It’s the time of year when the City of Long Beach encourages you toss the car keys and get the bicycle wheels in motion with the 2nd annual Long Beach Bicycle Festival on May 7 to May 9. Riding the success of last year’s event, 2010 aims to draw attention to the city-wide changes implemented as part of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan raise awareness about safety education and a greener lifestyle.
With the expected success of the Long Beach Bicycle Festival, the City of Long Beach traverses closer to becoming “the most bicycle friendly city in America.” According to the League of American Bicyclists, the city has secured or spent over $10 million in grant funding for projects in the Bicycle Master Plan. The league awarded the City a Bronze Level in 2009, recognizing its efforts to develop into a more bike-friendly community.
“The Bike Festival will draw people from all over the city to celebrate cycling in Long Beach,” Sumire Gant, Transportation Planning and Programs Officer for the city, wrote in an e-mail. “Last year we introduced three new pilot projects at the Bike Festival that we would like to consider in the update of the city’s Bike Master Plan.”
The Long Beach Bicycle Festival opens with the Fixed Gear Fest, located on First Street between Linden and Elm Streets in the East Village Arts District. The evening will feature freestyle riders, performances, trick competitions and Gold Sprint roller racing contests. Among the live music, booths, food, clothing and more, the event will kick off with the City Officials Tricycle Showdown.
New to this year’s festival is the Tour of Long Beach on May 8. The 31-mile route, planned by 2000 U.S. Olympian and Long Beach’s Bike Ambassador, Tony Cruz, displays the best of Long Beach. From the ocean, to the parks, to the neighborhoods, amateurs and professionals can tour bike paths and trails through the city. Riders can loop through the course twice totaling 62 miles, also known as a Metric Century in biking terms.
“[It’s] a fantastic venue for non-competitive enthusiasts to explore the many bike-friendly paths and other assets our great city has to offer,” Mayor Bob Foster said in a press release.
Mayor Foster will participate in the tour.
The shorter, kid-friendly Tour of Long Beach Family Ride ushers riders of all ages along the waterfront in a four-mile loop. All registration and proceeds from this event go to the Miller Children’s Hospital.
“Anyone can ride this event,” Festival Director Mark Bixby said. “The course is flat and scenic and it’s all for a great cause. You’ve got all morning to do it, even if you’re going 10 m.p.h., three hours later you can roll back into downtown and there’s a lot of great stuff happening.”
Bixby said 250 riders registered three weeks in advance and a total of 500 are expected to register.
Garnering the attention of the competitive racers is the USA Cycling race, the Bicycle Grand Prix. Professionals and amateurs can join any of eight races, children’s races and a Police, Fire and Armed Services race to compete for more than $17,000 in cash prizes. The 0.83-mile course starts and finishes at Broadway and Promenade in front of sponsor restaurant Wokcano. Participants must be USA Cycling members.
The final day of the festival wraps up with 4th Street in Motion. This event highlights the green lifestyle of biking and alternative transportation. Held on the 4th Street corridor, between Junipero and Cherry Avenues, the festivities embrace a bicycle-themed film festival held at the Art Theatre, vintage bike enthusiasts The Cyclone Coasters, and The Retro Rollers, Long Beach’s roller derby team plus live music, food, a wine and beer garden and more.
The Luther Burbank School is hosting family-oriented bicycle activities and exhibits that include safety workshops and do-it-yourself bike repair.
“We want to encourage people who may not ride a bike now to get more information so that they feel safer riding their bikes in Long Beach,” Gant said.
“It’s critical for kids to learn how to ride safely and commute in a healthy fashion,” Bixby said. “It’s also important to educate motorists how to drive around bicyclists.”
The school’s “Garden of the Mind” project is the major beneficiary of the event’s proceeds and donations.
In the end, the Long Beach Bicycle Festival isn’t just about bringing out the bikes or going green.
“For me, the best part about the festival is seeing all of the kids who participate,” Gant said.
For more information on the festival or to register for events, visit www.longbeachbikefest.org. To stay updated on Long Beach’s biking community, visit www.bikelongbeach.org.