Photo by Brian Addison.
The Alliance for Biking & Walking has released its massive benchmarking report which takes 52 major US cities and analyzes them in terms of biking/walking friendliness, with Long Beach showing both strengths and weaknesses as it moves forward toward its goal of becoming the nation’s most bike friendly city.
The point of the report is simple: to make sure that hard data is taken into account as active transportation, Open Streets, and livable urban centers become the increasingly popular trend in city government.
This isn’t to say that the trend is overtly massive: only 1% of all trips in the US are taken by bicycle and 10.4% on foot. But the key, as the report notes, is not the direct number but its growth. With an increasing rate that cannot go unnoticed—particularly in urban centers—the need for municipalities to create infrastructure ahead of time is becoming crucial.
In its strongest showing, Long Beach ranked third in the most miles of bike facilities per square mile, just behind San Francisco and Austin. Long Beach is home to 4.5 miles of biking facilities per square mile, while Austin has 4.6 miles/square mile and San Francisco has 7.8 miles/square mile. This is why some publications had mistakenly described Long Beach as “the third most bike friendly city” in the States.
The report shows many areas where Long Beach still needs work. Long Beach came in:
#24 in regard to overall commuter bike/walk levels
#29 on per capita spending for bike/pedestrian projects
#23 in the lowest bike/pedestrian fatality rates
#12 on recommending physical activity for its population
#17 for the number of people who bike to work and
#27 for people who walk to work.
In terms of how we count commuters by bike or foot, we fall behind cities like golden-star commuter counter Minneapolis: not only does the city include biking/commuter counts, they handout household surveys, conduct cordon counts, have three automatic loop detectors, and hold annual counts at 40 benchmark locations.
Also, the only published goal we have as a city is to increase bicycling, with the report noting that we have no published goals to increase walking, increase physical activity, or decrease bike/pedestrian fatalities.
Strangely, the report misstated that Long Beach has an active bike share system—confusing considering there is not a single kiosk in the city following a long-ago agreed partnership with Bike Nation. The report claims we have some 25 operating stations that house 400 shared bikes; it is unclear as to where or how they received this information.
This isn’t to say that we didn’t have other great moments: we, like our LA neighbor, don’t limit the number of bicycles that can board transit trains. We have a massive number of educational and encouragement opportunities that cater to everything from youths and adults needing to learn how to commute safely, to Open Streets initiatives geared toward balancing motorist and cyclist/pedestrian needs. Long Beach has the nation’s largest youth biking participation with nearly 37,000 youth education participants. Much of our City staff partakes in walking and biking, along with a large advocacy staff to help encourage City initiatives.
Oh, and a fun fact: we have 17 bicycle traffic lights, the second-largest number in the nation (New York City has more, for obvious density reasons, with 190 bicycle traffic lights).
The number one state overall in regard to getting its citizens to bike and walk while providing them the tools to do so? Alaska. That’s right: Alaska is not only home to the nation’s highest level of commuter bicyclists and walkers, but also spends the most per capita on bike/pedestrian projects while boasting one of the lowest bike/pedestrian fatality rates.
The organization began its benchmarking project in 2003, collecting data for 15 cities and 15 states and publishing the first report in 2004. Now, 52 major U.S. cities partake in the report.