Fewer Wheels Don't Make for Fewer Rights: Why Cyclists Matter to OC

A string of cycling tragedies in Orange County aren't the only reasons drivers and cyclists need to find an equilibrium on the road.

Editor’s Note: Pete van Nuys wrote this opinion editorial in response to a string of accidents in which cars struck cyclists this month in San Clemente, Seal Beach and Newport Beach.

Recent deaths in Newport Beach have rallied residents and promoted action by officials many consider long overdue. Newport knows it has a problem. But residents in other towns shouldn't feel too smug ― the trends that challenge Newport are headed your way.

First, bicycle use is increasing. Aging Baby Boomers who haven't ridden in years may wonder why, in Orange County of all places, people are discovering bikes. Reasons include: 

Teenagers and young adults aren't as car crazy as previous generations. License restrictions are tougher. The cost of insurance is higher. More young people are unemployed and car payments suck up money most would rather spend on social media, Iphones, and gaming.

Most trips are within 2 miles of home. People get it: short trips are hard on their cars; it's often as fast to let the car rest in the garage and bike those errands.

Bicycling is fun. OC's weather is great, the exercise makes people feel good and good about themselves. And, oh yeah, they're saving money while they're at it.

Second, car traffic is worse. It's not your imagination; even in this recession traffic delay, poor road maintenance, and the lengthening "rush hour" increase driver frustration. (Just imagine how bad it will be when more people get back to work.) Ironically, Newport Beach's challenge is made worse because their streets are wider, traffic runs faster, and motorists' sense of entitlement seems greater there than other OC cities.

Mix more bikes with more frustrated drivers and conflicts seem inevitable as if drivers and cyclists were separate warring tribes. But they're not. And dissolving this tribalism is central to resolving the conflict.

There are no Motorists. There are no Bicyclists. We're all just taxpaying residents who make daily mode decisions. Every cyclist I know is a licensed driver; all have cars with fuel in their tanks and pay the same gas taxes as everyone else. Most own homes and pay property, state, and federal income taxes, and these taxes fund the lion's share of road construction and maintenance. Cyclists are fully vested road users with the same rights and rules as everyone else.

Sharing space with a growing number of bicyclists is the new reality. That's a bitter fact for the hopelessly motor-headed, but focusing on the upside should help:

1.) There's no place in OC, California, or America where congestion is caused by bicycles. Every bicycle is literally One Less Car. One less competing with you on the metered on ramp, for a parking space at the mall, for a place in the cue to drop Junior at school.  

2.) Bicycling helps people stay healthy and healthy people keep medial costs down.

 3.) Bikes are good for business. Bicycle friendly downtowns increase patronage and profits for local businesses-- that's a proven fact.

The sweetest deal is, you reap these benefits whether you bicycle or not. All you have to do is control your car and not run over your fellow citizens. Is that really too much to ask?

Pete van Nuys is the Executive Director of the Orange County Bicycle Coalition.


What is the key to a safer co-existence between cyclists and drivers?

