Observation Ride in the Back Bay

Posted April 19, 2014 By Frank Peters

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Bill Sellin, Dawn Sumerford, Bruce Nelson, Heather, Doug & Paul hopped on bikes to ride the Back Bay Drive

Today was part 2 of a 3-part series dedicated to examining all the mixed uses on the Back Bay Drive.

This evaluation started when the Newport Bay Conservancy sent a letter to the Bicycle Master Plan Committee. See the letter and news of the sub-committee that was formed to explore the issues here.

This would be a different kind of ride; no speed racing, we would stop frequently to observe the roadway and the many users. I learned a lot. Heather from the Conservancy added great historical perspective.

Did you know that the road was once the only way to the coast, before there was Jamboree?

I didn’t know it was originally a two-way road either and that a boat launch once thrived at the Big Canyon turnout. Heather shared how the community came together to remove the launch and one direction of traffic.

Is it time for the next step in conservancy?

Should car traffic be eliminated altogether? Or should we stripe separate lanes for bikes and cars and bikes coming the other way and for dog-walkers and rollerbladers?

We’ve discussed the pros and cons.

Want to learn more? Care to participate in the final report?

Come to the next meeting: 5pm Wed April 30th at the Civic Center.

Can’t attend? Email your suggestions to backbay@bikeNewportBeach.org

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Heather shares the history of the Conservancy at one of our many stops

 

     

Day in the life

Posted April 17, 2014 By Frank Peters

Yesterday was Wednesday. A few things stuck in my mind, like when I got home and found a student’s email inquiry.

I love it when students say that talking to me is part of their assignment. They’re surprised when I reply right away. Anna at OCC asked,

 

What are the most critical concerns for cyclists regarding their safety on the road today?

Easy one — I didn’t have to think much…

  • Too many cars
  • Getting hit by cars
  • Distracted drivers
  • Poor or non-existent infrastructure
  • Hostile motorists

What did I leave out?

It was on the tip of my tongue because I had just come from the Corona del Mar Residents Association’s Annual Meeting. Me, Michael Alti and Lou Cohen, fellow members of the Bike Committee, shared a booth, a table really, to show off a bike map of the city. It showed a lot of new, proposed bike lanes.

Now the CdMRA meeting doesn’t attract many Millennials, more like Centenarians, so the feedback went along familiar lines:

I’d like to ride, but there are too many cars.

And the corollary: “I don’t think it’s safe.”

One woman stopped by to tell me that she loves to bike — at her home in Germany everybody bikes, same at her home in Florida. But not here. Made me wonder, all those homes…

My feeble rebuttals went like, “How about the beach boardwalk?”

I got a few begrudging concessions.

Then the topic of one-way streets in the Flower Streets came up. Motorists love the idea — they could drive without any concern of cars coming at them. Of course, this makes streets more dangerous for kids, grandparents and everyone in between that isn’t in a car. But the point is motorists want what they like — mindless motoring. The same reason why they hate roundabouts. Traffic circles and their hipper, new-age roundabouts — just ask anyone — motorists hate them because they have to slow down and really pay attention. That’s why Complete Streets advocates love them, because collisions drop and streets get safer for all users: kids, dogs, cyclists, even motorists.

Then this morning, Thursday: I owe my annual CdMRA dues, so even though I haven’t had coffee yet, I jump on the bike to go deliver a check. The monthly board meeting’s well underway as I slink in and slide a check across the table. Fortunately, Public Comments are next and I get to blather on about tonight’s meeting about the Back Bay.

A hand goes up; there’s a comment from the audience, but I have to wait while someone else says something on another topic. Then the focus comes back to bikes. About bikes on sidewalks, “I almost got hit.”

What can I say? As little as possible is what comes to mind, “Thank you.” Then the Chair pipes up, “I think we’ll write a letter to the Committee about bikes, and electric bikes now, too, on the sidewalk.”

Send me all your ‘bikes are a nuisance’ letters I’m saying in my head – hoping no one can hear. It was even harder to keep from wise-cracking, “Can you blame them?” Instead I just file it all away till I’m here at my confessional. The focus moves on to a review of last night’s meeting.

I know I’m a long way from home, bike advocacy-wise, when Barry Allen comments; he’s ruffled about last night’s Annual Meeting. According to him, he arrives a tad late, so there was no parking in the Sherman Gardens lot…

I had to park a block away and walk!

