Activist Presses for Bike Safety

Every Lane is a Bike Lane
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Orange County’s bicycle activists are on a mission to improve the county’s biking awareness and infrastructure and hopefully prevent more cyclists, including children, from being struck and killed by cars.

And their efforts are increasingly grabbing the attention of government leaders.

At last week’s Orange County Transportation Authority board meeting, Garden Grove resident Craig Durfey urged officials to develop an educational campaign on bike safety, including about a new three-foot buffer requirement that motorists will have to keep from cyclists starting next September.

He also asked that OCTA support legislation to boost education of traffic engineers on modern bicycle and pedestrian safety standards as well as legislation to require that new bicycles be sold with flashing LED lights on the front and back.

“I’m here because I lost a youth on my corner two years ago,” said Durfey. “I can’t allow myself to see [another] neighbor pass away because of lack of attention to the issue.”

OCTA Chairman Greg Winterbottom scheduled a discussion for the next Bicycle-Pedestrian Subcommittee meeting.

That meeting is planned for Dec. 17.

As far as educational campaigns, Durfey pointed to several existing models, including “Every Lane is a Bike Lane”, Let’s Go NC!, BeStreetSmart.net and the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program.

Another sign of the issue’s growing priority is the Active Transportation Forum later today at UC Irvine, where Orange County’s government officials, activists, nonprofits and others are set to chat about how to better accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.

“It is going to bring everybody together to address the deficiencies in design and education and work together for a solution. Because we’re losing too many lives,” Durfey told OCTA board members.

More than 1,000 cyclists were injured in collisions on Orange County roads in 2011, according to data from the California Highway Patrol. Nine were killed.

OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson noted that his agency will be participating in the event, including as part of a panel discussion.

Dangerous by Design, a study by the nonprofit Transportation for America, found that the number of pedestrians killed each month in America would fill a commercial airliner.

“Despite the magnitude of these avoidable tragedies, little public attention — and even less in public resources — has been committed to reducing pedestrian deaths and injuries in the United States,” the report states.

“The majority of these deaths share a common thread: they occurred along ‘arterial’ roadways that were dangerous by design, streets engineered for speeding traffic with little or no provision for people on foot, in wheelchairs or on bicycles.”

Durfey is also getting the message out to his local city leaders in Garden Grove.

At a special council meeting on Wednesday, he asked that council members regularly schedule discussions at the Traffic Commission on improving the city’s bike and pedestrian friendliness, including:

  • Installing green bike lanes, like those seen in Long Beach and Los Angeles.
  • Implementing the Complete Streets Act, which requires cities to safely accommodate all users of roadways, including bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, children and motorists, when they update their transportation plans.
  • Educating the public on the upcoming three-foot cushion law, including proposed sign designs from the “3 Feet Please” campaign.
  • Training the public on how to ride safely in traffic, like the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education Program and Let’s Go NC!.
  • Launching a multi-language media campaign, using the “Every Lane is a Bike Lane” effort and BeStreetSmart.net as guides.
  • How to deal with bicycle lanes that are blocked by cars.
  • Increasing the frequency of traffic commission meetings from every two months to every month.

The next Garden Grove Traffic Commission meeting is Nov. 5 at 6 p.m.

Durfey is also urging city leaders in Garden Grove and across Orange County to develop master plans for bicycle and pedestrian transportation.

Millions of dollars of grant funding for bike lanes is available at the state and federal levels, he added.

Many activists point to Los Angeles County as being a regional leader in bicycle infrastructure. Their most recent bicycle master plan was approved last year.

Meanwhile, county supervisors’ Chairman Shawn Nelson has been spearheading a regional bicycle planning effort here in Orange County.

Durfey also asked that Garden Grove install clearly marked bike lanes on Harbor Boulevard, one of the county’s busiest roads.

“Harbor Boulevard is your star, your gem. I’d ask you to make a green lane project in that area,” he said at a city oversight board meeting earlier Wednesday.

Encouraging bicycle and pedestrian traffic would attract more people to the area, Durfey added, including spending more time to hang around and shop at area businesses.

“It’s going to strengthen your Harbor Boulevard as an attractive portion of the Garden Grove area.”

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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