Mailbag: Users can coexist on the Back Bay Trail

As a frequent recreational biker, I have ridden the Back Bay Trail many times since I was a young child.

Newport Beach Councilman Tony Petros’ letter of April 29 (“Commentary: Let’s focus on safety of Back Bay Drive, not restricting use”) is on the money. A solution to the associated congestion and safety issues should not exclude or penalize a particular group from appreciating what the trail has to offer.

A singular traffic direction is entirely impractical for pedestrians and bikers and would eliminate most of them. Some of the most appreciative users of the trail are people who can’t walk or bike and can only experience it by car. Why should they be penalized?

To gain a more complete understanding and perspective, I drove my car the length of the trail, at or below the posted 15 mph speed limit, on Saturday and Sunday mornings of Easter weekend, probably among the trail’s busiest days. It became abundantly clear that no one need be excluded because it’s not the volume that is the issue. It is the fundamental chaos on the trail.

I encountered pedestrians and bikers going in both directions on both sides of the road. Some bikers were cruising slowly and others were racing through at high speeds. Pedestrians were made up of slow walkers and runners. I saw no other cars at that time. Signage was minor and mostly ignored.

I offer the following solutions:

•Effective and safe usage must begin with a few fundamental highly posted rules. Start with “High traffic area ahead — use extreme caution,” and promote a share-the-road attitude.

• Maximum speed for all users: 15 mph. Faster speeds are available on other routes.

•Reorganize how each group should use the trail, perhaps with a

double line down the middle putting all cars — but no pedestrians or bikers — on the right side. Another line could divide the water side, with all pedestrians nearest the water traveling in either direction and all bikers in the middle area at slow speeds.

It is incumbent on my fellow bikers to understand that this route through a nature area is for enjoyment, not speed training. All should be free to use the trail but not at will when safety is an issue. When encountering congestion, just slow down and share.

All users can co-exist and enjoy this great natural resource safely.

Bob Newman

Newport Beach