Bike Deaths Prompt Safety Workshop

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With cyclists continuing to be killed and injured on local roads and public demand growing for bike-friendly areas, local officials have decided it’s time to have a broad, in-depth talk with bicycle advocates about how to boost safety.

At a Monday workshop in Irvine held by the Orange County Transportation Authority, Supervisors Chairman Shawn Nelson, Irvine Councilman Jeff Lalloway and Supervisor Todd Spitzer plan to lead a conference with law enforcement leaders and cycling activists to hash out concrete steps for making biking safer in Orange County.

Among other factors, last summer’s death of former Westminster Police Chief James “Mitch” Waller has been cited by local officials as underscoring the need for better bike safety infrastructure.

Waller was killed by a passing car while riding his bicycle along Laguna Canyon Road.

A former Orange County sheriff’s employee, Matthew Liechty, also was killed in February by a passing car while riding his bike in Huntington Beach.

When it comes to safety, bike advocates generally encourage education campaigns for drivers and cyclists as well as creating separation between bikes and moving cars.

That can include creating separated bike lanes on major streets — as Long Beach has done in parts of its downtown — or “bike boulevards” on parallel side streets.

In Long Beach’s, city officials said bike accidents dropped 80 percent in the year after their installation, with vehicle-on-vehicle accidents also decreasing significantly:

Creating more bike-friendly communities was also the subject of a presentation in Santa Ana last week by a leading national advocate.

Organizers hope to gather suggestions from the community “that can be turned into workable solutions for making Orange County a more bicycle-friendly community,” according to an OCTA press release.

The workshop runs Monday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Irvine City Hall.

Please contact Nick Gerda directly at ngerda@gmail.com  and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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