Bike Safety Plan and New Panel OK’d by Council

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An unidentified bicyclist rides north on Coast Highway near Dover Drive, a known dangerous intersection for cyclists, on Thursday afternoon. — Photos by Sara Hall
An unidentified bicyclist rides north on Coast Highway near Dover Drive, a known dangerous intersection for cyclists, on Thursday afternoon. — Photos by Sara Hall

Almost exactly six months after two fatal bicycle crashes, city council voted unanimously Tuesday to establish a Bicycle Master Plan Oversight Committee.

Following in the steps of the Citizen’s Bicycle Safety Committee, which sunsetted in January, the aim of the new committee is to take the lead on the Bicycle Master Plan, which will promote “bicycle safety and responsible cycling within the city,” according to the staff report.

The BMP should take about 12-18 months to develop, the report explains, and the committee will meet “as needed.”

Councilman Tony Petros will head up the new committee as chairperson, with support from seven appointed community members. Newport Beach residents can apply by contacting the City Clerk’s Office.

Staff also suggested bringing in a consulting firm that specializes in bicycle, pedestrian and vehicle mobility, to help develop the plan. They hope to have a choice ready for council to approve by May, according to the report.

The city sent out a community message on March 8, informing residents that the council was planning to vote on the issue, explaining that “a BMP would assess existing bicycle facilities, propose improvements to the existing bicycle infrastructure and network, incorporate a sustainable education and outreach plan, propose outside funding sources, and prioritize projects.”

Resident Frank Peters, who served on the bike safety task force in 2009-2010 and last year on the CBSC, spoke during public comment at the meeting, expressing his interest in contributing.

Peters also noted that Tuesday was just one day away from the six month anniversary of cyclist Betty Bustrum being hit by the truck trailer at Dover Drive and Coast Highway, and just a few days from the six month anniversaries of the fatal crashes of Sarah Leaf and Catherine “Kit” Campion-Ritz.

It was “interesting timing,” he said.

A group of cyclists ride south on Coast Highway on Thursday, near Newport Center Dr.
A group of cyclists ride south on Coast Highway on Thursday, near Newport Center Drive.

The citizens group started in August 2010, according to the staff report, and made many steps toward improving bike safety in the city during the last few years, Petros said.

“We have improved driver and cyclist awareness of laws and of each other,” he said, “elevated the discourse from anger and indifference to similarities and solutions, and implemented real projects for the overall benefit and safety of the Newport Beach public.”

The meetings were well attended, he added, there is a real interest in the community regarding this issue.

By approving the plan, the city is making a “statement of our commitment to a healthy community,” Petros said.

The BMP will also help “give the council and the staff real tools to become competitive for outside funding for bicycle commuter projects and projects to enhance safety around our schools for our children,” Petros said.

“I see the development of a Bike Master Plan as an important step forward in making Newport Beach a safe and accessible biking community,” said Mayor Keith Curry in the community message. “We look forward to receiving the community’s input in this exciting effort.”

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