Commentary: Cycling is unsafe in the village

With the idea of improving bicycle safety and encouraging bicycle riding, the city of Newport Beach has added bicycle "sharrow" markings and other signage to East Coast Highway, between MacArthur Boulevard and Poppy Avenue, and on Bayside Drive through Corona del Mar Village.

As someone who has ridden a bicycle thousands of miles over many busy streets and highways in Southern California, I feel very strongly that encouraging bicyclists to ride on these narrow, congested roads is ridiculous. If anything, signs should be posted barring bicyclists from these dangerous routes, especially when much safer routes around Corona del Mar are available.

This portion of PCH is extremely crowded. Hundreds of shops and restaurants in this area insure that cars are constantly being moved in and out of the street parking spaces, while others pull into and out of off-street parking lots. There are many side streets that intersect PCH in the Village, which are always full of resident and tourist vehicles turning onto and off of the highway.

As a major thoroughfare, large semi trucks routinely travel this very tight portion of the highway. As car doors open, as pedestrians cross the street and motorcycles split lanes, for anyone in their right mind to suggest that this is a safe route for bicyclists and that bicycle riding on this road is to be encouraged, is just insane.

Bayside Drive in this area is one lane in either direction and some portions are extremely narrow, with barely enough room for autos at some points. In other areas, the road has sharp twists and blind turns, while in still other areas, there are cars parked on both sides of the road, with absolutely no room to spare.

Sometimes, just one open car door can stop traffic. Pedestrians constantly cross from one side to the other, without a crosswalk in sight. Oftentimes, construction crews work in the area, and the pavement can be wet and slippery with debris.

The double yellow line down the center, prevents motorists from moving over enough to pass bicyclists, without breaking the law and putting themselves and others in danger of a head on collision. Add a few bicyclists to this mix, spurred on by the sight of "sharrow" markings — so they feel "safe," and we have a recipe for disaster — it's just a matter of time.

The vast majority of bicyclists who ride PCH are doing so for exercise and training. With this in mind, I suggest that the city of Newport Beach direct southbound bicyclists to travel up MacArthur from PCH to San Joaquin Hills Road, where they will turn right and proceed all the way to Newport Coast Drive.

They will take Newport Coast Drive back to PCH and then proceed southbound. For northbound riders, just reverse the route. Sure they will encounter the Newport Coast Drive hill, but isn't exercise and training the goal here? The casual riders, who wear regular shoes when riding, should be directed to walk their bikes through Corona del Mar Village.

The recent deaths of two bicyclists in Newport Beach has brought the topic of bicycle safety to the forefront of discussion. Painting "sharrow" markings on our roads is a waste of money and only encourages bicyclists to take what are known to be extremely dangerous routes.

Instead, the city of Newport Beach should make riding a bike on PCH and Bayside Drive, through Corona del Mar Village a misdemeanor and point the way for bicyclists to take much safer routes, which are much more scenic and enjoyable to ride. I wouldn't be caught dead, riding my bike through Corona del Mar Village. It just isn't worth it.

ALLEN DRUCKER lives in Newport Beach.

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