Long Beach Bikeway Route 1: Pacific Coast Highway
2010-03-05 · By Peter Dopulos
Let me first start by saying I rode this route during the middle of the week, around 10 a.m., after the morning rush. With that in mind, if this route is the mostly highly trafficked road in our city, I would not be in the least bit surprised.
The total unofficial distance is 8 miles, the longest route I have found yet. It takes you from the city border with Seal Beach in the east, to the city border with Carson in the west. In between the route travels through upscale eastside neighborhoods, through the death-defying traffic circle, past urban Long Beach, and from there into the heavily industrial westside.
Long Beach Bikeway Route 1 is very well marked and intersections with other Bikeways are clearly indicated.
I started on the eastern end riding out of Seal Beach into the LBC. This first distance takes you past Long Beach Bikeway Route 65, the San Gabriel River trail and to the first posted Route 1 sign at Studebaker. This accounts for .3 mile of the route and should be ridden very carefully as the bridge passing over the San Gabriel River causes the road to narrow and there is no bike lane indicated. Motorists coming up on you here are flying, often over 60 mph.
From Studebaker until you reach the traffic circle, in both directions, there is a painted bike lane. It is narrow at times, occasionally blending in with the right hand turn lanes at the Long Beach Marketplace and at the busier intersections. Through this section of Pacific Coast Highway, the cyclist needs to be extra aware of cars turning in to and out of shopping centers and from major thoroughfares. There seems to be a certain amount of cycling traffic through here, so motorists aren’t entirely surprised by a bicycle presence, but stay alert.
Along the bikeway, Route 1 passes a number of shopping centers, Cal State Long Beach, and the Veteran’s Hospital. As you approach the traffic circle, say a prayer, rub your lucky rabbit’s foot – whatever you got – this is the time to use it.
For riders not familiar with this part of Long Beach, the Traffic Circle is a large roundabout where PCH, Lakewood Blvd., and Los Coyotes Diagonal all collide. At the best of times, this is a traffic free-for-all where Mario Andretti wannabes practice their driving. At rush hour, it gets considerably more dangerous and cycling through the Long Beach Grand Prix would be just as perilous, to be sure.
If you are traveling this route, there is no easy detour. The best I have found is the Outer Traffic Circle which runs parallel and will require you to cycle through a gauntlet of stop lights and signs as well as a hazardous crossing of Lakewood Blvd about a 100 yards north of the traffic circle, where speeds are at their fastest, without the aid of so much as a stop sign. Suffice it to say, motorists will not be expecting cyclists here. Stearns, about a half mile north, is another possible option for cyclists that want to avoid the Traffic Circle, but it is considerably out of the way.
On the west side of the Traffic Circle, no painted bike lanes and cars three abreast in both directions, leave the cyclist a tiny gutter to ride. From here until you reach the Carson border, this is an especially tough ride. Few cyclists are seen along this stretch of Bike Route 1, and those I did see were riding on sidewalks.
Around the time I passed Long Beach Bikeway Route 3, Santa Fe Avenue, there was a new concern—eighteen wheelers. Moving west, the area becomes increasingly industrial in nature with large trucks passing, often only an arm’s lenght separating us.
Route 1 through here passes the Los Angeles River Trail, which surprisingly does not yet have a Long Beach Bikeway sign. For those looking to head north, the river is a great ride and one I will review in the near future.
The Route 1 bikeway ends when Pacific Coast Highway crosses into Carson. Up ahead I saw a bleak landscape of gas and oil holding tanks, refinery towers spewing steam and black clouds with open flames dotting the horizon. It looked something like the end of the world; definitely not a stretch I wanted to travel by bike.
Overall, Route 1 is an efficient way to cycle through the city, east-west. However, it probably won’t be the most pleasant ride and expect a few adrenaline spikes. The eastern half is busy but bicycle friendly, the western half, from the traffic circle on, qualifies as harrowing. No part of the route is kid/family friendly and I would only recommend it for experienced cyclists. Unfortunately, there aren’t many alternatives if you live right off this route.
Bikeway: Route 1
Streets Travelled: Pacific Coast Highway
Official Mileage: 7.7 miles
Unofficial Mileage: 8 miles
Landmarks: City of Seal Beach, Long Beach Marketplace, Marina Pacifica Mall, Cal State Long Beach, Long Beach VA, Long Beach City College PCH Campus, Community Hospital, Wrigley Village, LA River, City of Carson
Long Beach Bikeway Route 65 (San Gabriel)
Long Beach Bikeway Route 17 (Orange Ave.)
Long Beach Bikeway Route 11 (Pacific Ave.)
Long Beach Bikeway Route 3 (Santa Fe)