Road Diet Upsets Many

By: 
Kirt Ramirez

Changes to the Broadway Corridor have many residents and business owners upset about lost parking and worried the reconfiguration could lead to traffic injuries or worse.

Renovations to the commercial and residential street – which started last October and stretched from Redondo to Alamitos Avenues – have resulted in fresh pavement, added bike lanes and painted parking spaces.

Where two lanes went each way, only one lane now goes in each direction to calm traffic. Removing lanes and adding bike paths to both sides of the street has narrowed the corridor.

With little wiggle room, drivers must be extra cautious when opening car doors and exiting vehicles. Then they must watch for bicycles and e-scooters when crossing the bike path to get to the sidewalk.

Previously, cars on Broadway parked next to the sidewalk’s curb. But now bike lanes run alongside the curb and parking is on the other side of the bike lane, putting cars out in the street in bubble-like compartments painted onto the asphalt.

The parking spaces’ white lines start at around eight feet from the curb and extend into the street to just over 17 feet, according to tape measurements. People must park within the markings.

Drivers and pedestrians crossing Broadway complain they have trouble seeing oncoming traffic because of the rows of parked cars.

A bus heading westbound on Broadway stopped to allow an eastbound bus to slowly pass, to avoid hitting the side mirrors.

Residents put trash containers in the bike lane and trash trucks now block a whole lane of traffic on trash day, forcing vehicles to go around into oncoming traffic.

City staff, officials and traffic engineers took part in developing the Broadway street model.

“Somehow the city reinvents the wheel and they come up with a square wheel,” said Real Estate Broker and Broadway resident Robert Fox, who serves as executive director of the Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) for Long Beach.

“I have a driveway you have to back out of,” he said. “It’s just really difficult to see cars coming. It was bad enough before, but now the parking is in the middle of the street. So it really impedes your vision.”

Fox said he supports bike lanes but wants cars parked close to the curb and the bike lanes out in the street.

“That makes more sense,” he said. “Then you can see the bikes and you don’t run into anybody. It’s a safety factor.”

He estimates “at least 40 percent” of parking spaces were lost from the restriping and this hurts businesses.

“The road diet has been such a disaster for businesses that some won’t survive,” he said.

Fox is calling on the City Council to reverse the changes made.

Director of Public Works Craig Beck said through email, “The speeds on Broadway were too high for the design of the street …”

He noted a woman walking across the former Broadway was struck and killed by a car.

“One of the primary goals of the project was to SLOW down the cars and make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists …” he wrote.

“While we understand the new design is different to motorists on Broadway, we already have several installations like this in the city of Long Beach including Orange Avenue, Artesia Boulevard and Bellflower Boulevard.

“We are seeing positive results including a greater adherence to speed limits by motorists, increased safety for all roadway users, and the creation of a separated bikeway to allow for more opportunities to travel by bicycle.”

He said community meetings took place and the city reached out to all businesses and residents along the corridor when the project was initiated last October. 

Now finishing touches are being added.

“Once the project is complete, we will evaluate it to see if changes need to be made and how the corridor is being used by all modes of travel. We also plan on doing speed and volume surveys a year after completion to document the changes.”

However, Merry’s clothing store owner Merry Colvin said she has witnessed “too many near-misses” since the launching of the new layout a few weeks ago.

“It’s frightening,” she said. “It’s so potentially dangerous.”

Colvin said the modifications are too much.

“The problem with Broadway is they sliced it up into too many pieces and you can’t fit it all in,” she said. “To me, Broadway was a poor choice to do all these things. It’s not wide enough to accommodate everything they’re trying to accommodate.

“It’s a main corridor; it’s not a country lane and it never will be. It’s a heavily traveled road and they’re trying to make it a charming bicycle path, and it isn’t.”

Colvin said her Broadway/Temple Avenue location lost 10 parking spaces, seven of which were eliminated from adding a long, red-coated curb.

“I barely survived the construction,” she said. “I don’t know if I can survive the result.”

