Hundreds of people were running loose in three council districts on one of Long Beach’s busiest streets last Saturday. Teenagers on skateboarders were zooming around as if they owned the road, all while loud music blasting from speakers on almost every block egged them on. And it was all sanctioned by the City of Long Beach.
For the June 6 Beach Streets— the city’s first open-road event for pedestrians, bicyclists and skaters— officials shut down Atlantic Avenue to vehicular traffic so that those not behind the wheel could roam freely on a street that usually sees thousands of cars coming and going to access the 405 Freeway as well as various stores, restaurants and neighborhoods. From 9am to 4pm, the usually busy street was closed to cars from Wardlow Road all the way to Houghton Park at Harding Avenue, stretching from the 7th council district in the south to the 9th in the north.
“I am proud to have played host to the inaugural Open Streets event in Long Beach,” said 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga. “From Bixby Knolls to north Long Beach, attendees were afforded the opportunity to explore and enjoy the diverse businesses and entertainment offerings available in Uptown Long Beach.”
In the 8th district, Scherer Park was the site of a festival that included a BMX freestyle show, bands, arts and crafts, face painting, inflatable slides and obstacle courses. The Department of Parks, Recreation & Marine and the Health Department also provided active-living activities and information, in addition to an emergency-preparedness expo.
Al Austin, councilmember for the 8th district, described it as “truly a euphoric day in uptown Long Beach.”
“I love it when a plan with so many moving parts comes together into something amazing,” Austin said. “It was a joy to see so many participate in such a positive, family-friendly event. What a proud day for the 8th District and all of Uptown.”
Also expressing exuberance about how Beach Streets turned out was Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Assocation, who was pleased not only with how smoothly the event went but also the diversity of its attendance.
“There’s no question the City will do it again,” Cohn said. “As a matter of fact, I had spent the morning with the mayor, the council offices, the city manager and other city staff who just were gushing about it, and, from what I have heard, they all scrambled right back to City Hall and are trying to pick the date and location and route. So they will do it again.”
Cohn said having the first event in the location it was meant it had “plenty of heart and soul in it.”
“I hope the City can replicate the same kind of feeling anywhere else,” he said. “It was just the ‘make you feel good’ event of the year.”
Long Beach resident Jenn Harding was among those taking advantage of the open street. An avid bike rider who lived in San Francisco for a number of years, Harding said she misses the bike-friendly culture of that city in which drivers are more conscientious about bicyclists, but she is glad Long Beach is becoming more aware of those on two wheels.
“I thought Beach Streets was not only a perfect excuse to get out of the house on a beautiful day, but it was an awesome way for a whole community to get together and be adventurous,” Harding said. “I definitely thought it was a successful event, and I would attend again. I only wish it was every weekend!”