Mayoral Candidates Chime in on Bicycling

Video courtesy of the Long Beach Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Before we go down this gopher hole that is the Long Beach mayoral race, let’s get one thing cleared: can we please, for the love of all things diplo-wheeled, not use the term “CicLBia” for the maybe-could-happen Long Beach ciclovía? I know mayoral hopefuls Doug Otto and Vice Mayor Robert Garcia are a fan of the term, but it is an all-too-close reference to female anatomy minus one letter (and despite what other vowel you insert between the L and B, the resemblance still remains).

This brings us to Otto, who basically jacked the term from Garcia after he—along with the other mayoral candidates—was briefly asked by the President of the Long Beach Sierra Club, Gabrielle Weeks, about the future of biking. And though the moniker CicLBia was stolen, Otto does deserve credit for emphasizing the idea (something I’ve been deeply dreaming about over and over for a year now), which also garnered applause.

“One word: CicLBia,” Otto said. “I think we need to bring it to Long Beach.”

“We have to continue aggressive [biking] policies,” Garcia said. “We should never build a street in Long Beach without a bike lane. We should not be building infrastructure without building biking and pedestrian infrastructure alongside it.”

Noting Long Beach’s upcoming grant application for a cool $2M from Metro via their Open Streets program, Otto was on par with Garcia in terms of knowledge and advocacy and feels that a recurring ciclovía is the key biking’s future in Long Beach.

“Everyone knows we need to accommodate bicyclists and accommodate pedestrians,” Otto said. “But what we’re really talking about here with all these environmental questions is this: we are trying to change culture, to live more in harmony with nature… [And we can do that] by implementing a program that educates about the stewardship of nature… [by] bringing a ciclovía to Long Beach once a month.”

Garcia—who I would venture to say was only second in bike advocacy to former candidate and current 2nd District Councilmember Suja Lowenthal, who dropped out of the race to run for the 70th District of the State Assembly—is one of the most directly vocal—note his quote below—on the aspect of bicycling as well as one of the most knowledgeable. He noted the failed bike registration policy where police would often ticket bicyclists who weren’t carrying their registration as a history buffer to protect his reputation as a bike advocate—smart move and the only one to do so because details matter. And he was also the only candidate who noted that it is reaching out to marginalized populations—women, people of color—to engage them in bicycling that will bring forth a great city.

“We have to continue aggressive [biking] policies,” Garcia said. “We should never build a street in Long Beach without a bike lane. We should not be building infrastructure without building biking and pedestrian infrastructure alongside it.”

Current Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal—the major contender for the spot next to Garcia were one to eyeball numbers right now, particularly given the roots of the Lowenthal name in Long Beach politics—was the most loquacious of the group (something that is kind of a Lowenthal trait). She noted the Three Feet for Safety Act that was eventually passed by both the Assembly and Senate and signed into law by Governor Brown this past September. Though she didn’t author the bill—that would be Gardena Assemblymember Steven Bradford—she serves on the California Transportation Commission (CTC), which helped the bill pass through its various iterations.

Additionally, the MTA veteran noted not just her work with the CTC to get biking elements on the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project but—instead of using Garcia’s point about engaging bicycling amongst marginal populations—also talked of the struggle to get people on transit and the possibility of car share programs. Though one could sense where she was going, it was hard not to slightly cringe at her proclamation that “everyone is used to a car.”

“I think it’s a challenge to get people to ride mass transit,” Lowenthal said. “I think it’s very important to change people’s habits. It’s hard to change people’s behavior when everyone is used to the cars. That’s what the Flexcar plan is all about: [it’s] for folks in urban areas who don’t need a car everyday.”

…or can use transit? But hey, if you want to sit on the 405 in traffic in a Flexcar, all the power to ya.

Current 5th District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske aimed for a deeper focus on pedestrian access given Long Beach’s growing senior population—a population she believes feels unsafe on bikes.

“More importantly [than increasing biking elements] we have to look at the population that we have in the city of Long Beach,” Schipske said. “We have people who don’t ride bicycles. We have an aging population who doesn’t feel safe riding bicycles so we have to make certain that we are also pedestrian friendly. And frankly in the ranking of pedestrian safety, we are really low.”

Schipske then went on to echo Garcia and Otto in her support of engaging other populations in bicycling, noting bike sharing programs in parks.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.