Newport approves $22 million bike-safety plan a week after latest death

Days after an area cyclist was killed in a crash on East Coast Highway, Newport Beach leaders approved a long-range plan to make the city more bike-friendly.

The Bicycle Master Plan, approved unanimously by the City Council on Tuesday night, is the culmination of years of work on the issue, officials said.

“This is visionary,” said Councilman Tony Petros, who helped Councilwoman Nancy Gardner, a longtime bike-safety advocate, spearhead efforts to develop the plan.

Though discussions about the plan sometimes got a little “passionate,” Petros said, “we represented the best for this community, and as a result … cycling and walking will be safer.”

A holistic approach to bike-safety improvements was first proposed in 2012 after two local cyclists were struck and killed by vehicles in two days. Their deaths stunned the cycling community and added momentum to a major push for change.

The most recent fatality involving a cyclist occurred Oct. 19, when Shaun Eagleson, 30, of Fountain Valley, was hit by a pickup on East Coast Highway.

Since 2012, Newport streets have had some changes, including the installation of “sharrows” — or road markings that remind drivers to share the road with cyclists — on Coast Highway through Corona del Mar, a picturesque but potentially treacherous stretch.

Still, local cycling advocates urged the city to look more comprehensively at biking in Newport.

The resulting document lays out a framework to add 46 miles to the city’s network of biking infrastructure in the next 20 years, provide education programs for cyclists and require closer tracking of bike-related incidents.

Currently, the city has about 93 miles of off-road bike trails, bike lanes, on-street bike routes and bicycle sidewalks, according to a staff report.

The plan also recommends fast-tracking several projects as “first priorities,” including improvements to a bike route connecting Newport Heights to the beach and the creation of a bike boulevard on Santiago Drive that would fill a gap in bike trails near the Back Bay.

City staff estimated the suggested improvements would cost $22 million to fully implement.

Council members lauded the plan, saying it is thorough and incorporates a wide range of community input.

Corona del Mar resident Frank Peters, one of the city’s most vocal cyclists, thanked officials.

Still, he told the council, “we have a lot of work to do.”

Balboa Village plan approved

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council approved another broad plan years in the making – the Balboa Village Improvement Program.

That program was developed through the efforts of the Balboa Village Advisory Committee and aims to help inject life into the sleepy harborside commercial district, city staff members said.

Building facade upgrades to better reflect the neighborhood’s history, new landscaping along the streets and unified sign designs will help draw visitors, a consultant on the project told the council.

“The idea is to really clarify the identity of this area,” said Jami Williams of RRM Design Group.

“The area has great bones,” added Brenda Wisneski of the city Community Development Department:

Gardner initially expressed concerns about funding the estimated $3 million project, saying it seemed unfair to potentially spend general fund money in one neighborhood. But Wisneski said the plan likely would rely mostly on parking fees.

The document was approved unanimously.

The council also solidified an ordinance allowing A-frame signs in Corona del Mar and gave the Goldenrod footbridge historical designation.