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Bad News on a Sunday Afternoon

A ripple went through the Newport Beach cycling internet yesterday afternoon with several witnesses reporting emergency vehicles surrounding a bicycle under a car on Bayside Drive, a little east of the Coast Highway. This was reminiscent of the death of Sarah Leaf at that intersection almost exactly a year earlier.

No information other than the second-hand witness reports surfaced and I do not know the fate of the cyclist or cyclists involved. I hope they are not seriously injured and will ride again. The only detail was that the collision happened at or near the intersection of Bayside Drive & Harbor Island Road:

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Passing by there this morning, I did not see any obvious evidence of a traffic collision. No flare residue or fresh CSI markings. Just painted bike lanes on both sides of Bayside Drive, a bus stop at the southwest corner, and a “No Bikes on Sidewalk” sign at the southeast corner.

So I don’t have an idea of what happened there yesterday.

The Things You Notice When You Stop and Observe

But standing there for a few minutes and observing the flow of traffic, one “flagrant foul” jumped out at me: eastbound motorists turning right off of Bayside Dr onto Harbor Island Road do not merge into the bike lane as required by California law. Vehicle Code section 21717 provides:

“Whenever it is necessary for the driver of a motor vehicle to cross a bicycle lane that is adjacent to his lane of travel to make a turn, the driver shall drive the motor vehicle into the bicycle lane prior to making the turn and shall make the turn pursuant to Section 22100 [general turning regulations].”

In other words, you can’t make a right turn over the bike lane – you are required to make the right turn from the bike lane. Think about it this way: if there are two lanes, you are required to make your right turn from the rightmost lane. And the bicycle lane is a lane. (You wouldn’t expect to make a right turn in front of cars traveling in a lane to your right, would you?)

Merging in to the bike lane prevents the “right hook” scenario that is the cause of so many dangerous collisions where a cyclist is cut-off by a motorist making an illegal right turn. These are sometimes fatal.

Here is footage of driver after driver violating CVC 21717 At Bayside Dr and Harbor Island Rd. This was all shot within 10 minutes this morning. There were many more, but I was only rolling the camera when drivers signaled their turn. Many more made the same turn but did not even signal:

This is one of those violations that is so commonplace that it makes you wonder if motorists ever get ticketed for it at all. But it is an extremely dangerous one. Witness the collision last month in San Francisco that resulted in the death of Amelie Le Moullac:

Why Not Write Some Tickets?

This isn’t a new law. It’s violation is probably as big a concern to cyclists as speeding. It’s enforcement would have tremendous impacts on both the motoring and the cycling public.  It would calm traffic: you can see many of the drivers in the video have signaled well in advance of the corner; they are simply staying in the wrong lane to conserve speed. They don’t want to slow down. But merging in to the bike lane would slow them down. That would be safer for everybody.

So, why not write some tickets?

UPDATE: I understand the cyclists involved in Sunday’s collision were not seriously injured. Still no details of the collision itself, other than that the cyclists may have been riding on the sidewalk and riding against traffic. 



David Huntsman

Husband, father, cyclist, lawyer

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