A Good Bicycle Plan Could Be Much Better

Monday night’s Bicycle Master Plan Committee meeting was contentious.

I’ll admit, my many critical comments added to a stressful meeting. Besides critiquing the Plan, I had 2 items on my personal agenda to discuss:

  1. a 2-block extension of the beach boardwalk, and
  2. the Back Bay Report.


An elegant alternative to extending the boardwalk

An elegant mini-extension of the beach boardwalk

Neither item was deemed suitable for discussion, let alone inclusion in the Plan, even though the boardwalk extension is the most popular post ever here on bikeNewportBeach. Worse, Chairman Petros described the Back Bay Report as “reprehensible”.

Yeah, maybe I see his point — a report that calls for a 90-day trial period to restrict cars on the Back Bay — no, no I don’t see his point! “Reprehensible” isn’t the right word; “experiment” is the term most would attribute to the report’s recommendation.

Either way, I was 0-2 for the night — until today’s Orange County Register where Ethan Hawkes writes, “47 miles of bikeways proposed in plan: $21 million Newport Beach project is still in the early stage, committee says.”

While the Chair is named, I get 2 paragraphs:

Frank Peters, who serves on the committee, said the plan doesn’t describe how the proposed improvements would be completed.
“Eighth-graders could come up with a list of intersections and roadways that need improvements for bicyclists,” Peters said. “The real issue is what are you going to do about it, and that’s not identified in the master plan.”

Snarky, I’ll admit, but not reprehensible.

My fellow committee member and Traffic Engineer Bob Kahn rebuts,

This stage is too early for detailed planning, and specifics would be hashed out once individual projects have been approved

Seeking the last word, I add this comment:

My fellow committee member Kahn is correct, each bike lane design will eventually become more specific, but there’s middle ground. For example, the Huntington Beach Bicycle Master Plan shows 3 possible treatments for bike lanes on Coast Hwy — these simple illustrations stimulate discussion and engage the public as well as their elected officials while everyone can see that improving conditions is best served by removing parking.

You won’t see anything like that in the NB Bike Plan — it’s omitted for political reasons, to keep the public in the dark as to whether parking will be affected, or a travel lane removed – issues that tend to fill the Council chambers with NIMBY residents.

“Trust us,” that should be the byline of the NB Bicycle Master Plan. Since no details are offered we must trust that Public Works will do their best to implement the latest in best practices. But we don’t see any indication of applying best practices to their latest bike lane installation, on Avocado in front of our amazing Civic Center. I call it a nice 1970’s bike lane because cyclists are marginalized to the edges of the road so 4 lanes of cars can zoom. If it’s an indication of their future implementation of this Master Plan cyclists will have little to celebrate.

During the meeting no one mentioned it, but our Alta Planning project manager, Paul Martin, will be departing for a new role as OCTA’s Active Transportation Coordinator – a big step up. Of course this leaves a prime vacancy at Alta, which will attract many applicants and the whole professional bicycle advocacy community waits while everyone plays leap-frog. Our beloved Brad Sommers, who’s been coordinating all our local projects, will someday get an offer he can’t refuse. Then where will we be? Left to the same people in NB Public Works who botched Avocado. That’s why our Bicycle Master Plan needs more specifics.

Committee member John Heffernan asked to call out the very top priorities; he was greeted with deaf ears, too, but the concept of adding some detail to the very topmost issues in bike safety is worthy of a little more effort.

It’s worth fighting for.

One of 3 treatments for PCH in the Huntington Beach Bicycle Master Plan

One of 3 treatments for PCH included in the Huntington Beach Bicycle Master Plan.
Illustrations engage the public and set the stage for a discussion of bike safety versus car parking.