San Joaquin Hills Drive in Newport Beach is a major thoroughfare for motorists and cyclists alike. Just below the intersection of Spyglass Hill, motorists picking up students at Harbor Day school park on the inland side of the road.
This is a signed NO PARKING zone; as is the entire length of San Joaquin Hills Drive from Jamboree to Newport Coast Drive. The posted speed limit is 55 MPH at this point.
Cyclists descending San Joaquin Hills Drive at this point have just left the dedicated bike lane which extends from Newport Coast Drive to Spyglass Hill and are faced with as many as 75 cars pulling over, parking, loading students and pulling back on to this high speed street. All in apparent violation of the NO PARKING signs.
Watch this video of a cyclist passing the pickup zone at about 2:30 pm today:
We were told at tonight’s meeting of the City of Newport Beach’s Bicycle Safety Committee that the City has granted a Conditional Use Permit for this use of the road, and that one of the conditions of the permit is that drivers are not supposed to get out of their cars, but as you can see here, this requirement is not being strictly observed which adds the dooring hazard for passing cyclists on top of the danger posed by cars leaving the road to park and re-entering the road after picking up students.
The Bicycle Safety Committee explained that the Conditional Use Permit was granted to mitigate congestion in front of the school on Pacific View Drive. This is understandable; however, the result is an erosion of safety on San Joaquin Hills Drive. It seems only a matter of time before the high speeds of motorists, the daily parade of seventy-five plus cars picking up kids from school and hapless cyclists trying to navigate the unexpected and unpredictable maze ends in tragedy.
I’m aware it is not just a balance of convenience against safety, as I know pushing those seventy-five plus cars back on to Pacific View Drive would also decrease safety somewhat — albeit at much lower speeds and without compromising cyclists.
I suggested the Conditional Use Permit effectively extended the presence of Harbor Day School to San Joaquin Hills Drive and merited the installation of SCHOOL – SPEED LIMIT 25 WHEN CHILDREN ARE PRESENT signs. This seems like an appropriate safety upgrade which would mitigate some of the hazard. Such signage would slow passing traffic and warn cyclists of the hazard. The Bicycle Safety Committee agreed to follow up on this option.
Aside from the actual hazard posed by the cars here, there is the fact that motorists are being trained to ignore the posted NO PARKING signs on San Joaquin Hills Drive. We were told that technically, in the opinion of the City, because people are (ostensibly) waiting in their cars, they are not “parking” but are only “stopping”. I suspect this difference is lost on many if not most participants and observers and that they learn to understand that NO PARKING signs are not going to be enforced anywhere on San Joaquin Hills Drive. Including in the bike lanes.
Along those lines I suggested that if parking is necessary, then it should be made ‘legal’ from the public’s point-of-view and appropriate adjustments to signage, road striping and speed limits be made.
In passing, it is hard to avoid the observation that if more kids – and their parents – felt safe riding bikes to school, there might not be any need for this Conditional Use Permit at all.
For broader coverage of last night’s meeting of the City of Newport Beach Bicycle Safety Committee see CoronadelMarToday.