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My concern with the intersection of East Coast Highway and Bayside Drive in Newport Beach, where cyclist Sarah Leaf was killed, is the layout of the road markings approaching the intersection. They look like a bike lane, but instead of providing guidance lead a cyclist into a very dangerous position on the road. A real bike lane on and exiting the bridge, with an obvious painted transition across the right turn pocket for continuing east on the Highway and sharrows in the right turn pocket, could have discouraged her from riding in the right side of the gutter and under a truck’s wheels.

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This is the intersection where Ms. Leaf was killed on September 14, 2012. She was riding eastbound on the Coast Highway and – for unknown reasons – fell from her bicycle and was crushed under the wheels of a truck as she exited the intersection.

Ms. Leaf would have been riding eastbound over the bridge, approaching Bayside, so it’s likely she was in the “bike lane” there. I put “bike lane” in quotes there because it is not a bike lane. It is a shoulder. But it looks like a bike lane. And most cyclists ride in it – although they are not legally required to – because of the high-speed motor vehicle traffic in the travel lanes there.

The white “fog line” separating the road from the shoulder even wraps along the side of the road to the right as the right turn pocket starts. Well down the incline and after cars will have already started coming up on a cyclists’s left, the white line ends, leaving the cyclist trapped on the right side of the lane, not knowing the cars on her left will be turning right at the bottom of the incline.

Because, not being out IN the right turn lane, she will not necessarily have seen the “right turn only” arrow painted in the middle of the lane.

She would have been navigating the gutter.

Even if she looked left from the gutter and saw the directional markings in the middle of the right turn lane after the false bike lane ended, she would first see the misleading “straight or right” arrows halfway down the incline and think it at least legal to proceed straight across Bayside from the right. I don’t understand that “straight or right” arrow symbol. It precedes the restaurant parking lot. It doesn’t seem to provide valuable information to a road user.

A bike lane, if one was painted there, would end at the start of the right turn lane, and not direct a cyclist into unknown conflicts with motor vehicles. It may even direct a continuing cyclist across the right turn line with broken lines.

Here is an example of a bike lane treatment that would alert a cyclist to what’s coming ahead well before she gets there:

Here’s a link to a video of the last few hundred yards of the ride in question, ending at the intersection where Ms. Leaf was killed. Note the start of the “false bike lane” at 0:27, the bike lane wrapping around to the right with the right turn lane at 0:58 and the confusing “straight or right” arrow symbol on the road at 1:06. And at the very end, where the cyclist is standing under a tree on the sidewalk, is roughly where Sarah Leaf died:



David Huntsman

Husband, father, cyclist, lawyer

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