Excessive Bike Infrastructure in Long Beach?

12:01pm | As I have said, I dig the city's bicycle infrastructure-building (as well as using hyphens). Yes, I'm annoyed at having to wait for a green left arrow even at midnight every time I want to turn south from Third Street onto Linden Avenue. But whatever.

Still, one night while sitting on my scooter staring at that stupid red arrow as the two little green bicycles glowed for no one, I wondered: Why the hell are there TWO of them? — "them" being bicycle signals, which come in pairs around town.

I'm not entirely sure one of these signals isn't too many. After all, if bikes are allowed to share the roadway and subject to the laws governing automobile movement, shouldn't the preexisting traffic signals have sufficed?

But even if not, why two bike signals within the same sightline, a mere 2 meters apart? That's a terrible waste of money no matter how you slice it, right?

Perhaps. But if Long Beach was going to install these bike signals at all, apparently the city had no choice but to do as it did.

"Federal and state traffic signal design specifications require that each signalized movement be provided with a minimum of two indications, or signal units," explains City Traffic Engineer David Roseman. "It's really a safety feature. If one indication, or signal unit, is out/broken/non-functional or being worked on, there is a secondary or backup so the signalized movement isn't dark. This has been a common requirement of traffic signals for many years."

How much does this redundancy cost? A lot.

Roseman says he doesn't have a per-signal price ("The City contracted out the work at each signalized intersection on a 'lump sum' basis, which is common for traffic signal projects," he says. "Basically we don't get per-item cost estimates or equipment invoices from contractors on every foot of wire, sensors, poles, signal units, and the like."). But he estimates that "the contractor probably paid in the neighborhood of $2,000 for each bike signal unit (red/yellow/green). Programmed visibility signal units such as the bike signals are a very technical device that uses LED back lighting and has a site-specific adjustable viewing range and therefore they cost more than standard signal units."

I guess being "The Most Bicycle Friendly City in America" ain't cheap, kids — even if we're really not.

But that doesn't make it any less worthy an ambition.

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