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Government Should Keep Bikes in Mind

Recent moves have made Southland less friendly to cyclists. It shouldn't be that way.

September 24, 2000|DON HARVEY | Don Harvey is executive director of the Orange County Bicycle Coalition

Why aren't there more bicyclists in Southern California? After all, the weather's good, the roads are still good (though they're getting worse), and it's fairly flat. It used to take longer to get places by bike than by car, but congestion has made them about the same. Soon cars will take longer!

The reason there aren't more bikes is governmental blundering in dealing with them on streets. (Government provides fine trails, but people don't live, work or do errands on trails.)

Bicyclists didn't have to deal with government as long as the roads had wide curb lanes and shoulders, and traffic wasn't too bad. But now, in Orange County, wide curb lanes have been restriped to add motor vehicle lanes, bike-friendly shoulders have been replaced by bike-eating curbs, and traffic--well, you know about that.

So why do I complain about government? Isn't it just dealing with a hard issue?

Yes, but it's making it worse. Let me give you a couple of recent examples. Coincidentally, both involve Caltrans and Pacific Coast Highway.

First: In Dana Point, there's a stretch of what we think is a road; as it goes north, it becomes Camino de las Ramblas, and that's what we call it. Caltrans, however, says it's a freeway.

This stretch of Ramblas has a speed limit of 40 mph, and it's only a mile or so in length, so we don't think it's a freeway, and we don't think a judge will think so either. It has "no bikes" signs, although bicyclists need to use it to go north on PCH. Caltrans has promised for a year to remove the signs but hasn't. Now we want a judge to tell Caltrans. The agency ignores bicyclists, but we don't think it'll ignore a judge.

Second: Some readers may remember the big fight over restriping PCH in Huntington Beach in 1991, when Caltrans and the city wanted it to be six lanes without bike lanes. Caltrans held a meeting in the city, lots of angry cyclists (including me) showed up, and a Caltrans executive promised that it wouldn't restripe without bike lanes on PCH. The executive retired, and by June, Caltrans had given Huntington Beach a permit to restripe without bike lanes. The city has done it, we want it to undo it, and that's where the issue is now. Even though Huntington Beach restriped in a day, when it wanted it, now it says it'll take months to put it back the way it was.

This is a harder case, and less suited to a volunteer attorney (which, in any case, we don't have) than the sign issue in Dana Point. Nevertheless, I'm hoping that the Dana Point case sends Caltrans a message that it hears, and so I'm more hopeful than I've been in some time. We'll see.

My real problem with all this is, I don't think we and Caltrans should be fighting each other over these issues, or at all. After all, every bike is one less car. That should help everyone.

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