Critically Speaking: A Bird’s eye view

A battle is brewing on the beach bike path.

Critically Speaking: A Bird’s eye view
People ride along the Shoreline Pedestrian Bikepath at sunset. Photo by Jake Gotta

I’ll start this off by saying that I’m a veteran of Long Beach’s beach bike path.

No, I don’t ride a bike. But back in my day, there was no pedestrian path and runners were forced to use the few feet between the painted lanes of the path and the sand if they wanted to get their miles in.

The addition of the pedestrian pathway has made it easier for walkers and runners while those still using bikes, skateboards, roller skates and other potentially illegal things on wheels are still relegated to the bike path, which is smoother, but still the same width as it was when I first moved to Long Beach.

And it could be getting a bit more crowded soon.

This week, the City Council asked for a report on what it would look like to allow e-scooters to ride on the beach bike path. Companies like Bird and Lime were first allowed to deploy their fleets of rentable, e-scooters in the city in 2018, but the council quickly voted to ban scooters from the beach bike path.

The way that’s been accomplished is through “geo-fencing” technology that allows e-scooter companies to do several things like limit the speeds of scooters when they enter certain parts of a city or power them down when they enter banned areas like Long Beach’s beach bike path.

Boycott the Post. Become a Watchdog.

That doesn’t mean that scooters haven’t ended up on the paths, it just means they’re powered down and sometimes abandoned.

Like other scooters left around the city, it requires the e-scooter companies’ employees to pick them up from where they’re discarded. For those left on the beach path, that could mean a person would have to trudge down a stairwell to carry up one or more scooters that can weigh upward of 40 pounds.

The point is, hard-to-reach scooters — on the bike path or elsewhere — typically remain where they are longer than scooters that are left in more accessible spaces.

And those left behind can become obstacles to runners, walkers and bikers — or end up in the ocean. Yes, that happens.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Council members Cindy Allen and Kristina Duggan, who both represent the largest chunks of the city’s waterfront bike paths, gave a preview of what could turn into a big fight over whether scooters are allowed at the beach.

Allen, who represents the part of the path closest to Downtown, requested the feasibility study Tuesday, noting that the bike path is a safer alternative to riding an e-scooter on city streets. Duggan, who represents Belmont Shore, pointed to an email that she sent out to her constituents that nearly 600 people responded to, most of whom said they opposed the idea.

Not every e-scooter rider is responsible when zooming through Long Beach. Some follow traffic laws but others disregard the city’s ban on riding on sidewalks or run-through stop signs and red lights.

But it’s also clear that the city’s streets are unsafe, especially for pedestrians and those using other modes of transit like bikes and scooters. In 2022, there were 45 traffic deaths in the city. Another 36 died in 2023.

Opening the beach bike path to more modes of transit (specifically cheaper alternatives like e-scooters) could incentivize more people to get out of their cars and push more customers to the beach concession stands that dot the city’s coastline.

It could also help cut into the city’s largest source of greenhouse gases — transportation. According to a memo published by the city this week, transportation accounted for over 47% of emissions in 2021, the new baseline year by which the city will measure its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

However, if the city does move forward with allowing e-scooters onto the bike path, it will have to come up with some kind of regulation, something Duggan and others feel could be impossible given the staffing shortages faced by the city.

Whether you support the idea or not, an answer as to whether the city will let scooters onto the beach bike path could come as soon as next month.

What happened this week

Long Beach passed a ban on styrofoam products like foam to-go food boxes and cups nearly six years ago, but this week, city officials said they will finally begin enforcing the law this June. Staffing shortages and the pandemic were included as reasons for the hold-up in enforcement but once the city begins to write citations for violators later this year, it could bring hundreds in fines for noncompliance. The ban extends to restaurants, many of whom have already switched over to cardboard or other compostable material to package leftovers and to-go orders, but also stores that sell supplies to restaurants as well as grocery stores. So, if you were a fan of plastic straws or styrofoam cups, it might be time to prepare yourself for disappointment this summer.

Something to keep an eye on

I made my return to City Hall this week and I wasn’t given the entrance music I was promised. It’s ok, we’re still friends, Unnamed City Employee 1. But I was there for business, not praise. A story I’ve been closely following is what will become of the city’s lobbyist ordinance. The Ethics Commission has been debating potential changes for two years now and it could be zeroing in on a proposal to send to the City Council. Much of the discussion has focused on whether non-profit groups will lose their exemption from the city’s law that requires lobbyists to report their contacts with city officials, but other changes could bring more transparency by requiring public officials to post their calendars and self-disclose meetings with lobbyists. While there are still some kinks to work out, a commissioner told me that they expect a draft proposal to be ready by June.