The current Newport Beach Bicycle Safety Committee met for a final time Monday afternoon, discussing a Bicycle Safety Improvement Fund and a list of improvement projects as well as the future of the committee and its mission.
In less than three months, the fund collected $78,000, which will be matched in a 3:1 ratio with city funds to total about $300,000; read more about the fund’s creation here. Organizer April Morris sent committee members and city staff a list of projects the money might fund, which city staff will review and prioritize, said Brad Sommers, an assistant city traffic engineer.
The list included adding a right-turn lane on eastbound Coast Highway at Bayside Drive — the location of a fatal bike crash that killed Sarah Leaf in September; read more here. Sommers said city staff already was working with Caltrans officials to improve that area for cyclists.
Other items on Morris’ list included improvements on Newport Coast Drive near the 73 Toll Road, where a stop sign and bike activated light could be added, more sharrows with larger, non-fading paint, signs, and education for cyclists and motorists that would teach cyclists how to ride safely on roadways and how motorists can operate safely around cyclists.
“The city could provide these courses free of charge, or at a very low cost to citizens,” Morris wrote in the list.
City Councilman and committee member Tony Petros praised the list but warned that the money raised likely would not be enough to address everything.
“Unfortunately when you get into capital projects, that’s a tear drop in the ocean,” he said of the $78,000 in private contributions.
A project not on the list but the topic of committee discussions was pullouts for landscaping vehicles on Newport Coast Drive. Currently, landscapers often park in bike lanes, and although they use cones to make their presence clear, many cyclists complain that the practice is dangerous to them.
Six pullouts would cost $70,000 if they were concrete and $18,000 if they were decomposed granite, Sommers said. The project would not go forward until city municipal operation staff met with landscapers and Newport Coast homeowners associations, then took the matter to City Council for a vote.
“There will be a question at the council level — is this a solution looking for a problem,” said Council member Nancy Gardner, who chaired the committee.
“You’re moving bicyclists into high speed traffic lanes,” said Frank Peters, a committee member. “We have all the ingredients for disaster.”
The meeting was the last official meeting of this committee, although it appears likely it will be reinstated. The annual City Council planning session meeting will be held at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the OASIS Center, and Gardner and Petros both said they planned to ask at that meeting for cycling safety be a 2013 priority. Councilman Ed Selich said in December that he would like to see a citywide Bicycle Safety Master Plan developed.
If the Council agrees, the Bicycle Safety Committee likely would be reinstated, said City Manager Dave Kiff. The city likely would seek applications from the public and select new members, including replacements for Petros and for at least one current member who indicated he would not return. Petros would take over as chairman, Gardner said, and the focus of the new committee would be to develop an Bicycle Safety Master Plan. It could be weeks before the committee is approved and re-formed and could begin that work, however.
The Monday meeting also included a discussion of bicycle statistics for 2012. Lt. Jeff Lu told the group that police took reports of 106 collisions involving cyclists, which was 6 percent lower than 2011.
Of the 106 crashes, 51 percent involved a moving vehicle, he said. In those crashes, when fault could be determined, the fault was evenly split among cyclists and motorists.
The committee members and audience gave Gardner a round of applause for her work as chair. Gardner first proposed creation of a bicycle safety task force in 2009; read our story here. After the task force completed its term, the City Council voted to create the committee.