Safe Holiday Wishes on PCH

According to AAA, more than 43.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles from home or farther during this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. About 90 percent of those travelers–39 million people–plan to travel by automobile.

In a related note, Doug  Irving of the OC Register reports on results of a study that found more drugged than drunk drivers on California roadways like the drivers that killed Donald Murphy and Candace Tift; killed while riding their bikes in Newport by drivers impaired by prescription drugs.

In the most medicated nation on the planet, this study should really come as no surprise, but it’s encouraging to see the recognition, and quantification of the issue.

When drugged drivers are combined with poor road design, construction zones, lax local enforcement, and lenient courts, it is people riding their bikes on the same roadways that pay the highest price.

One such roadway is the Pacific Coast Highway which also goes by various other names depending which city or county it happens to pass through. Sadly bikes riders are typically an afterthought in the consideration of construction, road maintenance, or even public transportation along this roadway.

To illustrate; in Huntington Beach a short section of the northbound roadway’s shoulder was closed to accomplish the construction of a guardrail which forces riders into the high speed traffic lane. After the work was completed, the obstructions remain without making allowances for safe cycle travel between the k-rail and guardrail.

In Seal Beach; a public transit bus parks in the bike lane causing risky merges and poor sight lines for bike riders and drivers alike.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the k-rails on PCH will be removed this coming Sunday morning, a week ahead of when Caltrans emphatically said they wouldn’t be removed until 12/1. While we also requested the a temporary path for safe travel through the construction zone, at this time we don’t know if the maintenance crew was able to get that done. Your report is welcomed!

With the holiday traffic and condition of drivers as noted above, please exercise greater care when traveling this roadway, especially through Newport Beach as seen below:

Pacific Coast Highway Injuries

Pacific Coast Highway Injuries

We’ll have an update on the Seal Beach bus parking issue when we receive an update from the responsible agency.

Have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday weekend!

Safety never sleeps.

Danger Roads

Quick, can you name the most dangerous roads in the OC?

To qualify, the road must have at least 1 bike related collision in the last 11 years.

Thanks to the blocked bike lane last month (surprise!) on northbound PCH before Warner, and the fact that the k-rails were still there this week after work was completed, we thought we’d take a look at roads and bike collisions in the OC. to see if perception matched reality.

Since CalTrans failed to notify the cycling community before the lane closure, and failed to remove the barriers in a timely fashion, we could wail about the injustice of it all, but we won’t.

We also wonder what else is going on about the county putting bike riders at risk. If you see something, send us a short note (anonymous if you’d like), and we’ll follow up on your tip. Thanks!

The Candidates:

The current contenders in the Danger Road category are:

Danger Road Contenders

Danger Road Contenders

As seen, RT 1, or the Pacific Coast Highway leads the contenders so far at 331 bike related collisions.

We are only counting collisions without regard to death or injury at this point; an aggregate total count if you will.

The road travelers among you know some of these roads go through many cities, and some might even change names as they do.

What you might not know is spelling prowess is lacking in some of the records reported to the CHP, and some roads have various derivations. For example; BROOKHURST ST is #7 on the contender list, yet in the database there’s also BROOKHURST, BROOKHURST RD, SOUTH BROOKHURST ST, N BROOKHURST ST, SOUTH BROOKHURST S, NORTH BROOKHURST, NORTH BROOKHURST ST, S BROOKHURST, S BROOKHURST AV, and let’s not forget BROOK HURST (space between). I’m sure you get the point, so might Brookhurst move up to earn the title of “Danger Road”?

Care to guess? Have a favorite? Let us know your choice for top “Danger Road”, winner gets to ride it at their own risk. When we open the envelope with the winner, we’ll either update this post or create a new one.

updated 11/18/12

The “Winners”:

Danger Road Winners

Danger Road Winners

A tie for 10th place at 121 collisions as 17th street moves up to equal the number of collisions on Newport Blvd.

The overall “winner” at 425 collisions is RT 1, aka Coast Hwy, PCH, W Coast Hwy, E Coast Hwy, Pac Cst, and all the other names for this road in the database.

Yes, we went through line by line for all the roads including Brkhrst, Brookherst, and all the others to arrive at this list.

With 150 more collisions than any other road, PCH (or RT 1) travels the length of the county, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise given ridership, traffic, and the probabilities inherent in the mixing the two.

What’s interesting is the distribution of collisions along the road as seen here:

City by City

City by City

Newport Beach is clearly above all others and not in a good way which is one of the reasons we support local efforts to improve cyclist safety in this city.

We’ve documented (and mapped) plenty of Newport related items and issues which you may find here.

 

We also thank all those that turned out for the NPB Memorial Ride and Fundraiser last October.

With 9 riders killed and 442 injured from the above 425 collisions, the chart below attempts to discern any seasonal effect in collisions.

Collisions by Month

One would expect greater numbers of riders in the summer months, and the chart shows the highest injuries happening in July and decreasing into the winter. The high count in March may be weather related due to unexpected rain and road conditions.

Collisions and injuries are not a 1:1 proposition. Sometimes there are more than one person injured in a collision and sometimes no injury is reported from a collision, hence the difference in numbers between collision and injury counts.

The complete breakdown looks like: 462 total injuries from 425 collisions involving people on bikes.

442 bike riders, 6 motorcyclists, 3 pedestrians, and 11 drivers were  injured during this reporting period ending the 3rd quarter of 2012 with the most recent entry to the CHP database dated 7/28/12.

Nine bike riders are dead as a result of collisions with no other fatalities recorded for other road users.

With your continued support, we aim to identify, notify, and assist in reducing ridership collisions.

Bike Route Safety in the OC

From our neighbors waaaay up north in Canada, we found a University of British Columbia study of “Bicyclists’ Injuries and the Cycling Environment”  which examined the risk of injury associated with cycle routes.

Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study quantifies the intuitive belief that bike riders are safest away from other traffic.

The highest risk route was major streets with parked cars and no bike infrastructure.

An excerpt in comparing risk of injury while riding a bike:

“In comparison, the following route types had lower risks (starting with the safest route type):

  • cycle tracks (also known as “separated” or “protected” bike lanes) alongside major streets (about 1/10 the risk)
  • residential street bike routes (about 1/2 the risk)
  • major streets with bike lanes and no parked cars (about 1/2 the risk)
  • off-street bike paths (about 6/10 the risk)

The following infrastructure features had increased risk:

  • streetcar or train tracks (about 3 times higher than no tracks)
  • downhill grades (about 2 times higher than flat routes)
  • construction (about 2 times higher than no construction)”

Their conclusions offer 3 infrastructure improvements to increase safety:

For major streets – cycle tracks

For residential streets – bike routes with traffic diversion

For off street – bike only paths (for bikes only – no strollers, runners, dog walkers, etc.)

Preferred Safe Routes

This diagram shows as bike infrastructure is separated from vehicular traffic, the risk of injury decreases, while the appeal of the route to cyclists increases.
Image: IBikeTO

Now a cycle track running the length of the county down the coast would be great, but we think we have a less costly approach which has most of the benefits, without the associated high cost of construction and ongoing maintenance.

Buffered bike lanes could be implemented fairly quickly if some localities are willing to find some space for cars to park other than the roadway.

They also could be incorporated into the design of the new developments in construction and in the planning phases throughout the county.

Seal, Sunset, and Huntington Beach are likely candidates as are Newport and Laguna Beach for the coastal portion of our BikeBone.

Coupled with roundabouts (and mini-roundabouts) at targeted intersections, driving and riding up and down the Coast Highway would become much safer for people on the roadway as well as pedestrians trying to cross it.

Trimming travel lanes from 12 to 10 foot widths to accommodate additional buffer space  would also induce traffic calming and reduce vehicle collisions as well.

In January 2012, Caltrans  implemented buffered bike lanes by removing 2 travel lanes on Sloat Blvd. (CA-35) in San Fransisco. Driven by a request from District 4 Supervisor Carmen Chu to improve safety on this roadway, this is what they came up with:

Buffered Bike Lane

Buffered Bike Lane on CA-35 (Sloat Boulevard)
(Photo: Mark Dreger, San Franciscoize)

With a little paint and reclaimed space, Orange County could (and should) transform a high death / high injury roadway into a much safer and saner travel experience.

Combo Paint

Los Angeles county introduces sharrows for the downhill and a bike lane for climbing in an innovative approach to rider safety in Santa Monica, March 2012

The approach used above provides some measure of safety for riders going uphill by providing them space out of the traffic lane, while riders descending have sharrows to guide their way clear of the door zone in Santa Monica on Arizona Avenue.

The approach below shows the buffer of a buffered bike lane placed in the “door zone”.
(Photos by Gary Kavanagh)

Buffered Bike Lane

Buffered Bike Lane on Bicknell Ave. in Santa Monica, March 2012

Being 2nd in the state (behind Los Angeles) for cyclist injury and death is not something to be proud of, nor something that should be accepted as “coming with the territory”.

As seen in the above two pictures, Los Angeles County is applying low cost (paint) methods (a variety of appropriate designs) to improve both the connectivity of bike-able streets, and the safety of its riding public.

Despite numerous projects to increase vehicular traffic flow, scant attention seems to be made in this county regarding safer infrastructure for the riding public; the latest affront being the temporary loss of the northbound cycle lane on PCH before Warner without any advance notice or warning to advocacy groups.

Riding SharrowsIt “only” took over two years, two deaths, a threat of (yet another) lawsuit, and the turnout of hundreds to catch the attention of one city to take action in the form of putting some paint on the road to improve cyclist safety.

Given the number of riders observed preferring the door zone to the clear direction provided by the recently installed sharrows, we provide the instructive graphic on the left.

Sharrows are positioned on the road to provide guidance to bike riders as to where to position their bikes as they make their way down the road.

Two rules apply:1) ride with the direction of traffic, (2) ride between the stencil’s wheels and through the center of the chevrons.

As the county continues developing its last open spaces creating greater demand on the roadways, proactive planning for active means of transport should take the forefront, and not be an afterthought after the last strip of pavement is laid.

As the study points out, infrastructure plays a key role in attracting and motivating more people to cycle, in addition to increasing their safety while doing so. As we continue collecting your input on our Bike Commute Survey, it’s clear a dedicated cycle route free from non-cycling entities is highly desired.

Using the study’s observations and conclusions, City, County, and Caltrans planners can design safer means of roadway treatments to accommodate all users of the roadway regardless of how many wheels those users may have under them.

Solvang or San Diego?

A tough choice to make .

The (mostly) car free rollies in the Sta. Ynez  valley area with over 1500 of your new best friends for a cause , or a coastal cruise with over 1500 of your other newest best friends in the San Diego area for a cause.

Should be a blast either way – and the weather looks almost as great as the gift (on many levels) that was last Sunday’s Memorial Ride.

Tailwinds and firm tires to all riders wherever you choose to cruise!

While we on the left coast must face these troubling decisions head on, please consider those less fortunate on the right in the aftermath of the storm, even while the very fortunate get to run the Marathon.

update:Marathon cancelled – “Organizers will donate various items that had been brought in for the race to relief efforts, from food, blankets and portable toilets to generators already set up on Staten Island.     ”

Either way, the Red Cross has gone digital with a series of apps that may come in handy if disaster strikes.

From First Aid, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, and soon even Wildfires, information you need will be right at hand. Read all about them here.