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‘Pro Walk/Pro Bike’ Conference Coming To Long Beach In 2012

Cycling Enthusiasts, City Officials Hope To Showcase Bike-Friendly Initiatives

By Sean Belk- Staff Writer

October 11 - The city’s push to promote bicycling and public transportation in Long Beach is getting some extra attention next year.

Long Beach will host the 17th Pro Walk/Pro Bike Symposium in 2012, a biennial conference put on by the National Center for Bicycling & Walking (NCBW) and Project for Public Spaces, expected to attract more than 1,000 cycling enthusiasts, planners and transportation experts from around the country.

Bicycling enthusiasts recently convened at the new Bikestation in Downtown Long Beach to
promote the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference scheduled for next year. Pictured from left are: Filmmaker
Michael Bauch; Bikestation founder John Case; Bikestation and Mobis Transportation Alternatives
President and CEO Andrea White-Kjoss; Bike-Friendly Business District Program Manager April
Economides; Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference Director Mark Plotz; League of American Bicyclists President
Andy Clarke; Gary Toth, senior director for transportation initiatives, Project for Public Spaces; Calibiketours
Principal Elizabeth Williams; Bikeable Communities Boardmember Luciano Gonzales; Melissa Balmer,
media director for Livable Communities Inc.; and Long Beach Mobility Adviser
Charlie Gandy. (Photograph by Carter Rubin/Metro)

Charlie Gandy, the city’s mobility advisor who led a campaign to attract the conference, said the event to be held in September 2012 should bring close to $2 million in economic impact to the city. This year, Long Beach was the location for the first-ever “L.A. County Bike Summit,” attended by nearly 200 city leaders and officials at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, he said.

Landing such conventions shows the city’s charge to become “the most bike-friendly city in the nation” is getting noticed on a national scale. “Long Beach is becoming known around the country as a progressive city on the livable communities agenda, so they want to see the cultural change that’s happening here,” Gandy said.

In recent years, Pro Walk/Pro Bike was held in such notable cities as: Chattanooga, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; Madison, Wisconsin; and Victoria, British Columbia. While competition was steep, Mark Plotz, conference director for the NCBW, said the organization picked Long Beach due to recent strides the city has made in advocacy, with a vision to create a safer environment for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike.

“What we saw in Long Beach is a community that is beginning to coalesce around a vision,” he said. “We think in five years or 10 years ... Long Beach is going to really reach its vision of being the most bicycle friendly community in the country.”

According to the conference Web site, Long Beach is a “bronze-level bicycle-friendly community” and is the 23rd best bicycling city in the United States, according to Bicycling Magazine.

Earlier this year, the city completed two new 1.2-mile “separated bikeways,” considered the first of their kind in Southern California, according to city officials. The lanes, which stretch along Broadway and 3rd Street in downtown and turn into one-way couplets between Alamitos Avenue and Golden Avenue, were paid for with $700,000 in local transportation funds. A brand new state-of-the-art Bikestation was unveiled this month at 222 E. Broadway, the latest such “bike transit” center. The original one started in a different location in downtown 15 years ago.

Also this year, the city launched a “Bike-Friendly Business District” program, the first of its kind in the nation. The program purchased bikes for businesses to use for deliveries and errands and offers patrons free bike repairs, bike valet parking, community bike rides, grocery store delivery service from Bixby Knolls' Trader Joe's and a discount program called Bike Saturdays, which enables customers to get discounts on products and services at various businesses every Saturday for simply riding their bike.

April Economides, who manages the program, said the initiative is both an economic development tool and a transportation program in partnership with four business districts – the East Village Arts District, Retro Row, Cambodia Town and Bixby Knolls. So far, more than 85 businesses are participating and more are signing up every week, she said. “The point of this program is to help businesses . . . the bikes are just the vehicle, no pun intended,” Economides said.

The city’s bike movement has expanded since the use of green-painted “sharrow” bike lanes on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore, which was the city’s first major attempt at introducing bike-friendly initiatives and was a Federal Highway Administration-funded case study. In addition, the city has installed hundreds of bike racks in front of businesses and public places, created a “Bike Boulevard” on Vista Street and intends to soon roll out a new “bike sharing” program.

Plotz said it takes a “network” of transportation options for cities to become successful in creating an attractive and vibrant urban environment. “Not every street needs a bike lane or sharrows or traffic calming, but you need enough of a continuous network if you do expect people to take the bike for more trips,” he said. “It’s no longer the lifer crowd or the alpha male cycle commuter that’s out there. It’s the guy in the business suit or the woman in high heels out there truckin’ along and it’s great because people are using it and it’s slowing traffic down and making people a little bit more humane.”

During the conference, professionals are expected to discuss topics such as: safe routes to school; complete streets and context sensitive solutions; active and sustainable transportation; and the best in policies, planning, programming and educational practices In coming months, conference themes are being developed with collaboration from leading experts in planning, public health, transportation and advocacy.

Members of Long Beach’s Host Committee for the conference are: Gandy, serving as chair; Allan Pullman, AIA, senior principal of Studio 111; Brian Ulaszewski, LEED AP of Studio 111; Andrea White-Kjoss, president and COO of Bikestation and Mobis Transportation Alternatives; Elissa Briggs Thomas, sustainable transportation program coordinator of California State University, Long Beach; and Allan Crawford, bicycle coordinator for the city’s Bike Long Beach.

For more information on Pro Walk/Pro Bike, visit http://www.bikewalk.org/ 2012 conference.