Like most people in Long Beach, my bike rides usually involve warped 2x4s and an ocean view. I automatically head for the boardwalk, unless I’m specifically riding to non-beach destinations which are usually on Park Avenue or Beech Street. Biking on Park Avenue seems like suicide, so I stick to the side streets and the “no bike riding allowed” sidewalks. So the other day I decided to bike Park Avenue. I wanted to see just how dangerous it is and if a bike lane would be possible there.
I started at Maple Avenue in the east end of Long Beach and rode all the way to Lafayette Blvd where I turned around and headed back east. I took a bunch of photos, so if anything, this gives some folks a good idea what the Long Beach downtown looks like in Spring 2012.
FIRST OF ALL, WHY BIKE LANES?
Some folks might see bike lanes as a false sense of security, but then isn’t everything? You aren’t safe every time you’re in a car, just like how you’re not safe in an airplane or on a boat. Airplanes fall, boats sink, cars crash. That’s life. Some people will always drive cars fast and other people will always text while they drive, so nobody is absolutely safe on the road. So even though bike lanes aren’t a guaranteed safety measure, they do have benefits which are better than nothing. According to the bike-lane-benefit roundup from The City of Cambridge, MA official website: In summary, bike lanes do the following:
- support and encourage bicycling as a means of transportation;
- help define road space;
- promote a more orderly flow of traffic;
- encourage bicyclists to ride in the correct direction, with the flow of traffic;
- give bicyclists a clear place to be so they are not tempted to ride on the sidewalk;
- remind motorists to look for cyclists when turning or opening car doors;
- signal motorists that cyclists have a right to the road;
- reduce the chance that motorists will stray into cyclists’ path of travel;
- make it less likely that passing motorists swerve toward opposing traffic;
- decrease the stress level of bicyclists riding in traffic.
In U.S. urban planning and highway engineering, complete streets (sometimes livable streets) are roadways designed and operated to enable safe, attractive, and comfortable access and travel for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transport users of all ages and abilities. (Source – Complete Streets Wiki)
I am not about to turn this article into a rant on why I like the Complete Streets-concept so much, but I do think all those benefits that were outlined by The City of Cambridge, MA would occur here with bike lanes.
So here is my visual observation:
There is nothing scientific in this post; just pure visual observation. City Council Member Len Torres said during the East End Long Beach Listens how a bike lane is typically 3 feet wide. I used that width as my visual-measurement. No, I didn’t bring a tape measure with me, but I know how wide three feet is, so bare with me.
(See Photo Below) Starting at Maple Avenue and heading west to Long Beach Road you can see there’s plenty of room in right lane. If you look at that the hub cap to the right of the black car, there is more than three feet available. In fact, that right lane has way too much room. We need more lines here to help define road space.
(Photo Below) The intersection of Park Avenue and Long Beach Blvd is tricky because the road goes from three lanes to four, with the two right lanes being turning lanes, the one inner right lane being optional go straight or turn right.
For a bike lane, the two right lanes would have to to be RIGHT TURN ONLY or it’s not going to work (see red arrows). The bike lane would then split those two lanes with the ones going straight. See example below if this seems confusing..
(Photo Below) Heading west between Long Beach Blvd & Riverside Blvd. Still plenty of room for a bike lane, but where are the street lines? No wonder why some people on Park drive like it’s their first time behind the wheel. Anyway, I still felt very safe riding my bike – room a plenty.
(Photo Below) Still heading west in front of City Hall towards Starbucks. Still plenty of room for a bike lane. As you can see in the photo below, cars tend to drive in the middle of the wiiiiiiiiide right lane. A bike lane in this situation will:
- help define road space;
- promote a more orderly flow of traffic;
Doesn’t the wide right lane in the photo below make you want to speed?
(photo below) Since Park Avenue is pretty much wide the rest of the way until Grand Blvd, I did a u-turn at Lafayette and headed back east on the south side of Park Avenue. This side of Park does look a little bit more narrow, but I still felt safe.
(Photo Below) Magnolia Blvd. It’s getting a little narrow over here. Maybe all the street lines have to be shifted a little bit to the left? A bike lane on this side would be a little tight. but I still felt safe riding with cars zooming by.
(Photo Below) This was east of Magnolia towards National. Again, I still felt safe, but there were a lot more cars here and the right lane is a lot narrower than other parts of Park Avenue. The photo below shows you a small Scion, which might not be the best for scale, but it still seems like you can squeeze in a three foot wide bike lane. The jeep in the distance is sticking out too much. Cars didn’t seem bothered that I was rightfully sharing the road with them.
(Photos Below) The part of Park Avenue that concerns us the most: Going east between National and Edwards. This little section of Long Beach is definitely the busiest. I actually didn’t feel unsafe riding there. I think the major issue would be
illegal double parkers, which I didn’t experience that day, but we all know how much it happens. You also have to be on the lookout for car doors swinging out.
If you look at the next three photos, there is a bit of bike lane room. Maybe the left lanes are wide enough for us to shift the lines over to squeeze in a bike lane here.
(Photo Below) After Edward’s Blvd heading east the roads felt wide again; Plenty of bike lane room all the way back to Maple Avenue.
So what does this prove? Most likely nothing since I didn’t take actual measurements. But, I did learn that I can bike on Park Avenue and live to tell about it. I also wanted to remind everybody that bikes and automobiles are supposed to share the roads. It’s actually illegal to bike on a sidewalk.
Now, I have no idea what DecoBikes has in store for us and if Park Avenue is even marked for bike lanes already, but I do think they are possible here. There might have to be some repainting on the south side of Park and also a right lane reconfiguration at the Park Ave/ Long Beach blvd interaction, but it’s all white paint. No construction needed.