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Boy’s death prompts Newport to examine bike safety near schools

Roadside memorial for Brock McCann
Kent Barkouras and daughter Sara visit a memorial at 15th Street and Michael Place in Newport Beach on May 26, 2016, the day after Brock McCann, 8, was struck and killed there by a trash truck.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

Three weeks after an 8-year-old boy was hit and killed by a trash truck while riding his bike home from Newport Heights Elementary School, Newport Beach leaders directed city staff Tuesday night to place a new focus on bicycle safety near schools.

The City Council voted unanimously to have staff seek community perspectives and propose ways the council could improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety around Newport Heights Elementary, Ensign Middle School and Newport Harbor High School.

“I will do everything I can to advance these initiatives,” said Councilman Tony Petros, whose council district includes Newport Heights.

Brock McCann, a third-grader at Newport Heights Elementary, was riding along 15th Street five blocks from school about 1:30 p.m. May 25 when a trash truck operated by city contractor CR&R Environmental Services struck and killed him at the intersection of 15th and Michael Place, one block north of Irvine Avenue. He was about halfway home.

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The scene is a block from Newport Harbor High.

The crash left the community in mourning.

“Our hearts were broken when we lost Brock,” said Newport Heights Elementary School Principal Somer Harding.

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City staff is expected to:

  • Review traffic flow at each intersection and consider possible safety improvements

  • Consider the need for crossing guards at specific intersections

  • Review on-street parking regulations

  • Consider widening or adding sidewalks and allowing more sidewalk riding in certain areas

  • Consider establishing more bike lanes, with buffer zones between the bike lanes and motor vehicles

The study is expected to begin immediately, City Manager Dave Kiff said. The idea is to find or create safe bicycling routes to and from schools, he said.
Staff will seek input from community members, Newport’s police, fire and public works departments, parents and students from each studied school, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and a representative of the McCann family.

Though the study will initially focus on Newport Heights, the city could expand it later to other areas of the city where officials have identified the need to improve safety for bicyclists.

Bicycle safety has been a much-discussed topic in Newport Beach since 2012, when two local cyclists were struck and killed by vehicles in two days. Their deaths stunned the cycling community and added momentum to a push for change.

From 2008 through 2013, Newport Beach consistently ranked among the state’s worst cities in bicyclist injuries and deaths compared with cities its size, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety. More recent data has not been made available.

In 2013, Newport Beach had the fifth-highest number of traffic accidents in which cyclists were injured or killed, compared with 103 cities of similar size. Newport had the 12th-highest number of bicycle accidents involving children 15 or younger.

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In 2014, the city approved a bicycle master plan to add about 46 miles to the city’s cycling trails and lanes in a 20-year period. It also aims to provide education programs for cyclists and require closer tracking of bike-related incidents.

“The No.1 item in that plan is safety, and yet this happened,” Petros said of Brock’s death. “I do think when something like this happens, we do need to take pause and look at ways to avoid this again.”

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Hannah Fry, hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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