Straight-faced, he said it. No one else in the room gave any indication of anything but mutual indignation. I was stifling a guffaw. Imagine…

Time to get back on the bike.

I need a really long ride soon

I need a really long ride, soon

 

     

First of 3 Back Bay Meetings

Posted April 17, 2014 By Frank Peters

Meet tonight at 5pm for the first of 3 events that will review the route along Back Bay Drive.

See you at the Civic Center. Details here.

 

     

Houston — We Have Cops On Bikes

Posted April 11, 2014 By April Morris

Monday’s Newport Beach Bicycle Master Plan meeting covered a variety of topics including:

  • A proposal from a conservancy group that wanted to limit cyclists’ access to the Back Bay loop
  • An update by the Alta Planning consultant on the progress of programs, e.g. Education, Encouragement and Enforcement, included in the Bicycle Master Plan, and
  • A report by NBPD on collisions involving cyclists for the month of March.

For me, the most important moment came when Ramon Zavala, Supervisor of Sustainable Transportation for UCI, reported that the City of Houston is utilizing an undercover program whereby police officers are riding bicycles through the key areas of Houston and citing motorists (and I suppose cyclists) for safety violations. Fantastic idea!

Coincidentally, NBPD just acquired 2 new electric bicycles.

My brain went into high gear:

What if some of the funds we raised for the Bike Safety Fund were used to purchase say 4 or 5 bicycles that NBPD would ride in uniform — NOT undercover?

Police officers would ride key areas like Coast Hwy through Mariners Mile while on the lookout for motorists that are not following the law. The officers would be in the stream of traffic, stopping at lights, turning left, turning right, all the while showing motorists that it is legal and correct for cyclists to be on the road and occupying turn lanes when necessary. As an added bonus, the bike-riding officers would become more familiar with problem traffic patterns and street conditions that cyclists face.

What better way to Educate and Enforce the rules of the road? We could influence thousands of motorists each and every day.

Tourism is a huge industry for Newport Beach — what a better way to encourage tourists to rent or ride in the bicycle-friendly City of Newport Beach?

Would this be an appropriate use of funds? What if $25,000 were spent to put more officers on bikes?
Share your thoughts, please.

 

     

It’s a Bike Helmet, Not a Coffee Helmet…

Posted April 11, 2014 By David Huntsman

I’ve got this idea people will be a lot better off if they weren’t wearing bike helmets when they aren’t riding their bikes.

This isn’t about whether people should wear helmets when they are riding their bikes. It’s just about “when the pedaling stops…” It’s an image thing, and it’s what the helmet image conveys to the world. The image of someone in a helmet, walking around, going in to cafes, posing for pictures post-ride, is really odd. It’s not just that the helmet sends a “dangerous activity” message about bike riding; it’s also just how, well, off-putting and dehumanized a person is walking around with a helmet on.

I am aware of a study in England that showed drivers behaved in a more dangerous manner around people with helmets than they did around people without; I’d imagine a similar sentiment manifests itself off the highway.

I can tell you from personal experience that when I ride with a helmet, neighbors and parents of my son’s friends often don’t recognize me if I say “hi” to them around town. But without the helmet, they see me first and call out to me. (The point is not lost on me that when my son rides to school helmeted, he is not recognized – even by people who know him – to the extent he is when he is helmet-less.)

I know some people are worried about helmet-hair, but it’s really not that bad. Just run your fingers through your hair when you take the helmet off and it’s like you went for a jog, or just got back from the beach.

I think helmets discourage interaction with strangers and make bike riders more insular. I remember how we used to relax after a bike ride in the “pre-helmet” days, way back in the eighties. We did some of the same things we do now, although Peets Coffee and Starbucks hadn’t spread like McDonalds yet. So we usually gathered in pastry shops, like Paris-Pastry in Santa Monica or stand-alone coffee houses, like Van Gogh’s Ear in Venice or Caffe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz. We didn’t sit with ourselves; we sat wherever and interacted with the rest of the patrons. Because once we were off the bike we weren’t cyclists anymore. We were just people going for a coffee, like everyone else there.