steve September 30, 2012 at 05:10 PM
I/m not ghonna laugh---but ya---MOST bycicilist's BREAK the law everytime they ride----and make STUPID choices !!!!!!!!
Speaking of Spokes September 30, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Continuing from my previous comment: When a lane is too narrow to share safely, which often occurs b/c there is on-road parallel parking, bicyclists are at severe risk of riding into a driver's opening car door. That situation, often called, "dooring," is frequently fatal for a couple of reasons. First, the door collision knocks the bicyclist into the path of oncoming traffic, which may be moving too fast to stop in time. Second, the likely point of impact may be the edge of the door directly on the bicyclist's face, causing major neck and head injuries. Educated bicyclists avoid those hazards by riding in the center of the lane adjacent the parked cars. Motorists behave the same way. They drive away from parked cars so they'll clear an unexpected opening door. With that in mind, groups of bicyclists often choose to ride several abreast to be courteous to motorists behind them. Here's why that matters to motorists: Imagine 12 bicyclists riding single file, each bicyclist requiring about 12 linear feet minimum. That puts the motorist at least 144 feet behind them. If those same bicyclists ride 4 abreast, then they consume only 36 linear feet of roadway, which is safer and more efficient for everyone. Here's a page with several professional videos demonstrating why and how bicyclists should ride to ensure their own safety while complying with the vehicle code: http://www.youtube.com/user/CyclistLorax
steve September 30, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Pete van Nuys If cyclists are using the "number two" lane, just signal, move into the number one lane ------------ these are CAR lanes----do you see cars driving in BIKE LANES____U R an idiot !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Rich gonzales September 30, 2012 at 05:15 PM
It all comes down to not lumping each other into these negative groups. Yes, there are horrible cyclists and horrible drivers. Our responsibility is to continue to educate the ignorant and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Drivers and cyclist can co-exist, through education and compromise we can do it. Drivers we have a responsibility operating these vehicles on the road, we can injure or kill people with our vehicles, and cyclists we have to be responsible and understand we can injure pedestrians. There is always going to be someone or something that will irritate us people, lets rise above. Peace.
steve September 30, 2012 at 05:21 PM
http://newportbeach.patch.com/articles/two-cyclists-hospitalized-after-collision see this crap alllll the time all over Newport beach !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Speaking of Spokes September 30, 2012 at 05:22 PM
The police report for that incident has not been made public to the best of my knowledge. Any opinion expressed is purely speculative, unless it comes from an eye witness. Newport Beach police are doing their due diligence to investigate the collision. Let's withhold opinion until they release their report.
steve September 30, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Speaking of Spokes by Brenda Miller I live near, and pass by PCH/Bayside at least twice daily---Bikers are ALWAYS going south on PCH without stopping OR looking---It is a RIGHT TURN LANE only---VERRRY surprised not MORE accidents there---If I am riding a bike--I STOP at that intersection----
SC Beach Bum September 30, 2012 at 05:35 PM
There are more and more athletic cycling groups that come down to San Clemente to take advantage of the abundant hills and curves in the roads. I can see why San Clemente is a great place to ride. However, many of these weekend cyclist groups do not obey the traffic laws and endanger themselves. I have seen packs run through stop signs and red lights, and ride in the wrong lane towards oncoming traffic because the pack is grouped to tightly. If you want motorists to "share the road" then you all need to start obeying the traffic laws for everyone's safety.
Speaking of Spokes September 30, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Another observation about riding in the door zone: observe the location of the Class 2, on-road, striped bicycle lane. It is often striped adjacent parallel, parked cars and positions the bicyclist in harm's way, in the door zone. That problem--all too common--is created by an uninformed public works official who views the roadway only from a vehicular perspective. That creates problems for everyone. When a bicyclist leaves that improperly striped Class 2 bike lane to avoid the door zone, motorists often get angry with the bicyclist. The motorists want the bicyclist to get out of their way, which they perceive--understandably, but unjustifiably--as an exclusive right to the travel lane. The solution is education by all concerned, particularly the public works official whose roadway designs created a set of expectations in the minds of the users of the system. Those expectations lead to conflicts, physical, psychological, and confrontational, that compromise public safety. It doesn't have to be that way. Long Beach is leading the way for safe, harmonious integration of bicycles and vehicles with their green sharrowed lane on 2nd St. in Belmont Shore. I arranged a bicycle tour of that City for San Clemente's City Council, planning and public works officials. It was a resounding success. Read about it here: http://sanclemente.patch.com/blog_posts/opinion-sc-council-sharrows-the-road-in-long-beach
Speaking of Spokes September 30, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Great point Beach Bum! I support our San Clemente Sheriff's 100% in their efforts to make the roadways safe. Last week, a bicyclist blew through a stop sign on S. Ola Vista and collided with a vehicle. She was badly injured, but will life to ride--hopefully more safely--another day. I wrote a comment after the OC Register article, advocating for compliance with the Vehicle Code. Additionally, our local Sheriff's office contacted me to ask that I notify bicycle groups of increased enforcement in the area. That kind of collaborative effort will, hopefully, remind everyone to navigate the roadways legally. A friend of mine told me yesterday that he was ticketed for cruising through a stop sign at Palizada/N. Ola Vista while driving his car. He was upset at the time, but upon further reflection, he was glad he got a ticket and glad the police were doing their job to keep the roadways safe. He'll go to traffic school and turn the ticket into a learning experience. I wish everyone had such a healthy attitude. If you'd like to read the OC Register article, here's the link: http://www.ocregister.com/news/san-372551-clemente-intersection.html
