Long Beach Sets the Example

Better Bike BH members know that the major missed opportunity here in Beverly Hills is not necessarily the promotion  of cycling through high-profile events, but rather through a consistent message that cycling is fun, convenient, and safe. The best way we can encourage more folks to ride a bike rather than drive a car is make it seem practical. A high-profile event (think a Concours for bikes) may help at the margin, but it’s the basics of active transportation messaging that really matter. We know we can build public awareness about cycling as both a transportation alternative and recreation opportunity for young people if only we as a city get that message out there. We’re not doing it. Our city leaders need look no farther than Long Beach, a city with the noble goal of being one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S. It’s a message that the city actively promotes on the web, and they back it up with funds and institutional support.

For example, one of the ideas floated at our meetings is the Farmers Market tie-in. We tossed some ideas around the table at our last meeting, but why invent this wheel when Long Beach already has? Long Beach cyclists organized a ‘BikePool’ initiative to get residents to “go green, go by bike” every Sunday to their Farmers Market (located at the Marina). It’s a group ride that converges from three locations in Long Beach (including the city’s own downtown Bikestation). They have even worked out a small business tie-in. At gathering points local merchants encourage cycling by offering discounts. For example, the coffeehouse provides a 10% discount on all drinks. The Bikestation gives away a free tune-up.

Long Beach 'Bike-to-Yoga' flyer
Long Beach 'Bike-to-Yoga' flyer sends the right message.

Indeed Long Beach small businesses are hip to the economic potential of cyclists. The Infinite, a Long Beach-based Yoga organization, organized a Sunday morning ride to a the local Yoga Festival (see the flyer at left). Donations were accepted to support the community yoga studio. That’s a win-win and the model is already established nearby We like Yoga too! Why NOT in Beverly Hills? As the former Long Beach Bikestation manager Dominic Dougherty said, “Dust off that bike in the garage and start changing the world one pedal stroke at a time.”


Long Beach 'Green Port' flyer
Long Beach 'Green Port' flyer: getting a big stakeholder (the Port of Long Beach) on board.

Expanding the consciousness will take more than a Farmers Market or small business tie-in, however. It takes institutional support. Long Beach has ‘geared up’ to go green by teaming up the Port of Long Beach and Long Beach Cyclists to host the city’s Green Port Festival this coming October (see the flyer at right). The main attraction is a port tour, but it’s getting there that’s the real fun. The Port asks you to walk, bike or bus, and the city is putting their money behind it in sponsoring a free bike parking valet. The bike valet is a great idea that is happening everywhere but Beverly Hills! The key to the success of a bike promotion is the institutional imprimatur. With the public support of our city leaders, we may yet be able to make better transportation choices.

Long Beach's kids' bike parade flyer
Long Beach's kids' bike parade message cycling can be fun for the whole family.

Long Beach seemingly has missed no opportunity to heighten bike awareness. Consider the bike parade for kids this past July fourth. Event promoter Justin Rudd, with support of the Community Action Team (CAT) and Gazette Newspapers, put on quite a show, which attracted the participation of the Long Beach City Manager and Council members. Long Beach’s Bicycle Ambassador (yes they have one!) was there too – and that’s commitment. The flyer: “If you have young children, if you want them out on their bikes or in the stroller or wagon, and if you love the sight of hundreds of fluttering U.S. flags, this may be the ride for you!”

Long Beach Bike Festival Flyer
Long Beach Bike Festival Flyer: Staging the event is not enough. We have to get the word out too!

The granddaddy event is the annual Long Beach Bicycle Festival, held this year in May. It spanned three days between May 7-9 and was sponsored by the city and the Fourth Street Business Association with support from heavy hitters like the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency. (The flyer is at left.)

Long Beach 4th Street Kids-in-Motion program flyer
Long Beach 4th Street Kids-in-Motion program emphasizes the physical aspects of cycling.

The City hosted the Long Beach ‘KIDS In MOTION’ program as part of the city’s Bicycle Festival. (Imagine that!) The event included a bike raffle, Yoga for Kids, and for adults fitness instruction that included a fitness ‘Boot Camp.’ (See the schedule at right.)

The fair also included the schools, with the local Burbank Elementary School participating in a fitness & health kick-off event. The Better Bike BH members have talked about bringing in the BH school district into the mix, and here is the model courtesy of Long Beach.

The weekend-long event included an easy family bike of four miles and open to all ages; for adults, the 31-Mile grand tour got folks in the saddle for the day. For the more ambitious, the event also hosted criterium races including a $10,000 men’s pro race. In the streets of Long Beach! The Grand Prix finale featured 125 racers engaged in 40+ mph sprints around the near-one mile course.

Long Beach Bike Hub flyer
Long Beach Bike Hub? This city walks the talk!

But the Long Beach Bicycle Festival was not only hard work – it was educational too. Vendor and information booths featured local non-profits and advocacy groups. Long Beach Cyclists provided a free bike valet service with this promise: “We’ll watch after your bicycle while you stroll among the crowds and celebrate the magic of our Long Beach filled with people who love cycling and healthy living.” Sounds great! Why again not in Beverly Hills?

Maybe the greatest testament to the commitment to encourage cycling is reflected in the support for the necessary bike infrastructure to keep cyclists on two wheels. The Bike Hub opened this past April 3rd (see the flyer at left) while the downtown Bikestation (below right) still goes strong – and in a spiffy new location. There they sell bikes and accessories, fix bikes, and salvage them too.


Long Beach Bikestation
Long Beach Bikestation shows the city's commitment to cycling.

A model for Beverly Hills to emulate? Our city gives considerable discounts on rent to businesses that operate in the Golden Triangle – doling out rent decrease after rent decrease this past year – for ‘business retention.’ We’ve got a better idea: let’s set up a Bikestation in a city-owned building and get a bike rental and repair program going. If Long Beach can do it….