What really strikes me as odd is group photos today where everyone is wearing  their helmets, and sometimes big glasses, even when the bikes aren’t around. You can’t recognize anybody; they all look the same. I’m from a generation that didn’t need helmets and glasses, and in my old pictures I can see my friend’s faces. And we look like people, not “cyclists”. So at least for this reason, having photos of friends you can recognize in twenty-five years, take the helmet off when you get off the bike…

I’m trying to encourage friends to leave the bike helmet hanging on the handlebars. For example, when I take a picture of the kids after the Sunday bike races, I give them a chance to take their helmets off (and glasses) off. The pics are much nicer, and they will be able to tell each other apart when they see the pictures someday.

Here’s my cycling team celebrating a long time ago, at the end of the last stage of the 1986 Vuelta de Baja:

We had some hair!

l-r, Martin Howard, Ken Knight, Todd Deangelis, David Huntsman

Can you imagine if we had helmets on our heads? We’d have forgotten, by now, what amazing hair we had…

     

When the Big One Hits, We’ll Be Mobile

Posted April 8, 2014 By David Huntsman

An email I received from the office of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) regarding earthquake preparedness left me at a loss, and (this time) I figured out why. It suggested preparing the typical things, like strapping water heaters and having water supplies. Those are good ideas.

Enough supplies to stay at home, but not enough to carry on...

The kit suggests enough supplies to stay at home, but not enough to carry on living.
We have to get around!

But what about transportation after a disaster strikes?

I’ve lived through the aftermath of one major earthquake as an adult, the 1994 Northridge quake. It brought down the Santa Monica Freeway. Street-level motor-vehicle traffic in Los Angeles was a seriously impacted for quite a while after, and forget parking your car in a multi-level parking lot until the engineers signed off that it was still stable.*

I poked through the links on the Senator’s email and, while I found suggestions that we keep our cars maintained, I couldn’t find anything about how we were supposed to get to work, or to school, or to the store, the doctor, the community center or any of the other places we might need to go after an earthquake.

What if roads are too damaged for driving, the traffic lights don’t work or there is little or no fuel? For everyone in my neighborhood it means a long walk to the closest store. But it would be a very nice bike ride.

We'll be mobile.

We’ll be mobile.

So, my email response to Senator Boxer:

“Dear Senator Boxer,

As a Californian, it is hard to imagine an earthquake preparedness kit without provisions for immediate transportation after a damaging quake. You will remember the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, which destroyed Interstate 880 in San Francisco and the 1994 Northridge quake which brought down the Santa Monica Freeway.

When another earthquake large enough to do damage to our already strained California transportation network does occur, there would be no way for most of us to get to work or to school, stores, doctors, community meetings et cetera. This is because roads could be too damaged for cars to use, traffic signals may be non-functioning and gasoline supplies may be limited or cut off entirely. A bicycle will be the only reliable transport available, does not need gasoline and can manage the roads when they are too damaged for cars.

Your office should be recommending all Californians have bicycles in good repair for every member of the family, extra tubes and the ability to patch a flat tire. At least one bike per family should have a handlebar basket to carry briefcases, schoolbooks, groceries and other supplies.

Yours sincerely,

(bikeNewportBeach)”

You may do the same here.

* Here’s a 2002 USDOT report on transportation issues in Los Angeles after the 1994 earthquake. Note, in Appendix A, Day 3, Metrolink went so far as to let bicycles on the train. We’ve come a long way!

     

Jeff Miller to speak in Santa Ana

Posted March 31, 2014 By Frank Peters

Jeff-Miller-Flyer

Fresh off the heels of the Open Streets National Summit and Sunday’s CicLAvia in Los Angeles, the Alliance for Biking and Walking‘s Jeff Miller will speak in Santa Ana Monday April 7th.

No two cities spell it the same, but closing streets to cars for a Sunday can have a big impact on public opinion. How better to show local residents the potential of returning their streets to kids and dogs, pedestrians and people on bikes?

Open Streets events are so popular they’re happening all over North America, all over the world.

In the past five years, Open Streets have gone from a novel idea to a permanent fixture in cities looking to improve biking, walking and public space. Having an Open Streets initiative is no longer a rarity. Leaders in cities across the country are now pushing for more frequent and longer Open Streets.

 

Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller

Los Angeles will host their 8th CicLAvia this Sunday April 6th along iconic Wilshire Blvd. Which Orange County city will be first to host an Open Streets event?

