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Many of you will recall the 2011 Newport Beach Bicycle Safety Committee had the chance to recommend the installation of Sharrows on the Coast Highway through Corona del Mar.

The Committee learned the nature and value of Sharrows, educated and queried the local public. They found the community’s support and even sought the advice of the office of the City Attorney (which gave them its blessing). All signs pointed to a ‘go’ for Sharrows. Their installation seemed logical; there was simply no reason not to recommend them.

However, in a head-scratcher, the Committee was unable to reach consensus on the recommendation. The 2011 Committee suggested that

  • Alternate routes had not been thoroughly investigated — which is simply not a relevant issue — and that
  • There was not a history of collisions on the Coast Highway through Corona del Mar suggesting the need for Sharrows there.

As for alternate routes, it’s not business-friendly to direct bicyclists away from commercial centers; that would deny local businesses the opportunity to enjoy bicyclists’ patronage. That limits the economic vitality of the Coast Highway corridor. In this economy, local businesses need all the patrons they can get.

Then there’s the claim of no history of relevant collisions on the Coast Highway through Corona del Mar. That didn’t sit well with the public and some members of the Committee. Our instincts told us how gut-wrenchingly dangerous it is to try to ride a bicycle on PCH. That part of town is magnetic for locals and out-of-towners alike, with recreational and touring cyclists passing through via the Pacific Coast Bike Route

And we have all heard tales of accidents and near-misses there:

Someone’s friend was hit from behind, northbound at Orchid; a girl I know saw someone doored southbound past Starbucks. My barber at Fast Eddie’s told me about a time a few years back when a cyclist got “creamed” on the Coast Highway adjacent to his shop.

So, we all knew there had been accidents. And, rather naively, we thought the City’s Bicycle Safety Committee was at least aware of them, and probably was amassing numbers and other statistics for those accidents. But, not only did they not have them, they hadn’t even gone looking for them. You’d think that would be a fundamental task — to determine the quantity and the quality of roadway hazards — so that public safety would be job #1.

As it turns out, the California Highway Patrol and Office of Traffic Safety maintains records so governments statewide can make the roadways safe for everyone. The OTS developed rankings that individual cities could use to compare their city’s traffic safety statistics to those of other cities with similar-sized populations.  With that data, cities can see what areas they may have problems in and where they are doing well.  Consequently, cities and California’s OTS can identify emerging or on-going traffic safety problem areas in order to plan how to combat the problems. It’s an objective, data-driven process.

So now we’ve found the numbers

Brenda Miller, founder of PEDal, accessed U.C. Berkeley’s Traffic Injury Mapping System (TIMS) and Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) database for Newport Beach.

In the nine years from January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2009, there were 436 car vs. bicycle collisions citywide in Newport Beach. That includes 6 fatalities, 45 severe injuries (meaning the cyclist could not walk away), and 272 other visible injuries.

Those are very big numbers. But how do we stack up to other, similarly-sized towns?

According to CHP/SWITRS, for the 5 years from 2006 to 2010, Newport Beach consistently ranks as one of the 5 most dangerous cities of its size in California for bicycling.

Bicycle-wise, we were 5th most dangerous in 2008, 4th worst in 2009, 3rd worst in 2006 and 2010, and the absolute worst with the number one position in 2007. Overall for ALL types of traffic collisions from 2006-10, Newport Beach roadway safety has ranked 4th (twice), 6th (twice), and 7th most dangerous.

Now – on to the Coast Highway through Corona del Mar

You will need to scroll down to the graphics below, where each red pin represents one car vs. bicycle collision, but the totals depicted by the Traffic Injury Mapping System from 2001 to 2009 are 116 car-bike collisions in Newport Beach on Pacific Coast Highway (from the Santa Ana River on one end of town to Pelican Point Drive at the other). Of those 116, 32 car-bike collisions occurred in the village of Corona del Mar on East Coast Highway (between MacArthur and Seaward). That’s about one car-bike collision each month on the Coast Highway through Newport Beach for nine years.

There you have it — the history of relevant car-bike collisions. For its upcoming May 7th meeting, the 2012 Newport Beach Bicycle Safety Committee now has the data to properly evaluate public safety on Pacific Coast Highway.

Sharrows anyone?

Car-bicycle crashes with injuries or fatalities on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Newport Beach, CA.

Car/bike crashes on Pacific Coast Hwy. Each red pin represents an injury/fatality. Click the images below for an expanded view of each numbered section.




David Huntsman

Husband, father, cyclist, lawyer

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