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Police Maintain Focus on Reducing Bike Related Accidents

Through data tracking, increased enforcement and education the Newport Beach Police Department is continuing its work on keeping roadways safer for cyclists and drivers.

Two women were killed last month while cycling in Newport Beach, leaving residents devastated and city officials in a dire position to come up with ways to make the streets safer.

The tragedy refocuses attention on the need to identify dangerous roadways for cyclists and to force drivers to be more attentive of the cyclists they share the road with, both of which are part of ongoing efforts, according to the Newport Beach Police Department. Programs in place for two years reduced the number of vehicle and bicycle accidents leading up to September's tragedies, said Kathy Lowe, spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Police Department.

"We try our best to limit the inattention, distractions, or drunk drivers," said Lowe. "But accidents are going to happen because of human error."

But the recent deaths of cyclists Sarah Leaf, 29,  and  Catherine "Kit" Campion-Ritz, 57, have resulted in demands for changes on the roads.

"City leaders need to come up with some way to keep cyclists safe out there," Kayla Miller, who works in Newport Beach, told Patch. "That can be anything from steeper fines, to a crackdown on dangerous drivers to designating a safer method for cyclists to ride on the streets aside from the bike lanes."

"Motorists should recognize that bicyclist are again more vulnerable and take extra precautions, perhaps above and beyond the laws of traffic, to watch out for them," said cyclist Jim Leonard.

Lowe says practices have been in place to encourage safer driving in an effort to keep bicyclists safe.

NBPD Safety Efforts

  • Under the direction of Chief Jay Johnson, a new computerized data tracking system was implemented to keep track of all collisions and pinpointing where the accidents are occurring. "This helps us to examine all collision related data to see how we can better deploy our resources and focus our enforcement and education to reduce bicycle and traffic collisions," Lowe said. "We also share this data each month at the Newport Beach bike safety meetings where a member of the department is present and reports on recent bike-related accidents and findings."
  • The Newport Beach Police Department has increased enforcement efforts, including participation in the California Highway Patrol's Distracted Driving Enforcement Operation. "During one of these operations, NBPD wrote more distracted driving citations (talking/texting) than any other police department in the County," Lowe said. Officers also focus on cyclists disobeying the rules of the road in an effort to keep them safe. "We use the opportunity to educate cyclists on the rules of the road, sometimes through warning citations, and in many cases issuing citations for violations," Lowe said.
  • Educating the community has been a big part of the department's efforts to keep cyclists and drivers safe. According to police, the education component included bicycle rodeos that have been conducted for the public as well as in the schools, containing drivers and bicyclists to provide information regarding exiting traffic laws.  As the new school year starts, we will be reaching out to the schools again to offer bicycle safety instruction and proper rules of the road. Police also hold meetings with the cycling community to discuss their concerns and potential solutions.

Frank Peters, a member of the Newport Beach bike safety committee and CDM cyclist, says he believes making drivers aware of the rules of the road will help keep cyclists safer.

"As cyclists we may be lulled into thinking that a bike lane is some kind of protection. The terrible tragedies of this past week put that to rest," Peters said in September. "Increased enforcement will help. An emphasis on distracted driving and road rage would be welcome."

Peters added people need to take extra precautions while traveling through the three most dangerous intersections in the city as identified by a bike safety sub-committee, which are Via Lido at Newport Boulevard, 32nd St at Newport Boulevard and Riverside Drive at Coast Highway.

Lives Lost

Leaf, who was originally from Mesa, Arizona, worked as a nutritionist in Corona del Mar. She was killed in a bicycle collision on the morning of Friday, Sept. 14 when she was cycling on Pacific Coast Highway and the driver of a stake bed truck turned right onto Bayside Drive. A public memorial was recently held in honor of Leaf.

No arrests or citations have been made as a result of Leaf's death.

Campion, a doctor who treated patients in Newport Beach for close to 30 years, was killed during a fatal hit-and-run on Saturday, Sept. 15 as she cycled on Newport Coast Drive with her husband. Michael Jason Lopez, 39, of Anaheim, was arrested three days after Campion died. If convicted, Lopez faces a maximum sentence of eight years in state prison for the deadly hit-and-run crash.

A public celebration of life service is scheduled for Catherine "Kit" Campion-Ritz on Oct. 6.

While both investigations continue, officials say cyclists and drivers need to continue to focus on being defensive drivers.

"Motorists and bicyclist need to obey all traffic laws and remember that they share the roadway, Lowe said. "Both have a legal right to the roadways and both need to understand and respect the rights of the other."

Anyone interested in expressing their opinions about bike safety in Newport Beach is encouraged to attend the Newport Beach bike safety committee meeting today at 4:30 p.m. in the Friends Room at the Central Library.

