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Santiago Canyon – Stop The Freeway

Southern California and particularly Orange County roadies take note: Santiago Canyon is in for a really bad makeover. The powers that be (Orange County Public Works, Orange County Transportation Authority) say they want to decrease fatalities to all road users. However, while they propose to do some long overdue things like adding paint for bike lanes, even widening them, the overall plan is really, really bad for cyclists. Because it is a plan designed to make motorists feel they can drive even faster than they already do, which is way too fast.

We all know Santiago Canyon is a terrifying place to ride a bicycle because of the illegal high-speed motorist traffic, generally unchecked by law enforcement which simply does not enforce the basic speed law or the law against close passes. The proposed “improvements” will make it worse, as drivers feel comfortable driving even faster.

As OCBC’s Executive Director Pete van Nuys describes it below, they plan to “make the road safer for speeders and drunks”.

Asked to provide its support for the general plan, the Orange County Bicycle Coalition responded thusly, by email:

“Jonathan (Delgado),

As I stated in my previous email, OCBC must oppose the current Santiago Canyon Road project. We find it disingenuous to say the least. Why doesn’t the County just say it wants to increase throughput by widening the roadway, and that this project is a first phase of the ultimate high capacity arterial highway?

You can’t be serious about increasing bicyclists’ safety– higher speeds mean higher fatalities of pedestrians and cyclists.

What the County really wants to do is lower the embarrassingly high number of motorcycle collisions. Embarrassingly high because the County is unable to work with law enforcement to cite irresponsible motorists; you’ve lost control of the highway.

So you’ve decided to make the road safer for speeders and drunks. You will save the lives of law breakers at the expense of legal but more vulnerable road users.

And you ask us to support this?
I hope in the future we can support tax funded projects that actually do make OC’s roads safer for ALL road users.

Pete van Nuys Exec. Dir. Orange County Bicycle Coalition ECI, LCI, CSI

…and by attached letter:

May 2, 2017
Orange County Public Works
Orange County Transportation Authority

Re: Santiago Canyon Road Passing Lanes Project

As presented to date, the Orange County Bicycle Coalition must oppose proposed changes for Santiago Canyon Road. Our research suggests the problems which this grant money purports to address are the direct result of speeding by motorists and motorcyclists. Ironically, at a time when research by Federal and State agencies and NGOs nationwide confirm that high motorist speed dramatically increases injury and fatality for ALL road users, this project seeks to increase motorists’ speeding behavior which will place vulnerable road users at even higher risk.

More paint on the pavement in the form of “buffered” bike lanes will do nothing when speeding motorists cannot keep their vehicles under control. As we see it, this project is not about increased safety for anyone. It has two objectives:

* Facilitate higher speeds by increasing passing opportunities
* Allow higher speed cornering

To achieve these ends Santiago Canyon Road will be turned into a de facto expressway. An unfortunate consequence will be the loss of the last truly rural road in Orange County.

The County should redirect its efforts and funding on Santiago Canyon Road with these truths in mind:

* Slower speeds are safer for everyone
*To achieve safety consistent enforcement of existing speed limits is critical.

Pete van Nuys
Executive Director, Orange County Bicycle Coalition

If you ride Santiago Canyon, you know how wrong it is to do anything to encourage motorists to travel faster than they already do.

Please, write to Jonathan Delgado at Orange County Public Works ( and Paul Martin at Orange County Transit Authority ( and express your displeasure at a road widening plan that, as Pete van Nuys puts it succinctly, is designed to “save the lives of law breakers at the expense of legal but more vulnerable road users…”

Santiago Canyon – Oppose Widening



David Huntsman

Husband, father, cyclist, lawyer

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