This spring, nearly two years after a private dedication ceremony honoring the man who helped make it possible, the Mark Bixby Memorial Bicycle and Pedestrian Path will open to the public at last.
The path was built as part of the replacement for the half-century-old Gerald Desmond Bridge, a striking $1.5 billion cable suspension span that was completed in 2020 and is officially named the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge. But officials have said they kept the bike path under wraps for safety reasons while the old bridge is being demolished.
Demolition work that’s near the Bixby bike path is expected to finish in April, in time to open the path in May, Port of Long Beach spokesman Lee Peterson said in an email. In another effort to make the path safer for users, port officials had a connector built to get walkers, runners and cyclists from Ocean Boulevard to the new bridge path.
“We know there is a great deal of interest among members of the public to use the new pathways,” Peteson’s email said. “We share the enthusiasm and excitement, and we are grateful for the public’s understanding and patience as we plan for a safe opening.”
Once the path opens, planned safety measures include closing it to use from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., and banning roller skates and skateboards, whether motorized or not, according to an item on the Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission’s Feb. 27 meeting agenda.
Mark Bixby, a member of one of the city’s founding families, was an active community volunteer and cycling advocate who helped found the Long Beach Bicycle Festival before he died in a 2011 plane crash.
Rep. Robert Garcia, who at the time was on the City Council, wrote immediately after Bixby’s death that he was “the leading city voice on bike policy, advocacy and community engagement.”
While some might shy away from even a protected bike lane that goes alongside whizzing semi-trucks in an area with famously poor air quality, cyclists are expected to cheer the Bixby path’s public opening.
“The views are iconic—to get up there and to be able to see the port, the largest port complex in the U.S.,” said Allan Crawford, a Long Beach resident and advocate for bikeable communities.
And while Crawford expects excitement in the bicycling community and in Bixby’s family at seeing the path open, he doesn’t believe advocates’ work is done yet.
When they were lobbying for a way to safely cross the Gerald Desmond Bridge’s eventual replacement, Crawford said, Bixby and other supporters also envisioned a connection to the north, where the Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge gives vehicles a way to get into Wilmington.
When Caltrans replaced that bridge (the new one opened in 2020), it left a 10-foot shoulder, and “the designer’s idea was ultimately that would accommodate bikes,” Crawford said.
Crawford collaborated with BikeLA (formerly the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition) to apply for a grant from the port to cover the roughly $2.5 million cost of a Schuyler Heim bike path; their proposal has support from Caltrans and the city of Long Beach, he said.
On Thursday, Crawford learned their pitch made it past the first round and can compete for funding.
Nia Hartman, a past president of Long Beach-based Lightning Velo cycling club, said biking enthusiasts welcome any and all improvements that make it easier and safer to get around the area on two wheels.
“The more bikeways, the better, especially when the current ones are along really busy streets that don’t have adequate infrastructure for bike groups,” she said. “We have a lot of resources, but they’re not connected very well.”