Speaking of Spokes October 01, 2012 at 05:50 PM
The roadway safety problem in Newport Beach has been created by dangerous roadway design rooted in antiquated standards. That design minimizes motorists' delay at intersections and enables high speeds between intersections. Newport's roadways are built as wide as possible with as many lanes as possible to maximize the number of vehicles that move through an intersection per unit time. The City's General Plan policies establish vehicle delay standards, called Level of Service, to mandate those speed and delay thresholds be met. The result is deadly for bicyclists and pedestrians city-wide. The Calif. State Office of Traffic Safety, says Newport Beach consistently ranks within the 5 most deadly cities of its size in California for bicyclists. (see the uploaded jpgs). Speed-related collisions have ranked Newport Beach as 3rd worst ('06, '08), 4th worst ('07, '10), and 5th worst ('09). But that is not necessarily a law enforcement problem. It is a roadway policy problem. As long as those Level of Service policies remain in place, the City's engineers are limited in their ability to make the infrastructure safer and more efficient. The City needs to update its Circulation Element of its General Plan so that the deadly policies that prioritize the movement of vehicles over the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians can be changed. Defining Level of Service from a multi-modal, Complete Streets perspective will put the City on the right track and save lives.
Speaking of Spokes October 01, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Here are some helpful sites for the public and policy-makers, alike: California's Complete Streets Act implementation: http://opr.ca.gov/docs/Update_GP_Guidelines_Complete_Streets.pdf California Office of Traffic Safety: http://ots.ca.gov/Media_and_Research/Rankings/default.asp Speaking of Spokes Blog on Transportation Policy: http://sanclemente.patch.com/blog_posts/its-not-about-money-its-about-leadership
Safe Driver October 02, 2012 at 03:14 PM
The vast majority of motor vehicle drivers obey traffic laws. The vast majority of bicyclists DON'T EVEN COME CLOSE to obeying traffic laws. When was the last day that you didn't see a bicyclist not even slow down for a stop sign? When was the last day that you didn't see a bicyclist riding on the wrong side of the street? When was the last day that you didn't see a bicyclist riding on the sidewalk? When was the last day you DID SEE a bicyclist stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk? Answers: NEVER!!! THIS IS NOT ALL ABOUT MOTOR VEHICLE DRIVERS! This is MOSTLY about bicyclists who feel that traffic laws don't apply to them and it is very much about our police who ALMOST NEVER enforce traffic laws when it comes to bicyclists. I call for it to be mandatory that all bicycles be licensed and that all bicycles carry motorcycle size LICENSE PLATES, which can be used to EASILY identify, cite and report rogue riders. If bicyclists want the "same roads, same rules and same rights," then they need to stop complaining and start being responsible, law abiding citizens.
Jane Terry October 02, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Frankly, I prefer to see cyclists on the sidewalk. Especially since people don't use sidewalks that much. I do see cyclists (safely) run stops signs, but it is understandable since they are powering their bikes and momentum is everything. I do think all cyclists should be required to have rear view mirrors. All that said, I disagree with the license plate idea, but do agree we have to come up with a better system. I would suggest we might look to countries older than us, who have already dealt with cyclists and may have some good policies in place. Finally, if you want to call out the police for not citing cyclists - I'd prefer they cite vehicles with tinted windows and get those taken care of, as I think those are a bigger danger (if you are driving behind them you can't see through their windows to anticipate traffic ahead, you can't see their faces to assess how engaged they are with their own driving, etc.). So while cyclists can be rogue, I think drivers are in the majority of the rule-benders.
Speaking of Spokes October 02, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Wow! You sound really angry, Safe Driver (?) Please don't get behind the wheel of a vehicle with that kind of disdain. When people break the vehicle code, then they should be cited. But you have fundamentally missed the point: it's not about the motorists. It's about the roadway design that creates and encourages dangerous behaviors by everyone. Infrastructure design also shapes how all roadway users interact with each other and how they perceive their rights to the roadway. It affects public safety. While the vehicle code provides the same rights and duties to both motorists and bicyclists, the design of the roadway undermines that equality. Consequently, some motorists become enraged, as you presently are. Take a step back and examine how the roadway could be better designed so that motorists and bicyclists and pedestrians all get along. It's not rocket science and many communities have figured that out, to the benefit of all. Here's a link to a recent Speaking of Spokes blog I wrote about a community that has done just that: http://sanclemente.patch.com/blog_posts/its-not-about-money-its-about-leadership
D. Rickner October 03, 2012 at 01:52 AM