Speaking of Spokes September 30, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Thank you, Rich, for providing a reasonable perspective.
SC Beach Bum September 30, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Thanks for sharing that article Brenda. I heard about the skateboarders mentioned at the bottom but hadn't heard about this cyclist. I'm not surprised. I think it would be devastating as a motorist to accidentally hit and injure another person, even if you weren't at fault.
Speaking of Spokes September 30, 2012 at 07:41 PM
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.
steve September 30, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Shelly Shelly--REALLY ???? when professionals race--the streets are closed to cars---except for support teams and tv crews----These friggin weekend warriors are all bunched up---passing each other--colliding---on streets PACKED with cars ?? you are probably one of the bafoons ????
MisturChips September 30, 2012 at 08:55 PM
In my travels to and from work, shopping etc, I find myself 'stuck' in Live oak Canyon and Santiago Canyon behind a HORDE of cyclists, who instead of riding single-file in the bike lane, decide to make a 'glob' of cyclists, 4, 5, or even 8 wide. This densely-packed group provides for dangerous riding in general, as anyone but the riers on the leading / trailing or left edge is 'trapped' in a wolf-pack. When one of them wobbles, goes down, or otherwise commits an action 'ou tof cadence' with the rest of the group..... DOWN MOST OF THEM GO... in to the lane I'm forced to use (2-lane route). It is illegal to impede traffic, and when 3, 4, 5, or a dozen motor-vehicles are 'trapped' behind a glob of cyclists attempting to crest a hill etc, it makes for an even MORE dangerous situation. If you can't maintain a minimum speed, you have no business being away from the curb or out of the bike lane unless an obstacle must be traversed, or you must turn left / lane change to avoid a right-turn-only situation. This being said; cycling is all about efficiency. Humans neither store or produce enough energy to 'waste 'it at stop-signs / lights, or this is the image the majority of cyclists seem to project. Once you spend all that effort to 'get up to speed', I'd guess it makes no sense to waste energy by using the brakes to generate heat. In a race situation, this may be so, but not for an enjoyable ride on open streets.
MFriedrich September 30, 2012 at 09:20 PM
4. It's also incredibly dangerous. 250 lbs. vs. 2 tons (4,503 lbs). 20 mph vs. 50-60 mph. Do the math. It ain't pretty. Even motocyclists in OC already know damn well that a 15 minute weekend ride to meet friends for some coffee is a death-defying feed with hundreds of speeding, cell-phone blabbing, texting, soccer mom cagers on the road. Just stay in your lane, obey the traffic rules like everybody else and we might all survive.
MisturChips September 30, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I have no other choice BUT to stay 'in my lane', as there is only 1. Keep in mind, the bike lane only disappears for a short jaunt across a bridge JSO Modjeska North, yet it is routinely unused, and these packs-o-people just BEGGING to be injured clog the roadway. Sure, the rare occasion of a 'special event' is one thing (and signs are posted for weeks ahead of time), but routinely? I've even been nearly side-swiped by cyclists while in various cars, and on my motorcycle. I even installed a 'bell' on my motorcycle, and ring it when I'm coming upon a cyclist so they don't pull a Crazy Ivan on me and damage us both in the process. Perhaps turn-signals should be retrofitted on bokes if they're going to be used on highways vs. city streets... motorcycles have had quite a nice, standardized system for some time now, and it would be SIMPLE to retrofit - the same battery that powers their insanely bright, blinding-to-oncoming motorists at night helmet lights could power them. for an addition of a few mere ounces of weight.
MFriedrich September 30, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Bicyclists should be guaranteed equal rights and respect on the road ways, but let's face it. They could do more too to demonstrate the same respect for pedestrians on sidewalks and at crosswalks. Too often they flip-flop between the privileges of both autos and pedestrians, and frequently do not pay a fine. I'm not saying motorists should be inattentive. I'm just saying I can understand why some get confused when they see bicyclists on the sidewalk and then crossing streets on crosswalks with pedestrians.
MisturChips September 30, 2012 at 09:57 PM
i recall the law states you are to WALK your bicycle when using a crossWALK. Not that I haven't ridden mine, and not that I won't ride it in a crosswalk at some point again in my life. Just as cyclists SHOULD be granted equal rights, I SHOULD never have my rights stripped by one (or a gaggle of them).
Speaking of Spokes October 01, 2012 at 02:04 AM
You make a good point about bicyclists being indecisive about whether they're riding as a vehicle or as a pedestrian. When I'm teaching people, especially kids, I teach them to dismount and walk in the crosswalk as a pedestrian, even if it's a p.i.t.a.. Doing so eliminates the risks of ingrained, deadly habits of riding into the street directly from the sidewalk. On 2nd St. in Belmont Shore, the City of Long Beach has creatively solved their sidewalk pedestrian/bicycle conflicts. The roadway was inhospitable to most bicyclists, who perceived it to be unsafe. So, they rode on the sidewalk, endangering pedestrians. The City addressed the issue by installing the green, sharrowed lane down the center of the right lane in both directions. Almost instantly (I believe the green lane was installed overnight) the roadway culture changed from an aggressive environment filled with conflict and competition for position to one that fully and harmoniously integrates bicycles with cars. Bicyclists ride out of the door zone, properly in the effective lane of travel. They don't ride on the sidewalk in significant numbers. Motorists who want to exceed bicyclists' speed calmly move to the left and courteously pass them. It's amazing how well that works, but it does. With one simple and inexpensive change to the infrastructure, the roadway culture was shifted from vehicular-dominant to multimodal. 40,000 avg. daily car trips share the roadway with 1,000 bicyclists daily.
