Beach Streets returns to turn stretches of roads into car-free havens

Tens of thousands of people have participated in the car-free events that allows bicyclists, skaters, walkers, and more to roam the streets safely—and it returns after a two year hiatus.

by Brian Addison

After launching in Bixby Knolls and then having stellar turnouts in various parts of Long Beach—DTLB and Cambodia Town saw over 70,000 bicyclists, walkers, skaters, and explorers invade the streets—the car-free event that shuts down roads for the people is back.

Beach Streets is set to return September 17 from 10AM to 4PM in what is being dubbed the "University" route, the same route used in 2017 and what was planned for 2019 but cancelled due to COVID.

The map for Beach Streets University. Photo by Barbara MacNeil.

While the right to celebrate the return of Beach Streets trumps the rest, we still have the original problem this route faced in 2017: getting to its location safely via anything but a car. Many from Los Angeles dismissed the 2017 event since they would have to ride miles from the Blue Line on major arterials in order to garner access.

“The real problem with East Long Beach: no way for the rest of the city to get in,” said local bicyclist and college teacher Corey Leis of the 2017 event. “You have to cross major conduits from all directions, making it really daunting for bicycles.”

While we should applaud the inclusion of East Long Beach and “tying all parts in,” accessibility to alternative transit is a key point of Open Streets events—which are regional events, not necessarily entirely local ones. We should keep the spirit of the event Long Beach but also maintain some sense of accessibility for the rest of the region.

That being said, upon arrival, the route is a visually great one: It highlights an area rich in mid-century modern architecture, suburban sprawl (in the good sense: gorgeous homes, weeping willows, idyllic Long Beach), and the operation that is Cal State Long Beach with the Walter Pyramid acting as a backdrop.

It is a ciclovía that, ironically, doesn't highlight urban living at all—and it is a nice touch amid the DTLA/DTLB ciclovías of the past. The 2017 event had more families and more kids than any other Beach Streets and that was not just a warming but a welcoming detail.

Ride on, Long Beach, ride on.
To volunteer for Beach Streets, click here.