Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bike Long Beach

           On a typical Saturday afternoon here in Long Beach you may notice more bicyclists riding around areas such as Retro Row, Belmont Shores, and Downtown.  “Going green” has been a trend that has popularized within the last few years in America, and now Long Beach is making their contribution to improving our environment.  Bike Long Beach is an organization that has introduced Bike Saturdays, which offers bicyclists discounts at participating locations. 
            Bike Long Beach is an organization that was created with the vision to “be the most bicycle friendly urban city in the nation.”  As part of their mission statement they want to “provide an environment and culture where cycling is a sage, viable, and preferred mode of transportation in the city of Long Beach.           
            Don’t have a bike?  That’s no problem! Every Saturday Bike Long Beach provides free bike valet in the districts that participate such as Bixby Knolls, Cambodia Town, and the East Village Arts District.  Also, Bike Long Beach provides bike racks and the liability is on the city, so you can use the bike worry free.           
            “It’s nice to see the community coming together to support our local businesses as well as showing their appreciation for our environment,” says Diane Gershuny, 4th Street Business Association.  “When asked to participate in the pilot for Bike Saturdays, I didn’t hesitate.”  “This organization has showed me that the community of Long Beach is capable of making positive changes and is an inspiration for others who want to make a similar impact,” she concluded.
            Riding your bike as an alternative to driving has many benefits.  Not only does it minimize traffic and parking issues, it reduces air pollution.  And not to mention, you’re getting exercise and improving your own personal health.
            “I think it’s great—keeps people healthy and conscious about not driving everywhere” says Atlantic Studio salon manager, Carole Tokudomi.  Located outside of Atlantic Studio is one of many bike racks provided by Bike Long Beach.  The bike racks range from quirky designs such as palm trees to simple ones with the Bike Long Beach logo.  When customers ride their bike to the salon they can receive 15% off products and retail.  “We haven’t had many cyclists come in on Saturdays, but I believe the program is capable of being successful.” “They just need to get the word out and improve their marketing.”  Tokudomi suggests “creating multiple rental stations, so you can rent a bike in one district and then drop if off in another.” “That way you could ride from Cambodia Town to Retro Row, without having to be limited to one district,” she concluded.
            Shops and eateries that participate in Bike Saturdays are posted on their website  Places such as Lola’s Mexican Cuisine offers 15% off your total bill and if you visit Sun Elite Tan on 2nd Street you can receive 20% off any purchase.
            Although not everyone may agree with what Bike Long Beach is trying to accomplish, criticism is always beneficial to any organization.
            “I think Bike Saturdays is great, but I also think it is a huge safety hazard,” says avid bicyclist Levi Meyers.  Especially around Belmont Shores there are designated bike lanes, but most bicyclists don’t pay attention and swerve in and out of the lane.  “I don’t even like driving down 2nd Street on a Saturday, because I’m too worried I’m going to hit a bicyclist.”  “There are so many people that travel in groups, and instead of riding one behind the other they ride side by side.”  “Bike Long Beach needs to educate bicyclists more about safety and appropriate routes,” says Meyers.
            Bike Long Beach has created a Public Relations plan that involves goals such as creating more bike routes, offering bike friendly facilities, promoting bike share opportunities throughout the city, educating the community about bicycle safety, and implementing these bicycle programs. The Department of Health and Human Services through the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has funded the efforts of Bike Long Beach and has made their goals possible.

            Bike Long Beach has utilized social media as a tool to promote their organization.  Facebook, Twitter, and their blog keep bicyclists informed about their latest projects, as well as provide tips and video clips for followers.  A recent post on their Facebook page says that Bike Saturdays is the “biggest citywide discount program for bicyclists in the nation.”  This proves that this organization is making an impact on not only the community of Long Beach, but also other communities nationwide.
            Although it may take some time for Long Beach to become bike-user friendly, Bike Long Beach has made a great start on the road to that goal.  

Bree Cahey

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