The Newport Beach bike safety committee has spent the last few months studying "sharrows" to help make bicyclists safer, but it has decided to look into alternatives before making a recommendation to the City Council.
At Monday's afternoon meeting, members once again discussed the possibilities of adding sharrows—shared lane markers for bikes and cars—along Coast Highway. Committee member Tony Petros voiced his concern about the traffic congestion near Five Crowns Restaurant in Corona del Mar.
"I've been exposed to the Long Beach example where the traffic is much less than Coast Highway," Petros said. "I don't think this is a good application."
Instead Petros suggested researching the possibility of offering alternative routes. Committee member John Heffernan agreed. "I think alternative routes are key," Heffernan said.
He recounted his experience driving down PCH, where two drivers side by side were texting in their cars at about 4 mph and said they could have easily drifted into a shared lane without knowing it.
Frank Peters has similar concerns.
"Bicyclists have the right to share the lane. I feel like I'm being bullied out there on PCH," said Peters, an active community member and cyclist. "What can we do to maximize their safety whether there are sharrows or not?"
Committee members agreed that bicycle safety education is an essential part of keeping bicyclists and drivers safe. At the meeting, a pamphlet was handed out from the city, "Safety Guidelines for Bicyclists and Motorists," which provided safety tips including: always wear a helmet, maintain control of your bicycle, ride defensively, be visible, be alert, communicate your intentions and ride with traffic.
Dan Purcell rode his bike to the meeting from Poinsettia Avenue and said some drivers on the road are not looking out for cyclists.
"These [sharrows] are just visual cues for drivers to pay attention," Purcell, of CDM, said.
Meanwhile, Marshall Perkins was concerned not for the seasoned cyclists who know the rules and are aware of the dangers on the road, but for casual bicyclists riding beach cruisers on a sunny afternoon. "That's who we're trying to access. They would appreciate the sharrows. They are completely intimidated by Pacific Coast Highway," Perkins said.
Bicycle safety has been an important topic this year due to recent cyclist fatalities in the past two years. The sharrows, with paint and labor, would cost the city an estimated $13,000-$15,000.
"I think it will, in the end, make it safer to ride a bicycle. I'm a big advocate of sharrows," said committee member Sean Matsler.
"I want to say that my decision not to support the sharrows is for the safety of the cyclists," said Tony Petros.
The end vote was two in favor of sharrows and three opposed. Councilwoman Nancy Gardner, who headed up the meeting, decided to put the sharrows on the back burner, saying alternative routes need to be considered.
Barbara Danzi was not in attendance at the meeting, which was another reason Gardner decided to wait. The potential 3-3 split vote could finally move the issue up to City Council.
Also at the meeting
Looking forward about a year, Newport Beach is hoping to team up with the city of Costa Mesa to host Cyclovia, an event that would close off streets from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to pedestrians and cyclists for locals to enjoy a vehicle free zone. The aim is also to promote bicycle safety and promote local businesses along Westcliff and 17th streets.