About three years ago, software developer Robb Briggs moved from Pasadena to Long Beach to be closer to his job. But thanks to the pandemic, instead of discovering new favorite restaurants, parks or nightlife spots, he was stuck at home with not much to do.
So Briggs, 54, started taking walks in his Bixby Knolls neighborhood and got to know it. A friend in Los Angeles was keeping a log of walks taken there – and that got Briggs thinking: he could track his perambulations around his new city. No, wait: he could walk every street in Long Beach.
In late January, about a year and three months after he started, Briggs realized his goal (he only skipped a stretch of Spring Street that tunnels under the airport runway, which he felt was too dangerous, and any road with signs prohibiting pedestrians). In the process, he lost a few pounds, he found $55.84 in cash, and when it was all over he had a celebratory lunch with friends – with Fluffy’s Sno-Balls for dessert.
Here’s how he went about walking Long Beach and what he learned about the city from the endeavor. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Did you have any idea what you were getting into, and what was your plan of attack?
A: When I first started, I thought it would take much longer – I thought it would take two or three years, because at first it was going to be more casual, just like, ‘Oh, whenever I feel like walking, I’ll just walk someplace new.’
But then I started doing it, and I just became focused on the goal. I was walking three or four times a week, you know, an hour or two a day. And then I realized, ‘Oh, I can do this a lot faster.’
In Photoshop, I had a map, and I would just mark off the streets as I did them, but I didn’t really start planning my walks until maybe a couple of months in.
Q: How did people react when you told them what you were doing?
A: I first told some friends, and they were all very supportive. After I had walked for maybe a month and a half, I posted something to the Long Beach subreddit on Reddit and I got a lot of comments like, ‘Oh you’ll never do North Long Beach, some of the higher crime neighborhoods, you’re going to get mugged’ or, ‘You’re going to get stabbed,’ or whatever. That just kind of motivated me to do those areas first, sort of to prove to everyone that I could do it, but also if I did run into issues, I could abandon the project early on.
Q: How did walking every street change your view of the city, and did you find anything you weren’t expecting?
A: A lot of it was just seeing every neighborhood, seeing how everything works together. I know people that have lived in Long Beach for years, and I walked in some of the neighborhoods, like in the very far east end of Long Beach, and they had no idea Long Beach went that far east.
Some of my experiences, I just realized that people are friendly here. Every single residential neighborhood that I walked in, people would say hi as I walked by. I never had any issues with bad experiences interacting with people. I think it’s a lot friendlier than people give it credit for.
One neighborhood that I like to bring up is the Willmore neighborhood with all these old houses. Like, I had no idea this is here – and they’re some of the oldest houses in the city. I thought it was a hidden gem. But other neighborhoods too, l mean, certain neighborhoods have a reputation, (such as) North Long Beach – and there’s some really cute streets in that area and nice houses. People seem to have pride in their neighborhood wherever they are in Long Beach.
Q: What do you want the city to know about its pedestrian accessibility?
A: The city could do a lot better. It wasn’t really something I had thought of before I started the project, but there were a lot of streets that have no sidewalks. I found a park that there’s no sidewalk to get to the park – the only way you can really get to the park is by driving, which is kind of crazy.
There needs to be some kind of inventory of all the streets that don’t have sidewalks and they need to do something (to fix it). Most of Shoreline doesn’t have a sidewalk – I think that’s kind of strange considering that’s kind of like the entrance to the city.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I’m glad that I just got to know the city better, because when I first moved here, I was really excited to sort of get to know the city – and then COVID happened, and I didn’t really get out much. So it was just nice to explore and to see everything the city has to offer – and see what I can do in the future in terms of restaurants or activities or shopping or whatever.