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Long Beach Unveils 'Bicycle Business District' Program

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A bicycle lane in Long Beach
A bicycle lane in Long Beach

The city of Long Beach just announced the launch of an experimental two-year pilot program designed to encourage short distance bike trips within the city limits. Funded through the LA County Department of Public Health's RENEW initiative, the Long Beach Bike-Friendly Business Districts program works by isolating four areas of the city--The East Village Arts District, 4th Street Retro Row, Bixby Knolls and Anaheim Street's Cambodia Town--and providing free bicycles and cycling gear for local businesses in those areas--to use, say, for local deliveries, or to run to the post office. In return, these businesses will offer discounts to cyclists every Saturday.

Think of it like Groupon, except you pay by riding your bike.

So far over sixty businesses have signed up, offering deals like two-for-one meals or a free cup of coffee.

"We have a comprehensive program to improve cycling infrastructure in Long Beach," says city spokesman Edward Kamlan. "We've taken a lot of care to build elaborate, decorative bike racks for instance. We want to encourage people to use these amenities for their short trips. Not just consumers, but merchants as well."

April Economides, Long Beach's project consultant for the program, says this effort isn't just about promoting healthy living though cycling--although that's great, too.

"This is an economic effort to get people to eat and dine locally," she says. "The project sites chosen aren't necessarily the ones which were the most bicycle friendly. Wealthy areas like Belmont Shore and Naples are the most bike friendly. This was about targeting areas that have a solid business infrastructure, but need help economically."

To promote these new districts, Long Beach will hold two events, one in summer and one in fall, offering free bike repairs as well as discounted bikes and gear from local merchants. Each bicycle district will also soon begin holding a monthly "First Friday"-type community event.

Sounds like the kind of plan LA could use to promote eventual opening of its 7th Street Bike Lane. How cool would it be to get discounts at Langer's for riding your bike? Maybe some of the 8th Street restaurants near the bike lane could join in too. I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one who could be persuaded to get off my lazy butt for nice cheap meal at Guelaguetza or Soot Bull Jeep.

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The L.A. Vitamin Report is a column about quality of life issues by Matthew Fleisher. It is brought to KCET's SoCal Focus blog in partnership with Spot.Us, which receives support from the California Endowment.

The photo used on this post is by Flickr user waltarrrrr. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

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