You have no idea what you are talking about. I have biked for about 6 years and from what I observe, most bicyclist obey the traffic laws. I can no longer bike long distance because a 19 year old marine decided that his text message was more important than watching the road. He threw me 15 feet in the air after he turned into me while I was riding in the bike lane on the correct side of the road! My life changed forever in that moment of selfishness on his part. I can no longer run because of my leg cramping. I can ride about 20 miles now, I used to ride 100 in one day. From my observations as a rider, a few car drivers are always in a hurry or distracted. What saves them a few seconds kills bicyclists. REALITY!!!!!
D. Rickner October 03, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Do you know how many obstacles there are on a sidewalk? Just try to get by a light pole doing 15 or 20 miles per hour. Biking is a sport when you road bike, not a cruise on a no speed bike.
Speaking of Spokes October 03, 2012 at 02:24 AM
I'm glad D Rickner raised the issue of distracted driving, another problem exacerbated by inadequate infrastructure. Bicyclists are particularly vulnerable when sharing the roadway with vehicles, either in a Class 2 or 3 bicycle facility. It's becoming readily apparent to public works officials that a mere white line is inadequate separation between a car and a bicyclist when the motorist is distracted. The numbers are grim. According to the State Highway Safety Plan for 2012, from 2004-09 distracted driving collisions and fatalities climbed 1% every year to become a factor in 16% of all collisions and 16% of all fatalities (counted separately). If the trend persists, the present ranking would be 19%. (see: http://tinyurl.com/8ks464v). The State Safety Plan also says that 27% of drivers surveyed admitted to talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving in the last 30 days. Again, a mere white line on the roadway isn't sufficient. Infrastructure changes need to be implemented to prevent harm to vulnerable people on the roadways. The Federal Highway Administration has two very good websites to educate advocates and professionals, alike, as to the cutting edge of roadway engineering for bicyclists and pedestrians. Here they are: http://tinyurl.com/9dag74a http://tinyurl.com/7qvsaem
Speaking of Spokes October 03, 2012 at 03:11 AM
If you're going to ride on the sidewalk--and bicyclists do b/c they perceive the roadway as unsafe--then please be aware that riding facing traffic creates one of the most hazardous cycling behaviors possible. By riding against the flow of vehicular traffic while on the sidewalk, a bicyclist is approaching an intersection or a driveway from the drivers' right side. Drivers instinctively look to the left for oncoming vehicular traffic. Rarely do they approach the intersection/driveway and looking right. So, if the bicyclist leaves the sidewalk to cross a road or driveway without coming to a complete stop to look in all directions for cross traffic, then there is increased risk of a collision. That is one of the primary causes of children being hit while bicycling. Child cyclists and uneducated adults, too, don't perceive the driveways as intersections. They don't understand the look-left-first dynamic. And that one, highly ingrained mistake costs lives. It's important that parents understand that so they can teach their kids how to be safe bicyclists. I wrote a recent Speaking of Spokes Blog about the need for parents to teach kids to ride safely. Read:"The Kid, The Bike, and The Guardian Angel" here: http://sanclemente.patch.com/blog_posts/the-kid-the-bike-and-the-guardian-angel Please be safe, everyone.
David Huntsman October 03, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Jane, thank you. It sounds like you are thinking things through. Regarding sidewalk cycling, would you believe the City of Newport Beach banned riding on sidewalks? For everyone - not just adults. Literally, kids are required to ride on the road in Newport Beach. Think of the 55 and 60 MPH speed limits on Newport Coast Drive, San Joaquin Hills Road, MacArthur and Jamboree. But the reality is, even if sidewalk cycling was allowed (like it is in most California cities), it's not appropriate for big kids and adults.
Mike DanaPoint October 16, 2012 at 06:38 PM
In South County hills, here's the safest way: Uphills sidewalk, downhills take the lane!
Mark Adams December 13, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I agree that bike enthusiasts are extremely aggressive on the roadways, pay no particular attention to road signs and the safe riding laws. Try driving down Bayside Drive any weekend day and attempt to safely pass them. It appears they go out of their way to make it more difficult. And there is simply no reason in the world for motorcycles to be cutting through lanes on PCH. Where are they going? Just to the next light like everyone else. Two wheeled vehicles are increasingly becoming a road hazard and menace to drivers.
Frank Peters December 14, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Yeah, some menace – my 30 lb bike against your 4,000 lb SUV. Next time you're on Bayside, instead of illegally crossing the yellow line, try slowing down. The Sharrows were placed on Bayside because there is no way to safely pass cyclists.
David Huntsman December 14, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Mark, I'm curious - when you are rushing down Bayside Drive on the weekend, do you also complain about the parked cars blocking the roadway?
Matt O'Toole December 15, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Mark, do you remember George Carlin? "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"

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