Newport Beach Approves PCH Sharrows

Corona del Mar, June 10 —  It’s an sure sign of progress for OC cyclists when a city as prominent as Newport Beach paints sharrows on a road as iconic as Pacific Coast Highway. With a 5 to 1 vote last night Newport Beach City Council voted to do just that along the most congested section of PCH through the village of Corona del Mar.

The vote culminated two years of research and debate by the city’s Bicycle Safety Committee, formed in 2009 by then Councilmember, Nancy Gardner. Now serving as Mayor, Gardener commented before the vote that she had been ambivalent about sharrows for most of that time. Testimony from Bicycle Safety Committee members urging a Yes vote helped persuade the council.

Two years seems a long time when the issue comes down to a little paint on the street. Indeed, Newport Beach city staff and the majority of the Committee generally supported sharrows all along. But the matter was stalled as the inevitable concerns of a car-dominated culture repeatedly put the brakes on progress. Will the sharrows delay motorists? Won’t they encourage even more cyclists?  What if drivers want to pass bicyclists? Isn’t riding in the lane dangerous?

But last night testimony from a local resident group, support from Carona del Mar businesses, and strong recommendation from the Committee carried the vote. Mayor Gardener promised a vibrant public education campaign to pave the way for sharrows. Signs to increase motorist awareness of cyclistss and even green lane paint are possible, too.

Don’t look for CdM sharrows next week or even next month; the fears of the motorheaded majority die hard.  But when sharrows come to PCH– an iconic street carrying 40,000 cars a day through one of America’s most auto-dominated environments–  their impact and significance cannot be denied.