Protesters take to the streets, outraged with Broadway ‘Road Diet’

Photo by Diana Lejins
Robert Fox, leading other Long Beach residents in a protest aimed at the Broadway Boulevard redesign referred to as “road diet” on Monday, July 15, 2019.

Broadway Boulevard has recently seen some changes since Long Beach City officials redesigned the road earlier this year. However, on Monday, July 15 commuters may have noticed a more recent addition to the road: hundreds of protesters carrying signs that read, “Broadway ‘road diets’ endangers lives.”

Robert Fox, who is running for the 2nd District Council seat against incumbent Jeannine Pearce in March, organized the protest. He said he wanted city officials to become aware of their grievances concerning Broadway’s new configuration.

The protest centered around the recent construction, also known as a “road diet,” which cuts down on the amount of lanes on a street. In this instance, Broadway Boulevard was reduced to two single lanes and bike lanes on each side of the street and parallel parking spaces were added.

Fox claimed that Broadway’s redesign causes dangerous car accidents and has caused businesses located along the road to close down.

“Our businesses are going out of business because of this,” he told the Signal Tribune on Monday.

Fox told the Signal Tribune during a phone interview Tuesday that residents were invited to two meetings to discuss Broadway Boulevard’s redesign before construction happened. The original plans included diagonal parking space, he added. When construction on Broadway began, Fox said he was concerned that diagonal parking spaces were not being implemented.

“They never mentioned narrowing the street to 10 feet,” Fox said. “What happened to the diagonal parking?”

He added that pulling out of driveways and onto Broadway Boulevard has become more difficult since the road’s update, and it is harder to see cyclists using the new bike lane.

“I am not against bike lanes,” Fox said. “The Broadway diet has to go.”

As “road-diet” protesters marched up and down the crosswalks located on the intersection of Cherry Avenue and Broadway Boulevard asking cars to honk their horns to support their cause, counter-protesting cyclists streamed down the new bike lanes chanting, “road diets save lives.”

At times, the two groups would holler at each other, each stating their opinion on the road’s new design and downplaying the other’s point of view.

John Tully, chief operating officer of a bike-sharing service provider in Long Beach called Pedal Movement, said the redesign has slowed traffic down on Broadway Boulevard and claimed that the road’s redesign is not the culprit for businesses closing down.

“It’s reduced speed on the corridor,” he said. “Businesses become more visible when traffic is slowed down.”

Nick Rose, a member of Fox’s election campaign, told the Signal Tribune in an email that the ongoing count of accidents on Broadway Boulevard since the redesign is “over 70,” but he does not have picture evidence to support the claim. His campaign will be collecting more data throughout the week.

He also claimed that the Long Beach Police Department has not kept count of the accidents unless they were major.

Rose added that the campaign will be pulling together input from the community they received during the rally.

Two days before the protest, 2nd District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce wrote a statement on Facebook claiming that she, Long Beach City Manager Pat West and Long Beach City Public Works Director Craig Beck had walked down Broadway Boulevard and spoke to local business owners.

“Here’s what we heard this week: 1. There were spots in front of my business removed 2. Business went down during construction and after, but it’s back up now 3. Loading zones are needed for restaurants 4. I watched buses not pull all the [way] in the red zone, but stop well before where the bus bench was– meaning there is space for additional parking,” Pearce wrote.

She stated that these were all points that she had heard of before, but that she asked West and Beck to analyze the issues first-hand.

Pearce wrote, “as promised, changes are coming.”

She added that red curbs at all bus stops will be reduced and the benches will be pushed closer to the intersection to create one to two spots at every intersection for short-term loading zones.

The black parking blocks on the ground will be moved 18 inches to give more space for cars.

Pearce added that she will put an item on the city council agenda to move trash pick-up times to 4am.

Her post mentions that there was “a lot of misunderstandings , false numbers and questions on why the bike lane was on the inside.”

“This street is designed to save lives, slow traffic,” her post read. “We are still working to improve what the traffic engineers designed– to have it match with how we all move in corridor.”