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Bike Officials Talk Safety Projects

There were 106 reported bike versus vehicle accidents in 2012, seven less than the year before, according to Newport Beach police.

In just three months money has piled into the Newport Beach Bicycle Safety Improvement Fund, which was established following the back-to-back deaths of cyclists Catherine "Kit" Campion-Ritz and Sarah Leaf, and now it's time for city officials to determine how the money is spent.

Members of the city's bike safety committee met Monday afternoon, and a small group of concerned cyclists joined, to discuss the money and potential projects it could fund. According to April Morris, a bike safety fund organizer, $78,000 has been raised so far, with the city matching three-to-one or $234,000, for an approximate total of $312,000 in the fund.

With the help of the public, Morris compiled a list detailing areas which could benefit from bike safety improvements. The areas include the pinch point at northbound PCH and Dover Drive, the right turn lane on southbound PCH and Bayside Drive and improving public education.

"To some extent we are dealing with other people's money," Councilman Tony Petros, who also serves on the committee, said. "We need to make sure the staff has fully heard and vetted what people who generated the fund have to say about how it is spent."

Brad Sommers, an assistant city traffic engineer, says he has been working with Morris and expects the City Council to start discussing how to use the bike safety funds in February.

"Please don't go into this thinking 15 projects are going to happen," Petros cautioned the audience. "If we do two on the list we will have spent the money well."

Newport Beach Lt. Jeff Lu, who attends the monthly meetings and provides information on bike accidents, said there were 106 bike related accidents in 2012, down six percent from 2011. Of the 106 crashes, 54 involved a car and the other 52 were solo bike accidents.

"We all want to reinforce safety for everyone, and we all want to continue the downward trend in 2013," Lu said. "Hopefully we can continue in a positive direction."

In December Lu said there were three bike accidents. One was a solo bike rider who had been drinking and crashed into a light pole. The other two incidents were bikes and cars colliding. In one case a bicyclist was going the wrong way and the other happened when the bicyclist traveled outside of the bike lane and into the roadway.

Along with the efforts of the committee, this year a bicycle master plan is also expected to be developed for the city.

Donations to the fund can still be made by purchases on Amazon, visit newportbeachmemorialbikeride.com for more information.

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