Last night the City hosted another update in the process of creating a Bicycle Master Plan.
A good-sized audience appeared, just as they have the past few months; it’s encouraging to see the public engagement.
It would only take a few minutes before we learned why some were present — objections started surfacing with the draft plan‘s proposal to extend the beach boardwalk to the Wedge in one direction and to the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) in the other.
Affected homeowners in each direction came out to speak against the plan. The meeting was delivering fireworks just minutes into the agenda.
Chair Petros heard them out and suggested counter arguments might wait till later. So the objections to the boardwalk extension hung in the air for the better part of an hour.
Meanwhile the Alta and RBF consultants charged with the details of the project had PowerPoints to share. Different roadway treatments, like bike boxes, popped up to tantalize the audience. But just as a little audience interaction develops on the topic at hand, the Chair requests all questions be held until the end.
The big development that garners the most attention of the evening is the Alta geo-system that has virtually every intersection in the City highlighted in either green or blue designating different potential treatments. The key feature is the commenting capability. Almost every resident, everyone in the region, can comment and offer a suggestion, but ironically, not the members of the Committee.
If you think back, the 7-member Committee is made up of some of the most knowledgeable cyclists in the City — many with impressive credentials. But the ruling of the City Attorney is that there’s a potential for communication conflict somewhere in the system that some might argue is a violation of the Brown Act. Yes, that’s a new one! So every member of the Committee, except Greg Kline who didn’t read the disclaimer before tearing into the system, is excluded from the online version of the draft plan – and that seems a shame.
Instead we must submit our comments and suggestions separately, then some poor staffer must deem it worthy of entering into the composite and cut and paste our comments into what will likely be a hundred or two different spots on the map. Seems like a lot of work.
After kicking the City Attorney in absentia, we move on. It’s time for a response to the plan, first from the Committee members then the public.
This is my queue to rebut the NIMBY homeowners who started the meeting by attempting to dissuade us from extending the beach boardwalk. I have had a few minutes to jot a few ideas, so I raise my hand to speak.
I remind the audience of the unanimous decision of the City Council to proceed with a Bicycle Master Plan and that maybe they didn’t know it at the time, but the recommendations that will come from the plan will upset the apple cart.
I point out that in an automobile-saturated society cars rule while pedestrians and cyclists are second class citizens. That everything from the over-abundance of free-right turns, to on-street parking, new bike lanes and bike corrals will be a change to the status quo.
An extension of the beach boardwalk wouldn’t be popular, I suggest – it would be wildly popular! Kids would ride it to school. Just look at the many bikes parked at Newport Elementary to see how popular riding the boardwalk to school is already. And for those that say the Coastal Commission would discourage any such extension along the sand I pointed out how Coastal has recently approved a new boardwalk for Long Beach that will now separate pedestrians from cyclists and how in Montecito, south of Santa Barbara, cyclists will soon enjoy a new bike path along the sand to ease their transition onto Old Hwy 101.
Soon we’re on to the Police report when Lt. Lu shares the collision statistics for 2013. We had 116 bicycle related collisions in 2013, compared to 113 in 2011 and 106 in 2012. Fifty percent of these involve no motor vehicle, consistent with past reports, so many injuries are bike on curb, bike on bike and bike on pedestrian. So far in 2014, 8 collisions have ocurred including 2 doorings. An interesting note, in the 14 months prior to the installation of Sharrows on Coast Hwy in Corona del Mar, 5 collisions compared to the 14 months since with 9. Lt. Lu pointed out what many can observe for themselves, there is poor compliance on cyclists’ part in terms of riding the Sharrows correctly – in the center of the lane and not riding in the door zone where they suffer from poor visibility. The report concluded with a few details of the Debra Deem fatality at Newport Coast Drive at PCH back in August 2012. News of the findings had already been released to the media and nothing new was presented. No mention made of the age of the motorist, 84, or if it contributed to the tragedy.
As the meeting adjourns I’m informed that so many members of the Orange County Bicycle Coalition board are attending that they decided to hold their formal meeting immediately following at Johnny’s Pizza in CdM.
I pedal my bike down Coast Hwy with David Huntsman to join them.