– by Don Harvey, Founder and Director Emeritus
Since its formation in 1991, OCBC has tried to serve all bicyclists, including children and the elderly as well as both those adults who ride for fun and fitness and those who ride for transportation. OCBC’s efforts can be grouped into three categories: 1) Bicyclists’ right to use all roads except freeways; 2) bicyclists’ right to proper consideration in design and repair of roads and trails; and 3) bicyclists’ right to safety in their use of roads and trails. A key factor in these efforts since 1995 has been the help of OCBC‘s volunteer attorney, Rock Kendall.
Bicyclists’ Right to…
Use All Roads (Except Freeways)
OCBC v Caltrans (“freeway” onramp to PCH at Doheny Park Road, Dana Point)
OCBC has often defended cyclists’ rights to share the roadway, even during construction. Usually, it has been sufficient to draw attention to offending signage that would force cyclists to take a detour that is not required for motor vehicle traffic.
In 1995 the City of San Clemente posted unlawful signage barring bicyclists on Coast Highway below the bluffs of Capistrano Beach. OCBC demanded and won the removal of these signs. OCBC’s position was that a city may ban all traffic, but it may not discriminate against cyclists alone.
During the 1990s there were still several crosswalks near schoolyards with the unlawful signage “MUST WALK BIKES.” Whenever these were discovered, OCBC required and obtained their removal.
In 2001, OCBC sued Caltrans, asking removal of signage barring bicyclists from using an onramp onto the last portion of “freeway” at Doheny Park Road onto northbound Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point. This “onramp” is adjacent to Doheny State Park and nowhere near anything resembling a freeway. However, the judge sided with Caltrans, allowing it to broadly define the scope of “freeway” for I-5 to include an exit lane reaching more than a mile away. (OCBC did eventually gain access for bicyclists to the disputed “onramp” after Caltrans completed additional work on the overpass above the railroad and San Juan Creek.)
OCBC was successful in a number of traffic ticket cases, including one in which a bicyclist was cited for riding on a roadway illegally posted “no bikes.”
Pacific Coast Highway K-Rail-Bounded Multi-Use Path: Optional for Cyclists
During 2006, and following one bicyclist fatality and several severely injured joggers in separate collisions, OCBC’s attorney Rock Kendall, among others, fought to maintain cyclists’ access to the Pacific Coast Highway (hereinafter PCH). The City of Dana Point had recently erected a new K-rail partitioned, multi-use path along southbound Coast Highway below the bluffs of Capistrano Beach. These advocacy efforts kept this path from being (illegally) deemed “mandatory” for cyclists traveling there.
Relying heavily upon both the California Vehicle Code sections pertaining to bicyclists’ rights and pertinent parts of Chapter 1000 of Caltrans’ Highway Design Manual, the OCBC made it clear that a city “may not pick and choose which laws and regulations of the State of California it will follow.” The city backed down and today the previously disputed multi-use path remains optional for cyclists: Riders may choose whether to stay on PCH proper or proceed behind the veil of the K-rail’s safety with oncoming cyclists, dogs (on and off of 20’ leashes), tandem baby-strollers, roller-bladers, joggers, skateboarders, etc.
Bicyclists’ Right to…
Proper Consideration in Road Design and Maintenance
Since OCBC’s founding in 1991, a primary focus has been the provision to governments of bicyclist input in the design and maintenance of roads and trails. Some examples are given below:
Laguna Canyon Road (SR 133)
Laguna Canyon Road was rebuilt between El Toro and I-405 to 4 lanes from 2 by adding a lane each way and in most places adding a wide median. OCBC asked for and got Caltrans’ agreement to make the shoulders meet bike lane standards and to provide a proper exit for northbound bikes and entrance for southbound bikes at the signalized intersection just south of I-405 where, for northbound traffic, Laguna Canyon Road diverges from SR 133, which continues north as the Laguna Freeway. The resulting intersection was designed and built with bike-sensitive left-turn-lane detectors in the rightmost left-turn lane and bike-appropriate signal timing.
Pacific Coast Highway, aka PCH, at Bolsa Chica
Rehabilitation of the Bolsa Chica wetlands required a connection to the ocean, which in turn necessitated cutting a connection between the wetlands and the Pacific through PCH and the beach, and reconnecting PCH by bridging the cut. In doing this work, Caltrans found it so convenient to close off the bike lanes between Warner and Golden West—which were really just shoulders—with concrete traffic dividers, aka K-rails, that Caltrans only removed them after considerable pressure from the OCBC.
Pacific Coast Highway, aka PCH, at Crystal Cove
In this case, flooding and mud on PCH at Crystal Cove, between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, were threatened by a blockage of Los Trancos Canyon drainage where it passes under PCH. In dealing with this, Caltrans again found it convenient to close off the bike lanes/shoulders—with K-rails, which this time were removed fairly expeditiously after OCBC comment.
Various Street Issues
OCBC has provided input on many street issues, including pavement irregularities (Santiago at Serrano in Orange), and bike lanes or other provisions (most recently on Jeffrey, Sand Canyon, Culver and University in Irvine, Glassell at I-22 in Orange).
The Santa Ana River Trail, aka SART, is a key element of the bicycle transportation network in Orange County. This is because, since it follows a river, it generally passes under streets instead of crossing them. Starting in the late ‘80s, Orange County Flood Control and the US Army Corps of Engineers felt the need to increase the capacity of the Santa Ana River by lining much of it with concrete and rebuilding the levees. This work was begun before OCBC was formed, and when—as often occurred in this work—the SART was rendered impassable, no satisfactory bike detour was provided. This changed in 1991 when OCBC got involved, and has continued to date, most recently with the involvement of OCBC and other County bicyclists in detouring and relocating the SART through the Green River Golf Club in Santa Ana Canyon, while and after the County and Corps rebuild the embankment on the north side of the I-91 freeway there.
When vegetation needed to be cleaned out of San Diego Creek Trail north of Newport Bay, OCBC helped the County and Corps to accomplish this without an extended trail closure.
Bicyclists’ Right to…
Safety in Their Use of Roads and Trails
Killed and Injured Bicyclists
For almost 20 years, OCBC has followed all cases we could find of bicyclists hit by cars and killed or seriously injured. During this time, OCBC has found 15 such cases, in all of which OCBC attended all discoverable hearings, including arraignment, trial and sentencing, and spoke at the latter, if possible. Almost all these cases were settled by plea bargains; in only one case in all that time was a driver sentenced to prison, in that case for 1 year. That’s a discouragingly small result, considering all the OCBC time involved.
Safety in Numbers
Peter Jacobsen was an early and active member of OCBC; his interest was in bicycling as a public health issue. Although his day job moved him elsewhere, he has maintained his interest in the health of bicyclists, which benefits from both bicycling safety and the physical activity involved. The inherent conflict between increasing the number of cyclists, and decreasing the likelihood of injured cyclists, led Jacobsen to the analysis he published in the journal Injury Prevention, 2003, v.9, pp. 205-209, as Safety in Numbers, http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/9/3/205.abstract, in which he showed–sufficiently convincingly for publication in a top medical journal–that increasing the number of bicyclists present actually has the effect of decreasing the likelihood of bike-motor vehicle collisions, thus increasing bicyclist safety while increasing exposure, an important, counter-intuitive result. Thus the title, “Safety in Numbers,” and thus OCBC’s interest in it.