Bio: Jeffrey Miller is President/CEO of the Alliance for Biking & Walking, the North American coalition of more than 200 state and local advocacy organizations. He serves on the boards of America Bikes, America Walks, and Adventure Cycling Association. A graduate of College of the Atlantic, he was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, traveling and studying bicycling in 15 countries around the world. For 12 years, he grew the Bicycle Coalition of Maine into one of the strongest statewide bicycle coalitions before being recruited to head up the Alliance in 2008. He enjoys speaking across the continent and working with local advocates, to grow this people powered movement.

Come meet Jeff: 6pm Monday April 7th at the Garfield Community Center, 850 Brown Street, Santa Ana. The event is free.

Download the details.

 

     

A Simple Question

Posted March 21, 2014 By Frank Peters

How’s your day goin’?

I turned to see who was asking.

There was a young woman driving a pickup – she was in the right turn lane right next to me. Her window was down. She was smiling. When the expected reply was slow to come she looked a tad self-conscious. I’m still wondering what to say to her.

Just moments prior as I rolled up to the traffic light I looked in my mirror – there was no one on the street as far as I could see. I was on Laguna Cyn Road in industrial Irvine where the roads are wide and bike lanes abound.

Seldom do I get friendly comments from people driving cars, least of all yesterday. Less than an hour earlier back in Corona del Mar, not one, but two motorists tried to run me off the road in less than a 30 second span. Probably neighbors of mine. The first guy, he was older and they can get impatient — “Move over!” he screamed as he roared past me in his BMW convertible. Jeesh, we were on Marguerite where there’s a 4-way stop on every block – Where’s he goin’ in such a hurry? Yes, I did almost catch up to him at the intersection.

The next guy was way more dangerous. He pulls out to pass and as he does he burns rubber – he is flying as he shaves me. No words were exchanged. I was too busy checking to make sure everything was ok. Then I noticed – he had a kayak on his roof and other playthings inside. Where was he coming from so pissed off? Is there such a thing as a bad day kayaking?

Back in Irvine all this flashed through my mind as I attempted to answer the young woman. Maybe she asked because she rides with her grandfather.

What was I up to? I was going to see my internist after last week’s colonoscopy. It will be my last time seeing him. It’s the way he spoke to me,

Benign, benign, benign…

So my day was turning into something like the Twilight Zone. Freaky bad then increasingly good.

I wanted to make a joke about going to buy a lottery ticket, but I couldn’t sort it out, besides I don’t play the lottery.

My long ride home was uneventful if not breezy. It’s not till I get back into CdM that things get spooky once again.

I’m riding the Sharrows on Coast Hwy – riding them right, controlling the lane – traffic obliges me and allows me to move over. It’s a little bit congested because it’s getting to be late afternoon. I’m heading to my pharmacist with a prescription; he’s just a few blocks ahead. I notice that traffic starts moving and I fall into line. The lane on my left is stopped and I’m apprehensive. A woman’s getting out of her car as I roll past then stop. The car behind me stops and he gets out. There’s a big black beautiful dog on the road, next to the median – it’s disoriented and I can see feces running down its leg. The woman shouts, “Good grief!” as she opens the back door of her SUV. The man driving the car behind me approaches the dog and herds him into the woman’s car. It all happens in 15 seconds – a possible doggie tragedy turns into a rescue. I start pedaling away before traffic gets moving – I’m guessing everyone’s gonna be distracted.

After a suitable lapse, as my druggist works on my prescription, I tell him of the dog rescue on Coast Hwy I just witnessed. He doesn’t miss a beat,

I wonder if they’d be that considerate to a cyclist in the same condition…

I don’t have a comeback for this either. I’m still wondering.

 

     

Harried and Hostile

Posted March 17, 2014 By Frank Peters

It was a beautiful weekend all over Southern California, no less so in Newport Beach.

The parking lot at Big Corona was 90% full which meant that the neighboring streets – what the locals call the Flower Streets – were jammed with those looking to save the 15 bucks at the City lot and park for free. It’s no fun walking the neighborhood on days like this – our motorist brethren are frazzled. They’re almost at their destination, if they can just find that elusive parking space. Needless to say, they’re not always the most respectful drivers when they encounter pedestrians.

They are harried and hostile.