Speaking of Spokes October 01, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Here are some relevant sections of the Calif. Vehicle Code about bicycles in a crosswalk (abbreviated due to space limitations): 21650(g) This section does not prohibit the operation of bicycles . . . along any crosswalk . . . where the operation is not otherwise prohibited by this code or local ordinance. 21456.3 An operator of a bicycle, including one turning, shall yield the right-of-way to other traffic and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.
Mike Proctor October 01, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Speaking or Spokes, Thank you for your input. IMO, I find road bikers to be arrogant, and they seem to have this "entitlement" attitude, that they own the road because they are on a bike, and you are in a vehicle. I can only speak from my own personal encounters. A few examples are packs of riders taking up the bike lane, and at the same time, spilling halfway into the roadway. This may be legal, but is completely foolish, and unsafe. Then when you pass them, they get all bent out of shape. Another example is packs of riders bunched up in the bike lanes, then suddenly one spills into the roadway to jockey for a better position. Again, may be legal, but completely unsafe. .......... Continued below..
Mike Proctor October 01, 2012 at 06:51 PM
continued from above.... Last example, a groupe of rides on a two lane road, that are bunched up and taking up a roadway that doesn't have a bike lane, and they are impeding traffic...and refuse to move to the side so that the vehicles can pass. If I was to do this in my car, and impede the flow off traffic because i was not doing the legal speed limit, I could be sighted. I don't ever want to injure a cyclist, and i don't like reading about car -v- cyclist accidents. BUT it does piss me off when the above scenarios occur, because the "cyclist puts ME" into a dangerous situation, by there choice, not mine, and I am the one who most likely will face the legal consequences. JMO These situation happen all the time, and puts everyone at risk, The riders may have the protection of the law, but they will come out on this short end of the stick physically, if their action result in a accident.
Speaking of Spokes October 01, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Hi Mike, You use a very reasonable tone to express the anger of motorists stuck behind bicyclists. Thank you for your restraint. But the root of the problem is engineering, roadway design, and public policy that has failed miserably to accommodate all roadway users. As a result, bicyclists and motorists compete with each other for space, often with tragic consequences. It doesn't have to be that way. Here's a link to my latest Speaking of Spokes blog post about the issue and how roadway efficiency can be increased by increasing safety for all. http://sanclemente.patch.com/blog_posts/its-not-about-money-its-about-leadership
Mike Proctor October 01, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Speaking of Spokes....Here is a example of arrogance by biker. Both in the wrong, but the biker just comes offs poorly with his attitude. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG3RLRdETgw&feature=related This is also a good example about riding the wrong direction on a sidewalk, about what direction people look first, before they pull out...this time it was a pedestrian looking right, as he was about to jaywalk on a "one way" street, and would have not expected a rider coming from the wrong direction.
Speaking of Spokes October 01, 2012 at 07:07 PM
There is a limitless set of examples of roadway violations by all parties. Violators should be given citations, without question.
Mike Proctor October 01, 2012 at 07:22 PM
I have been in cities that us those green bike ways. Great idea. But when it comes to cyclist that ride the winding roads near where I live (two lane roads, with no passing zones), these lanes are not feasible. I believe this will always be an issue, as there is no simple solution. We just need to learn to respect each other. This is why I ride a mountain bike. :-) LOL
Pete van Nuys January 23, 2013 at 01:43 AM
All the reports are in, and Steve seems to be partially correct. The young woman appears to have blundered to her own death. 1) attempting to turn right, in the gutter, as a truck turned right next to her, 2.) riding a borrowed bike, presumably one she was not familiar with, 3.) wearing borrowed shoes, using clipless pedals she may have been unfamiliar with; witnesses imply she fell out of the bike lane and between the front and rear wheels of the truck. Uneven pavement probably played a role, as well. It seems the only lesson responsible cyclists can take from this is: Line up behind motor vehicles in front of you, and directly ahead of those behind you-- "control the lane"-- when making right hand turns. NEVER attempt to squeeze by right turning traffic. NEVER ride near the gutter. Motorheads, of course, will hate this advice. "Tough toenies."
Pete van Nuys January 23, 2013 at 01:52 AM
Steve, steve, steve. Sorry to inform you, but there are no such things as "car lanes." There are only travel lanes for legal road users. Sometimes they are wide enough for a car and another user to share side by side, sometimes not. When not, CVC 21202 permits ANY road user-- you, too-- to occupy the full lane. Doesn't matter how fast you are going at the time. Wann'a drive your car 15 mph in the #2 lane on PCH while you look for an address? You're legally entitled to do that, and all the other Steves on the street will just have to signal left and pull into the #1 to go around you. Just like when passing a bicyclist who's riding 15 mph. That's called Sharing the Road, a hard concept for some road users to grasp sometimes. In fact, it's so hard to grasp that Share the Road signs are being removed and replaced by Bikes May Use Full Lane signs. Ouch! Sorry....
MFriedrich January 23, 2013 at 01:54 AM
Maybe someone could inform the bicyclist community about sidewalks and crosswalks and that pedestrians use them.


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