In an effort to increase vehicle, bicyclist and pedestrian safety, Bayside Drive may see some changes in the future, possibly including a roundabout.
Newport Beach City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday and approved moving forward with an alternative street layout for the stretch of street between E. Pacific Coast Highway and Jamboree Road/Marine Avenue.
Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon dissented. Councilman Ed Selich recused himself since he owns a home on Bayside Drive. Councilman Scott Peotter was absent.
Speed and safety were the top concerns of both Council members and residents at the meeting.
“The amount of accidents that occur on this road are outside the norm for a road of its type,” Councilman Tony Petros concluded. “To do nothing is the height of irresponsibility. We must do something.”
Petros has personal history with the street, he said. A good friend of his died several years ago after crashing into a tree, he recalled.
“So I know, from personal experience, how dangerous this road can be,” Petros said.
To increase safety, they must slow the traffic down, Petros said.
“The timing is right to look at this street,” said Public Works Director Dave Webb, referring to some upcoming road, pavement, and sidewalk repair work.
Bayside Drive is considered a scenic route, Webb explained. It’s changed over the years and now a lot of bicycles and pedestrians, including the junior lifeguards, also travel on it, he added.
There are speeding and accident issues on this road, two concerns which the residents have previously raised, Webb said. There have been a number of accidents on Bayside Drive, Webb pointed out.
There have been 27 accidents (nine of those involving a cyclist) reported to the Newport Beach Police Department between 2012 and 2015, explained Senior Traffic Engineer Brad Summers.
Speed was the number one factor for 10 of those incidents, six were because of an impaired driver, four from unsafe turns, three failure to stop, and two of each for failure to yield right of way and wrong way cyclist.
There have also been several cases of vehicles leaving the road and colliding with parked cars and homes, Summers said. Residents have noted that there are more accidents than reported to the police, he added.
Between Pacific Coast Highway and Harbor Island, Bayside Drive sees about 13,400 average daily trips in summer. Between Harbor Island and the pedestrian signal, there are about 12,100 ADT,
That’s relatively light compared to other four lane arterials, like Dover Drive or Irvine Avenue, Summers said. Those roads see about twice as many vehicles.
Comparing the average number of vehicles to the maximum capacity, Bayside Drive, about 17 percent or less (depending on the section) of the roadway capacity is being utilized.
“Clearly, we have an un-congested roadway that is a motorway,” Petros said.
Referring to the traffic volume, even if the capacity gets cut in half, there is still a residual of 65 percent of that capacity available, Petros explained.
“This will not congest the roadway,” Petros said, “it will slow the traffic down.”
It will also increase the safety for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, Petros added.
Nearly 60 bicyclists were counted on Bayside during an average summer morning. That’s a very high number compared to other four lane secondary arterial streets, Summers explained.
The plan also includes completing the missing pedestrian and bicycle links, maintaining neighborhood access, and reducing the urban street feel and increasing beautification.
Mayor Diane Dixon directed staff to return with a conceptual design for option two and incorporating the roundabout, and to consider two lanes in both directions between PCH and Linda Isle, study options for the sidewalks and bicycle lanes, and continue to involve the community.
Voting against the plan, Muldoon said he was unsure it would work.
“I wish there was another option,” Muldoon said. “Maybe its my bad experiences in Europe, but roundabouts make me nervous, but I can see that there is value to it.”
Staff presented a few choices, including no change option. The first alternative concept include a reduced width of a four lane roadway, the second – and ultimately what the council approved to move forward with – concept included a two and four lane hybrid roadway with a roundabout at the Harbor Island intersection.
Concept two would also extend the bike lane to the intersection, add flush surface colored pavement in median to maintain access to driveways, rehabilitate the pedestrian traffic signal and add a high visibility crosswalk, and more.
The roundabout at the Bayside Drive and Harbor Island intersection was probably the most discussed during the process so far, Summers said.
“This is a modern design, this isn’t the traffic circle we see in old town Orange or Long Beach,” Summers said.
They have been proven to reduce speeds, calm traffic, reduce accidents and the severity of injuries, he explained. It also provides some good landscaping opportunities and the possibility of a neighborhood monument.
There is a bit of a fear of something new, but they’ve seen it work in other OC cities and SoCal residents will likely be seeing them more and more, Summers said.
About a dozen people spoke during public comment, several mentioning the roundabout. A few people were concerned, particularly with inexperienced drivers or bicyclists using it, and others thought it would help.
“Anything we can do to slow it down has got to help,” said local Max Hampton.
During the outreach process residents have shown the most support for concept two’s hybrid plan, Summers noted, but concerns about potential congestion and inexperienced drivers using the roundabout have also been raised.
Public speakers also commented on reckless driving, bicyclists in the roundabout, concern about impaired drivers, the problem with the long curve, keeping two lanes near the Linda Isle entry, and more.
A number of residents spoke about the plans, most raising concerns about safety on the street, but also the potential increased traffic congestion. Several mentioned the dangerous left turn at Linda Isle.
A couple Council members encouraged staff to work with Linda Isle residents about their concerns. There are some ideas to address the left turn going out of Linda Isle.
But not everyone was on board with the idea.
“I traverse this stretch of road in an automobile probably at least twice a day,” said longtime Balboa Island resident Seymour Beek. He also sometimes walks and rides his bike on Bayside Drive. “I like it just the way it is. It works great.”