Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Militant Takes On Long Beach's Beach Streets Uptown (a.k.a. Uptown Funk Gonna Give It To Ya)

Just when you had your fill of CicLAvia last week, along comes another one! Well, kinda.

On Saturday, the City of Long Beach initiated its own ciclovia, or open streets, event, called Beach Streets (no, not Beat Street, but everybody say Ramoooon! (Ramoooon!)), which took place in Uptown Long Beach -- a route that involved a 3.3-mile stretch of Atlantic Avenue from Wardlow Road in the south to Harding Street in the north, at Houghton Park. Now, this technically wasn't the very first Beach Streets; as they did a small event in April using the already closed-off course of the Long Beach Grand Prix in Downtown Long Beach. But this was the first one that involved an open streets arrangement specifically for Beat, er, Beach Streets.

Now, the Militant is familiar with Long Beach; he even did a whole week of posts devoted to The International City in June 2011. But he had never been to this "Uptown" part of the LBC before. So this event was a treat and a half.

Being that The Militant lives somewhat north of Long Beach, he figured it would be an easy ride via the Red and Blue lines down there.


When The Militant arrived at 7th Street/Metro Center, a Metro staffer said that there were no Long Beach trains, and that we had to take the Expo Line to the 23rd Street/LATTC/Ortho Institute/Lorenzo/Kind Of Close to Adams Station, get off, and ride a shuttle bus to the Blue Line Vernon station.

Boo Metro.
Despite the event, like CicLAvia, being sponsored by Metro, the transit agency also picked this weekend to shut down part of the Metro Blue Line between the Vernon and Pico stations due to station maintenance at Washington, San Pedro and Grand.  Umm, did that make any sense at all?

The Militant had to endure the 15-minute "bus bridge" ride, which only took 15 minutes, in actual travel time, but add on another 20 minutes to get off the Blue Line, board the shuttle bus and wait for it to fill up before departing. Argh.

So, The Militant arrived at the Wardlow station a lot later than anticipated, Thank You Metro. Grrr.

The coned-off temporary bike lane on Wardlow Road that led to Beach Streets.
After arriving there, he rode the .6-mile east on Wardlow to Beach Streets, which had a "temporary bike lane" set up for riders who came in from the Blue Line or from points east.

But here's where Beach Streets begins and The Militant's frustration ends.

Beach Streets! (The sign said "Welcome To/Beach Streets"; but that's the way it came out on The Militant's camera.
Beach Streets was pretty much like a CicLAvia-lite. He estimated no more than 30,000 people. Which was fine; Long Beach is a smaller city, and even if Metro's stupid Blue Line closure this weekend ruined it for prospective visitors, this event was really for the people of Long Beach. Being that Los Angeles' CicLAvia consistently pulls in a huge crowd every time, there was really no pressure to pack Atlantic Avenue at all. And in the world of Southern California open streets events, there should really be no competition. So 30K smiling faces should be chalked up as a success.

The Militant also noticed that there were a greater percentage of children on the route, which is not just a good thing, but a great thing -- their generation will not know of Beach Streets as an anomaly or something novel, but their reality. And by the time these kids grow up to be the movers and shakers of Long Beach, you can bet that these things will be happening all the time. So kudos to the Beach Streets organization for getting all the kids out.

The public art sculpture thingy in the median of Atlantic Ave.
The event also had a more small-town feel; there were much more bands playing (including not one, but two New Orleans-style brass bands - in different places!), more booths or tables along the sidewalk or closed intersections to give the whole thing more of a rounded-out street festival feel. The City of Long Beach even dedicated an area for an Emergency Preparedness Fair, so this event had multiple functions for many people.

The Militant also noticed the slower pace of the ride. Having gone to all 13 CicLAvias to date, there's a certain speed and flow of the ride that's uniform (well, depending on how much people are on the road at one time). He was biking rather fast but felt like the a-hole from Los Angeles who was trying to speed and weave his way through.

In all, Long Beach did an excellent job with this Beach Streets Uptown thing. And part of it might have been attributed to the fact that a number of people who were out today had already experienced CicLAvia over the past nearly five years, so many people knew what to do and what to expect. The other part is that surely their organizers took copious notes during the past CicLAvias and replicated some of its best practices, such as the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. event span, permeable intersections for automobiles and volunteer crossing guards.

Humans, and even dogs enjoyed Beach Streets.
The Militant was also impressed by the Bixby Knolls area. So many restaurants and eateries, and so little time, he really needed to come back to this area sometime.

Downside? There really was no downside. Maybe the closest thing was that there wasn't too much in the way of historical points of interest along the route. There was one of Long Beach's Giant Donut locations (Angel Food Donuts on Long Beach Blvd), and there was the Rancho Los Cerritos adobe, but both were a few blocks west of the route.

The Militant looks forward to more Beach Streets events (They are going to have more of these, right?), and will definitely be there!

Now, as you may or may not know, CicLAvia, Beach Streets and other open streets events originated from Bogota, Colombia's Ciclovia, which happens every week.

So what we're looking at is this: There are 88 incorporated cities in Los Angeles County (you might know how they got their names by now), and if at least a couple dozen of them organize maybe one to four (or more) open street events each year, and schedule them so they don't conflict...BOOM! We can have an open streets event every weekend year round! 

Don't believe him? Just watch.

More pics from Beach Streets Uptown:

Welcome to Long Beach's Beach Streets Uptown!
Beach Streets: The first open streets event with a Navy ship!
Someones, uh, creative backyard greeting at Atlantic Ave and Del Amo Blvd.
A chalk art map of Long Beach on Harding Street. Proudly representing the LBC.

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