I always had an untested theory that motorist behavior towards pedestrians varied, depending on the culture of the neighborhood they come from. This hypothesis came to mind as I noticed some motorists who I suspected did not live local, driving with imprudent speed and a lack of consideration for those on foot or on bike.

After this weekend I’m ready to chuck this theory.

My first example occurs on the peninsula during the St. Patrick’s Ride. Our route included a quick trip to the Wedge and I thought I’d lead the small group on E. Balboa Blvd then return on the beach boardwalk. This way they’d get a taste of the difference between riding on the street and the peaceful quiet that is common on the boardwalk. My secret motivation was I want to attract supporters of the Draft Bicycle Master Plan that, as of today, includes the possibility of extending the boardwalk to the Wedge. I demonstrated the need a little too well.

Pinch point at E. Balboa Blvd at A Street

Pinch point at E. Balboa Blvd at A Street

As you look at the Google Earth photo, picture us moving from left to right. You can see the road narrows and parked cars are contributing to a potential hazard for cyclists. If there isn’t room on the road for a bicycle and a car to travel safely together then it’s up to me to control the lane and make the motorist wait until the roadway widens, in this case about half a block.

There was just one motorist behind us, so I signaled before moving over and placed myself in the center of the travel lane. The driver expressed his displeasure by driving right up behind us and blowing his horn. Nonetheless, I continued controlling the lane. Eventually he had space to pass us which he did with gusto — blowing his horn repeatedly at us as he drove by. We inconvenienced him for about 7 or 8 seconds, but it was just too much to bear – he was harried and hostile.

“He was older,” my wife was quick to gloss things over, but I was concerned that my little bicycle group found the experience unsettling, threatening.

We continued without incident and maybe the drama of the harried and hostile motorist added more weight to my later remarks about extending the boardwalk.

Scenario #2 occurs Sunday at 2:30pm at Jamboree at Coast Hwy. My wife and I are leading two friends from brunch at the Back Bay Bistro to Big Corona. My favorite route is up the hill through Back Bay View Park then do a ‘Copenhagen left turn’ from southbound Jamborree to eastbound Coast Hwy. I’ve taught the Boy Scouts how to make this move so as to position themselves safely as they traverse the intersection.

A 'Copenhagen Left turn'

A ‘Copenhagen left turn’ — This image shows traffic moving through the intersection, but of course, we moved across while east-west traffic was stopped at the light

With 7 traffic lanes, courtesy isn’t abundant here. What I’ve noticed previously, motorists in the far right lane, like the ones right behind us, know their lane disappears up ahead, so they’re ready to blast off when the light turns green. Except there were these cyclists ahead of them.

This was a much more dangerous confrontation with the harried and hostile. Yeah, there was horn blowing, but the 2 lead cars were taking no prisoners — they sliced by us with inches to spare, as if they’d made this move once or twice before. It was my wife again who was the only one to comment, “He came so close to me.” At high speed, too.

In Washington D.C. at the National Bicycle Summit I attended a terrific session, Dealing with Bikelash. The main message comes to mind here:

If you’re explaining, you’re losing.

But I can’t help myself; a little explanation: Notice the dashed treatment on the bike lane stripe – that’s a clue to the cyclist to move to the left, out of the bike lane, such that cars approaching from behind can make a right on red.

That’s some comfort, knowing I did the textbook technique, but the harried and hostile made it unnecessarily dangerous.

 

     

St. Pat’s Sushi Ride

Posted March 15, 2014 By Frank Peters
I found the perfect hat

I found the perfect hat

It was another beautiful day for a bike ride. This time we would ride to the peninsula, the Wedge and then on to Huntington Beach for lunch.

On the ferry — Jack and Laura bought green bikes just for the occaision

On the ferry — Jack and Laura bought green Pedego Electric bikes just for the occaision

A smaller turnout made for a nice opportunity to make conversation — made it easier to settle on a restaurant for lunch, too.

Everyone wanted sushi for lunch

Everyone wanted sushi for lunch

The sushi was such a hit that we started planning the next ride specifically for sushi – to Taiko on Jeffrey in Irvine. Since daylight savings is upon us, we’re thinkin’ of an early evening ride to dinner. Stay tuned for details on the April Sunset Sushi Ride.

Laurie, Laura and Barbara

Laurie, Laura and Barbara

Joe and Frank

Pedego CdM‘s Joe Carter and Frank

Route map