Bicyclists more motivated to visit Belmont Pier area in Long Beach than before pandemic

A view of one of the Long Beach bikeshare bikes waiting to be rented. (Richard Grant | Signal Tribune)

Bicycling on the beach has become a more frequent activity near Belmont Pier in Long Beach, according to an electronic totem installed by the City.

The first eco-totem was installed near Belmont Pier in 2016 to track the number of pedestrians and bicyclists that pass by instantaneously using both infrared and inductive loops, according to the City’s webpage.

The public paths along the beach were closed in the city from March 27, 2020 to May 11, 2020 due to the pandemic. Since they’ve been allowed to reopen, the path near Belmont Pier has seen consistently higher numbers of bicyclists than any other year on record.

The eco-totem near the Belmont Pier has registered more bicyclists passing by from the start of 2021 to now than at the same point in time during the past four years.

April is only halfway over, but as of Wednesday, April 14, 2021 there have been 29,981 bicyclists counted by the seaside eco-totem since the beginning of the month. During the whole of April 2020, the eco-totem counted only 4,474 bicyclists due to the closure of beach paths in the beginning of the pandemic, from March 27, 2020 to May 11, 2020. For comparison, in April 2019, prior to the pandemic, 39,703 bicyclists were counted by the device. 

In the Climate Action Adaptation Plan by the City, it is recommended that residents use alternate forms of transportation besides cars whenever possible, such as bicycling. The benefits include lessened traffic due to fewer cars on the road, cheaper transportation costs, improved personal health and reduced air pollution.

As part of the City’s plan to meet the 2030 Reduction Target for emissions, the carbon dioxide output of the city will be reduced by 363,250 MT CO2e (Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent), with 8% of the reduction coming from changes in transportation use in the city.

Two women ride past the “Eco-Meter” that tracks daily and yearly passerbys on the beach bike path near the Belmont Memorial Pier. (Richard Grant | Signal Tribune)

Once the trails reopened in May 2020, residents flocked to the beach for fun and exercise while other forms of entertainment were still closed. 

Mayor Robert Garcia acknowledged the community’s restlessness during lockdown when announcing the beach paths would be reopened, but stressed the importance of continuing to follow health and safety guidelines.

“We know our community has been anxious to get back outdoors,” Garcia said in a May 2020 press release. “While our beaches are still closed, like many of you, I am looking forward to the beach bike and pedestrian path opening up on Monday. Please remember to practice physical distancing so that we can continue to make more places available.”

Before beach paths had been reopened, the beach had been completely off limits to the public. Even after paths were opened, people had to be using them for “active recreation,” meaning they had to be walking, biking, running, jogging or doing a similar activity to be at the beach. Just lounging in the sand was still banned.

The monthly total of bike riders counted by the eco-totem shot up to 82,123 in May 2020, the highest amount it had ever recorded in a single month since its installation in 2016. 

(Infographic by Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)

Bicyclists continued to arrive at the beach in droves, with every following month setting a new record, until September 2020. A total of 87,173 bicyclists were counted in June 2020, 91,086 in July 2020, and 102,625 in August, 2020.

In September 2020, the monthly count of bicyclists near Belmont Pier began to drop, with 79,808 counted that month.

Although bicyclists aren’t visiting the beach path near Belmont Pier as often as they did when it first reopened, bicyclists are still using it more now than they ever did before the pandemic started. Even after the massive surge began to lessen in Sept. 2020, the eco-totem has counted over 50,000 bicyclists every month since the beach paths reopened.

From it’s installation in September 2016 until the closure of beach trails at the end of March 2020, only 11 months out of a total of 40 months recorded saw over 50,000 bicyclists counted by the Belmont Pier eco-totem. 

In comparison, over 50,000 bicyclists have been counted every month for the 11 consecutive months following the reopening of the beach trails. 

Since the beginning of 2021, the eco-totem near the Belmont Pier has counted a total of 217,158 bicyclists, as of Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

From the beginning of 2020 to the end of April 2020, 107,684 bicyclists were counted, less than half of this year’s total so far. 

During the same time period in 2019, 124,813 bicyclists were counted by the eco-totem. 155,463 bicyclists were counted during the same period of time in 2018, and 150,686 were counted during that time in 2017.

Under the current Long Beach Safer at Home Health Order, both active recreation, including biking, and stationary activities, like sitting, can be done at the beach with up to 15 people or with members of up to three households, whichever is less.

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