Moe Shahbani, owner of Café Piccolo for 34 years, expressed frustration with the Broadway makeover. He said the street turned out differently from what city officials said would happen.

“They said with this new improvement on Broadway, we’re going to increase the number of parking spaces,” he said. “Well, they haven’t done that and they have taken about 35 percent of our parking spaces.”

After complaining to the city, he said he was told the situation would be analyzed for a year. But Shahbani fears he could go bankrupt and wants city staff to go back to the drawing board now and not a year from now.

He and other business owners are looking into suing the city to force them to make changes immediately, he said.

Shahbani, a bicyclist himself, said he would not ride on Broadway. He said good bike paths exist at the beach and on Third Street. He feels the Broadway bike lanes should have taken a back seat or placed somewhere else.

He said Ocean Boulevard exhibits a nice street model with diagonal parking for increased spaces, two lanes reduced to one for slower driving and a bike lane.

He advocates using that model for Broadway.

He said parking on Broadway has become a secondary factor and bike lanes have become the primary factor.

“What is the wisdom behind that?” Shahbani asked.

He said customers along Broadway are driving away and doing business elsewhere.

Dean Gunnell, administrator for Broadway by the Sea, said through email that many businesses are dismayed about the parking. He said he reached out to the city and was told the engineering department will work on a solution.

“It especially affects our business, as we are a nursing and rehab facility for the elderly,” he said.

“On a weekly basis we have emergency and non-emergency calls where transportation is required to go to the hospital or to doctor appointments. We have employees and family members of our residents exiting their vehicles in the new parking. As they open up their doors to oncoming traffic, it becomes a very scary position we’ve put our community in.”

He added, “Just a couple of weeks ago we had our fire department come to assist in a 911 call and they had to park in the middle of the street blocking traffic as they did their job. They expressed concern about the new parking and couldn’t believe the new changes and expressed their frustration.

“The new parking idea is simply not going to work for Broadway, especially for our industry. We were never notified of this change nor given any voice or opinion on the matter.”

Mina Barnes, who has owned Visionary Artware for 20 years, is disappointed.

“I’ve lost five parking spaces within five homes of here,” she said of her 2915 Broadway store. “They designed this system without anticipating that people are going to be backing out of the driveways.

“I go into oncoming traffic. I’ve seen almost four accidents out here in two weeks’ time. I had a customer come in and say somebody almost took off their car door.”

Barnes said the city needs to be put on notice.

“This is dumb change,” she said. “We asked for more parking and they took parking away and they told us that would not happen. The city out and out lied to us.”

Parking for her was taken away because painted driveway skirts were made wider as well as street markings, she added.

Hollywood resident Anne Bartee, a professional artist with EMI Records, who also manufactures wholesale costume jewelry and greeting cards, visits Long Beach once a month to make deliveries.

“Your city looks clean and neat and well laid-out,” she said of the parking spaces. “This shows the city cares about the people.”

Annie Parks, a Broadway by the Sea resident, sat in a wheelchair collecting petitions, which can be signed at many of the businesses.

“It’s very dangerous,” she said. “This is what I call an accident waiting to happen.”

Erik Milendez, a resident and bicyclist, rode to Gallagher’s Pub and Grill.

“I think they’re great,” he said of the bike lanes. “I use them quite a bit.”

Bluff Heights resident Frank Ginipro loves the new bike lanes and rides his bike to work in downtown Long Beach.

“I feel safe in my own lane, far from the threat of a wayward vehicle or unexpected car door opening. I move fast; I wait at traffic lights, follow rules, and I burn calories.”

But lots of dissenting comments appear on the area’s Nextdoor website, too many for print.

“I almost hit a bicyclist turning right down Bonito, because you can’t see past the cars parked out into the road,” wrote Alamitos Beach resident Amy Eley. “I also almost got side swiped by a car just darting out onto Broadway. There are going to be so many accidents happening from this. It’s such a bad plan. I hope nobody get seriously hurt or killed from getting hit.”

kirt@beachcomber.news

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Comments

I no longer use Broadway. It’s a mess.

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