Part II: The Bootleg Bicycle Master Plan

The free right turn from E. Coast Hwy onto MacArthur in CdM

The free right turn from Coast Hwy onto MacArthur in CdM
This high-speed exit ramp is hazardous to pedestrians and cyclists — Let’s keep it closed

Welcome back to the new series, the Bootleg Bicycle Master Plan. This is where we’ll introduce concepts for making the city safer for cyclists, but in some cases we have doubts that these proposals will ever make it into the final draft of the official Bicycle Master Plan. A defeatist attitude? Some will think so, but we’re living in an automobile-saturated society and change comes slowly, especially when it relates to taking roadway space away from cars to the betterment of cyclists and pedestrians.

I can’t sleep, my mind is racing. It’s 2:15am and here I am attempting to pull a few coherent thoughts together on free right turns and the hazard they pose to cyclists and pedestrians.

To lay the groundwork I must follow the threads that keep bringing me all the way back to 1992 when I was on my way home from a business trip rehearsing the speech I would deliver to my wife. It went something like,

Honey, I want to move to New York City.

Probably just like if you tried this line on your spouse, I was greeted with some modest skepticism. Was I kidding? Obviously, no. My wife was used to my spontaneity, my impetuous nature, but this time I was serious. And we would move to NYC.

At the time I was running a software company. My clients were major Wall Street firms, or they would be if I moved to New York to demonstrate my commitment to serving their significant needs. But my company was little, maybe less than 10 employees at that time — this would be a bold move of no little risk.

We sold our house in Costa Mesa and put all our furniture in storage. The next week we rented an apartment overlooking the East River on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. What a rush!

Yes, it was very exciting, until that first morning as I made the subway commute to my office in the World Financial Center downtown. This intra-borough commute took over an hour; I was unpleasantly surprised.

There would be other surprises and quirks. Getting used to New York was a process, like moving anywhere new. But some things stood out to this relocated Californian — especially the no right turns on red lights. What was this about? California had recently passed a law making it the default behavior for motorists at intersections. Why was NYC not with it?

It wouldn’t take long before I learned it would be slaughter to allow cars turning right on red in the metropolis — there are too many pedestrians to do this safely.

Meanwhile, we’re not settled even two weeks in Manhattan – our furniture is still in storage in California – when the phone rings…

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Caltrans: I Want A Seat At The Table

Tonight Caltrans attended the NB Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee meeting.

They weren’t on the agenda; I didn’t know they were coming.

On the one hand, it’s another indication of the state of bicycle advocacy, at least here in Southern California where everybody from the Board of Supervisors to OCTA, even the AQMD, is backing regional initiatives to increase connectivity and improve safety.

But that’s not what brought the three Caltrans officials out tonight. They were present because they received 420 letters from the cycling public after the latest fatality on Coast Hwy.

They came to assure us of their best efforts, how they had been working over the weekend to review the challenges cyclists face, and to respond to every individual letter-writer, too.

They described how they have already begun a dialog with City staff, presumably in Public Works, regarding possible solutions to the roadway challenges, but then they cautioned that there are constraints, that they’re not dealing with new roadways with ample room for every roadway user. They’re dealing with narrow lanes and parked cars…

That’s when I lost it.

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