The Newport Beach Bicycle Safety Committee discussed holding the city’s first-ever ciclovia cycling event, possibly by teaming with Costa Mesa for a 17th Street venue.
Ciclovias involve shutting streets to automobile traffic for several hours to create bike-friendly zones. The committee began discussing how to hold a Newport Beach ciclovia, following a growing global trend for the events, in its April meeting.
At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Gardner, who chairs the committee, said she’d been contemplating the best spot to hold a ciclovia when she had a brainstorm.
“I think we should do 17th Street and cooperate with Costa Mesa,” she said. “We could start at Dover and finish at Newport Boulevard.”
The benefits of such a location, she said, would be the bustling business community, including two major bike stores, which would make it fun for participants. Most of the businesses along that mile-long stretch of 17th Street also have access from side roads, she said, which would limit the problems of closing the main thoroughfare to cars.
“Costa Mesa is trying to get their bicycle committee up and going,” she said. “If we could get Costa Mesa to partner, it could be a fun thing.”
Gardner said the next step would be to float the idea past the Newport Beach City Council members to see if there were major objections, and then to reach out to Costa Mesa officials.
“This may not be the time for Costa Mesa,” Gardner said. “But for them, it might be a winner, to have something positive.”
The committee members also discussed reaching out to Costa Mesa resident and planning commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick, who attended the cycling task force meetings last year and said he wanted to use some of the group’s work in his city; read our story here.
Committee member Denis LaBonge said the group should give itself plenty of time, perhaps setting an event date of October 2012.
“This is a big deal,” he said. “To close down the streets, involve public works and police and find sponsors. The Los Angeles ciclovia didn’t just happen overnight.” L.A.’s first ciclovia was held in October 2010.
The committee members also heard an update on city plans to remark and add signs to dangerous intersections, including the merge from the 73 Toll Road onto Newport Coast Drive and along East Coast Highway between MacArthur Boulevard and Newport Center Drive.
Brad Sommers, a Newport Beach senior engineer, gave a presentation with maps that showed where the city could add signs, rumble strips and striping and in some cases, add bike or move bike paths.
The 73 Toll Road exit lane that merges onto Newport Coast would need CalTrans approval before Newport Beach crews could make changes, Sommers said. The other changes, which could include adding signs to let casual cyclists use the wide sidewalks near the Corona del Mar Plaza along Coast Highway, would need careful study to make sure they comply with vehicle and city municipal codes. The MacArthur free right turn onto westbound East Coast Highway is particularly dangerous because many cars move quickly to the far left lane, cutting over the cyclists’ ride-through lane.
“That’s a dangerous intersection just for cars,” said Lt. Steve Koudelka of the Newport Beach Police Department. “That intersection’s just crazy.”
Besides working out the kinks and revising the plans, Sommers said he would work on preparing a budget estimate in time for the group’s May meeting.
“We have to be part of the budget process,” Gardner said. “We do not get to wave a wand and say the bicycle committee gets to do this project.”
Committee member Sean Matsler asked if the engineer could continue to look at making changes in other areas of Newport Beach and was told yes.
“I just want to make sure you are not done,” he said. “I want to keep moving west.”
The committee members also discussed Corona del Mar sharrows, but the group decided to tackle that issue in May when the city attorney could be at the meeting to discuss liability concerns.
The group also learned that signs saying “Watch Downhill Speed,” which they requested earlier this year, had been ordered and could be installed in the next few weeks.
“It’s always nice to see something physical happen,” Gardner said.
The signs were suggested for hills like Spyglass and Ridge Park, where cyclists have been killed after colliding with vehicles. Read our stories about those crashes here and here.