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No Harm, No Foul?

I’ve just asked the Newport Beach Police Department to provide traffic accident and traffic violation data for the last several years. 

I’m looking for numbers and descriptions of car vs. bicycle accidents, as well as enforcement details of certain California Vehicle Code and Newport Beach Municipal Code sections that motorists might think of as “No Harm, No Foul” violations. But as I explain below, they are not.

With that in mind, I have asked if the Newport Beach Police Department could provide the following:

  • Historical motor vehicle vs. bicycle accident data in Newport Beach[1]

In addition, I have asked if the Department could provide “ticketing” numbers or some other tabulation of motor vehicle code violations / infractions in Newport Beach for the last three years. The specific violations I am curious about are:

  • Traffic tickets issued for violations of California Vehicle Code sections:

              -21209: Driving in a bike lane

              -21211: Stopping in a bike lane

              -21703: Following too closely

              -23123: Using a handheld phone while driving

              -23123.5: Texting while driving

  • Traffic tickets issued for violations of Newport Beach Municipal Code section 12.56.060 – parking in a bike lane[2]

Not knowing how records of these traffic tickets would be kept, I understand that data may not be readily available in the format requested and so I have asked whether I need to clarify the request, and have asked the Department to let me know if there is other data that may be helpful to the effort (which I describe below).

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When a Bike Lane is Not a Bike Lane

When I talk to people about bicycling in Newport Beach, of which I do a lot, I’m usually telling them how much I enjoy and benefit from it. Yes, both the talking and the cycling.

But I am often asked why cyclists “ride on the road” as opposed to in the bike lane.  There are several answers for several situations:

  • The first involves the absence of a bike lane altogether.  Most Newport Beach roads do not have dedicated bike lanes.  And sometimes where there are bike lanes, they mysteriously and inexplicably disappear.  For example, San Joaquin Hills Drive has dedicated bike lanes from its southern terminus at Newport Coast Drive all the way down to Spyglass Hill.  But, at Spyglass Hill, the bike lanes disappear on both sides of the road.  If you are familiar with the downhill side of the road, you know there is a white line painted on the right hand side starting a few hundred yards down the hill.  Many people assume the right side of that line is a bike lane.  In fact the white line on the right is the “fog line” which marks the edge of the road.  The area to the right side of that line is the shoulder of the road.  Cyclists are allowed, but not obligated, to use the shoulder.  And as you can see in the following Google Maps link, the shoulder there is often filled with parked cars (in violation of the City’s ‘No Parking’ signs).  So cyclists can’t ride in that shoulder.


  • But, when there is a dedicated bike lane, sometimes it is unsafe due to hazards such as the steel plate truck ramps, sandbags and rocks seen in the next three photos and due to hazards like that described in this related article.  These photos were all taken yesterday (11.16.11) on the downhill side of MacArthur Blvd, south of San Miguel, heading toward Corona del Mar:
    Steel Plate Truck Ramp Protruding into Bike Lane:

Could you imagine riding into these?

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