The Most Bicycle Friendly City in America

29 Feb

When a city aspires to be “the most bicycle friendly city in America” and it’s not Portland, Minneapolis or San Francisco, you have to check it out. Since I was down in Southern California for a professional conference, Dick and I stayed over for the weekend in Long Beach to see if there was a glimmer of reality behind this lofty goal. And the beach is always fun in the off-season.

Knowing little about Long Beach, we chose a hotel located on the waterfront with a bike path connecting it to downtown and hoped for the best. When the waiter at the hotel restaurant casually mentioned how nice the weather was on his commute along the beach, I knew we had hit the jackpot. The hotel rented bikes at $25/day, but waiter Kelly declared them junk and recommended renting from the Bikestation instead. That’s service.

The next morning we walked the mile to the Bikestation Long Beach, the founding location of 24/7 facilities for storing and repairing bikes, plus lockers and showers for bike commuters in a half dozen cities, including nearby Palo Alto. It only took a few minutes before the gruff mechanic warmed to us, gave us a military discount on a couple of city bikes (33%!) and sent us off with brunch recommendations that I’m sure waiter Kelly would not have approved of.

Colorful characters on bikes, whimsical bike racks and a cool new vintage bike shop. Well-designed separated bike lanes with bike-only signals, beach paths, river paths and patient, friendly motorists. Long Beach has the makings of a great bicycle-friendly city. Will it be the most friendly in America? Perhaps, but only if Portland, Minneapolis and San Francisco don’t find out.

What makes a city bicycle friendly to you? If you could do one thing to make your city more bicycle friendly, what would it be?

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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Around Town, Issues & Infrastructure, Travel


15 responses to “The Most Bicycle Friendly City in America

  1. Brian

    February 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I personally enjoy all the truck drivers and children of Johor Bahru, Malaysia honking and waving when they see a fast, colorful pack of road bikes riding through. That’s friendly!

    • ladyfleur

      February 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      Love it! Reminds me of how we used to try to get 18 wheelers to pull their air horns when we drove past. Much nicer than getting honked at followed by a “get off the road!

  2. Alex

    March 1, 2012 at 7:09 am

    I love cycling around new places. I usually travel with my folding bike though, since it saves the hassle of renting.

  3. Rachel Unger

    March 1, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Ha – you’re right by the Queen Mary! We went to Long Beach in the fall last year and had a wonderful time. If you’re still there, Sergeant Pepper’s is a great way to spend an evening. (A loud evening, but still.) We didn’t rent bikes, though, which made me sad.
    I think for me it’s bike lanes – if there are lots of bike lanes, AND sensors at lights that actually pick up bicycles – that’s when I think the city cares about cyclists.
    I had no idea Minneapolis was supposed to be so bike friendly! Good to know.

    • ladyfleur

      March 1, 2012 at 8:19 am

      Yes, we stayed near the Queen Mary. We could see her from our hotel window. I’ll write a bit about our bike date on the Queen Mary tonight.

    • Brian

      March 1, 2012 at 9:19 am

      Cities in the Bay Area will respond to complaints about sensors that don’t pick up bikes. And Caltrans is pretty fast in fixing sensors on state roads. The crews that do the tuning don’t have bikes to test with, so sometimes they aren’t sensitive enough and they don’t know unless someone tells them.

      • ladyfleur

        March 1, 2012 at 9:22 am

        How do the sensors work anyway? What are they detecting: weight, metal or what?

      • Brian

        March 1, 2012 at 9:50 am

        The sensors detect metal, but an aluminum rim on a carbon fiber frame is supposed to be good enough and in my experience it usually is. False positives are not very common, even when it’s set to be very sensitive, so it’s reasonable to set them up just to detect just a bicycle rim, although this is not how it was always done in the past. If you can see the seam in the pavement, then lining up your wheel with that is the best bet. Sometimes, I tilt my bike a bit so that more of the wheel is closer to the loop. The tuning isn’t that hard to do but it goes out of adjustment and cyclists are going to be the first to notice.

        Some intersections have cameras, but those should also be trained to detect bicycles and motorcycles. Cameras have trouble when the sun is at extreme angles, with all kinds of vehicles.

      • Rachel Unger

        March 2, 2012 at 11:11 am

        Neat – thanks for telling me.

  4. Allan Crawford

    March 1, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    ladyfleur…thank you for the great photos and commentary about Long Beach. You did a wonderful job of capturing our city. I love that you stumbled into the Bicycle Stand. Nycole and Evan, the owners of the show are great people. It is an awesome shop – one of 16 new bike related businesses that have opened in the last 18 months in Long Beach

    I am the City’s bike coordinator. Without a doubt right now I have one of the best bike coordinator jobs in the country. We are having so much fun putting in the things you have so nicely photographed and described.

    For those looking to come to Long Beach…bring your bike, rent a bike…or by early next year we will have our bike share program in place.

    For more info on our program go to or you can get hold of us at


    • ladyfleur

      March 2, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Hi Allan, thanks for stopping in on my blog! You guys are doing a great job in Long Beach setting a high standard for your neighbors in Southern California (and the rest of the nation for that matter).

      I think there’s a real opportunity for strong economic growth as you make your city more pleasant by promoting bicycling and walking. Restaurants, retail, hotels, event promoters stand to benefit when city has more walking districts, especially ones that are real, not manufactured Disneyland-style by a developer. The Belmont area has huge potential in particular.

      Keep up the great work!

      • Allan Crawford

        March 2, 2012 at 10:03 am

        We agree with your assessment of the economic potential. It is enormous. We are already seeing the benefits, but we also feel that we seeing just the beginning of what is possible. We have created four bike friendly business districts and have over 175 bike friendly businesses in our bike Saturday program. Bicycling can be (and is) a great economic development tool.

        Again…thanks for the great write up and photos.

  5. Reclamation Dept

    March 5, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Greetings! I’m Mychele from Reclamation Dept. I enjoyed seeing your pictures via your bicycle through Long Beach. And I really appreciate the mention and the lovely photos you took of my products @ The Bicycle Stand.

    Let me know if I can accessorize one of your bikes.

    Happy riding!


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