already pretty well-heard in Long Beach's political process. In fact, it's fair to wonder—and people certainly do—how much Long Beach's focus on bike culture can be traced to the fact that city manager Pat West is a cyclist.

Yet once those voices are heard, the conversation can go anywhere. The movement being enabled by this bicycle makeover has no limits, either. It ain't just about bikes—but nothing's going to get very far without them.

It's about the story a clean, convenient and local bicycle-transportation system will tell about Long Beach.

"It's a narrative that's attractive to young people and people with disposable incomes," says Gandy.

It's about the options that will be created by the bike-share systems that will soon be installed.

"The people at the Convention and Visitors Bureau are very excited," says Gandy "They see it as a way to get conventioneer dollars."

It's about the opportunities that can be created and increased for existing businesses through the needs that will be created by all the active lives.

"It's called economic gardening—instead of only trying to bring new companies into the city, we look at the businesses that exist and support those that can expand quickly," he concludes. "When those people start making money, they aren't likely to move. It's all about finding people with talent and passion and supporting them."


This article appeared in print as "Biketown USA? Long Beach reinvents itself (again) by hitching its civic reputation to cycling culture."

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8 comments
jkathleen
jkathleen

I live in Belmont Heights and ride my bike regularly in Long Beach for exercise, pleasure, and personal business. I take "Bike Blvd." (Vista) to grocery shop at the Ralph's on 4th and Orizaba. I take 3rd street to downtown to do my clothes shopping at The Rack. I ride down to the Belmont Pier and catch the beach bike path regularly to exercise or meet friends in Shoreline or on Pine. I also cruise down to 2nd Street for dinner and debauchery with my friends at least once a week.

 

I've never had a problem with cars or tickets, at least partly because when I bought my bike I took the time to go the the BikeLongBeach website and read and watch the biking safety videos. It seems the bicycle plans are working quite well to me - and I couldn't be happier.

 

guest
guest

Answer...NO...prior to Belmont shores creating a "green" bike lane down 2nd street, I received a ticket for riding my bike on the sidewalk. As those of you who are familiar with 2nd street, the cars were hardly accommodating to a cyclist on the street. That is, when there was actually enough room to squeeze between parked cars and traffic. Hardly bike friendly.

Mo_abdullajd
Mo_abdullajd

The article was more geared towards the past Long Beach city declarations and shadiness than why people are opposed to Long Beach being a biking city now. Was the point to show how people just roll their eyes at what may be another dubious claim or analyze whether or not LB is actually trying to live up to the name? As for the current opposition, would have loved to see what the reasons are people are currently opposed to LB being a bike-friendly city? Could it be the same things exhibited in the attitude of drivers in SUVs that seem offended at sharing the road with bikes to the point they will actually cut you off to make a point? Has happened several times while riding around, and I'm sure it happens in every city, but what exactly is the opposition? It was mentioned a few times without being discussed much.

thank you for an interesting article though.

LBMike
LBMike

Could this be more about Long Beach pimping for "Free Money" through County, State and Federal Grants, to use to improve its deteriorating infrastructure as the city is broke?

ageofknowledge
ageofknowledge

Yes, let's bike through gangland. Even the window washer bums attack drivers when they roll down their windows to give them a buck and rob them in broad daylight.

Bob G
Bob G

I find it quite interesting that the photo ""Sharrows" in action" does not have a bicycle in the photo. Of course, those who are often in that area know that's normal.

What, you waited a while to take a photo showing a bicycle in the Sharrows but finally gave up?

Dave H
Dave H

PS why do so many of you guys ditch the most important pieces of safety kit when you go out on bikes - cover your eyes with mirror shades and block your ears with personal headphones. Then you make huge fuss about wearing helmets!

Remember the best way to keep the only contact you make with another road user eye-contact is to make that eye contact possible. Shades are just another face-palm which goes full time.

Dave H
Dave H

Don't forget that Long Beach had the first decent Bike Park back in 1990's - amazing creation.

Last visit though could have been better Blue Line terminated at Universal and had to navigate by instinct via Watts and The Project to downtown LA on my bike. Interesting ride.

 
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