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Mailbag: Bicyclists, motorists make for a dangerous mix

May 16, 2012

The Newport Beach Citizens Bicycle Safety Committee should include at least one member who does not ride a bicycle on the streets of Newport Beach for recreation or commuting.

After all, we non-bicyclists contribute monies, through our taxes, which pay for all of those never-ending miles and miles of bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, bicycle markings and other alleged "safety measures." Presently, bicycle riders are getting a "free ride." Bicyclists are the only group who share the road but don't pay their fair share.

How many bicycle riders actually commute to work every day? Probably less than 1%.

The rest are recreational. On any given day, older, leisure-time bicycle riders (65 to 85 years of age) dress up in clothes for "youthfulness" with bright vests, too-tight black shimmering elastic pants, otherworldly helmets and an all-too-common case of road rage.

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Sadly, many hold bicycle safety in contempt while they aggressively meander into busy city street traffic in Newport Beach. They ride side-by-side, placing the drivers of cars, SUVs, trucks and themselves in peril.

P.J. O'Rourke once said, "Bicycle riders look like Wiffle ball-topped Woody Woodpeckers."

Woody Woodpecker silhouettes pepper the streets of Newport Beach from early morning until late at night. While many remain in their proper lanes and obey the traffic laws, there are other bicyclists who resemble rigid self-righteous environmental ideologues. And it is these bicycle riders who are causing huge hazards for the congested traffic flow in Newport Beach because they are prepared to break every traffic law.

Active bike lanes on city streets, vehicle lanes sharing the lane with bicyclists' lanes, and "sharrows" (shared roadway bicycle markings) are neither safe nor manageable.

In pilot projects, sharrows are placed 11 feet from the curb and about 4 feet from a conventional parking space for small cars, notwithstanding all the oversized gargantuan SUVs along every curbside.

Sharrows are supposed to slow down aggressive drivers where bicycle lanes do not exist. Placing sharrows in unstable, heavily trafficked streets confuses moving and parked vehicles. In actuality, by narrowing traffic lanes, motorists become more impatient and aggressive. Regrettably, bicycle riders may still crash into the opening doors of parked cars … with the injured bicyclists then thrown into ongoing motor vehicle traffic on the sharrow-narrowed streets.

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