Bicycle trap

Despite improvements, lawsuits still being paid out

Now, this is a safe-looking bike lane.
  • Now, this is a safe-looking bike lane.

On Tuesday, April 21, San Diego city councilmembers are expected to approve a settlement offer in the amount of $225,000 to a cyclist who sued over the city's inadequate and defective bike lanes.

The lawsuit, reported by the Reader in October 2013, was filed by Belinda Martinez.

In June of that year, a car struck Martinez as she rode her bicycle on Santa Fe Street near Pacific Beach. She later sued the city, claiming the area was a "concealed trap for bicyclists" and pedestrians.

According to the complaint, the stretch of road had a "defective design, defective signage, defective bicycle lane, bicycle route and/or path, defective traffic control devices, defective pavement lane markings, street marking, street width, speed limit, defective line of sight, defective and/or non-existent warning signage."

The region's failure to provide adequate bike lanes has become well documented in recent years.

According to the settlement agreement, the city plans to pay Martinez from the Public Liability Fund.

In 2013, the San Diego County Grand Jury released a report documenting the dangerous conditions that some cyclists face on city roads.

"The designated bicycle paths and lanes in the City of San Diego (City) are often substandard because of their location and relative lack of maintenance. On many streets, the poorly designated bicycle lanes have large gaps. The gaps and lack of maintenance often force cyclists into traffic lanes. Poorly marked bicycle lanes cause accidents."

Recently, cycling advocates as well as government agencies have pushed for additional and better maintained bike lanes throughout San Diego.

Often times, the proposals are met with resistance from neighbors or nearby businesses who say that traffic issues should be addressed before dedicating roadway to cyclists.

Residents near SDSU and their councilmember Marti Emerald are opposing university officials’ plan to add additional lanes of traffic to College Avenue from Montezuma Avenue to Interstate 8 in favor of bringing dedicated bike lanes and expanding sidewalks for pedestrians.

In Hillcrest, residents and some business owners object to a plan from the San Diego Association of Governments to close a portion of University Avenue in Mission Hills to traffic and install bike lanes east into the center of Hillcrest; the intent is to entice more people out of their cars and onto bikes or walking paths.

On March 24, the community planning group sided with a group of residents and rejected the plan. The association of governments agency will continue with the planning process and try and gain more support from neighbors and business owners.

The city council is expected to approve the settlement offer during the 10 a.m. session on April 21.

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I think she described every road in San Diego. If I am involved in a vehicle crash I will claim all of the "defectives" except the defective driver. Bicycles and cars do not mix. I quit riding because of the increased vehicle traffic and the number of DUI and DWO on the road. There are few places that bicyclists can ride with any degree of safety and painted bike lanes are no protection against wayward vehicles.

I'm sorry to say I agree. Redesigning all the byways, roads, streets in San Diego to accommodate bicyclists isn't feasible, and the half-measures now in place lead to dangerous conditions. I don't think we need to add bike lanes, I think we need to remove the ones in existence, and let the bicyclists take their chances in traffic. The option to move to a more bike-friendly city is always open.

"Let the bicyclists take their chances in traffic". That might work if there was an effort to calm or reduce traffic on some roads (bike boulevard concept), but you didn't mention this. Help me understand - if the bicyclist was you or a family member, would you advocate taking chances with their lives?

I agree that painted bike lanes aren't the best solution. That's why protected/separated bike lanes are being installed as part of a regional bike network on selected roads. Meanwhile let's make the other roads safer for people on bikes and foot through various methods - reducing lane widths, road design changes, increased enforcement.

The San Diego County Bicycle Coalition offers free classes in Oceanside every month. You can ride safely when you know how.

Bicyclists have as much right to the road as motorists do. That's the law, CVC 21200(a).

You can be "right" and dead at the same time. The laws of physics disagree with your interpretation of the vehicle code. Stay off of busy roads, stick to quiet side streets. You'll be much better off.

My "interpretation" of the vehicle code? The vehicle code is straight forward and plain.

CVC 21200. (a) A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division, including, but not limited to, provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs, and by Division 10 (commencing with Section 20000), Section 27400, Division 16.7 (commencing with Section 39000), Division 17 (commencing with Section 40000.1), and Division 18 (commencing with Section 42000), except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.

I have been riding on the road since 1971 and I have 6 figure mileage experience. I'm still alive. I ride on busy roads all the time.

How about if you stopped giving advice on subjects that you know nothing about?

Bicyclists have as much right to the road as motorists do. That's the law. That's always been the law, since there have been road laws, since before the California Vehicle Code was created.

How about you just move over to pass bicycles at a safe distance of at least 3 feet as required by CVC 21760?

I've got 6 figure mileage experience riding on the road since 1971. I'm still alive.

You really don't know a thing about bike safety. I am a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor. I know how to ride safely in traffic. I ride on major roads all the time. I actually prefer them because they tend to have multiple lanes which makes it easier for motorists to move over to pass me.

I'm not "interpreting" CVC 21200(a). It clearly says that bicyclists have the same right to the road as motorists do. You need to learn the actual law rather than the imaginary law that you wish for.

You also need to learn how to move over to pass bicyclists with at least 3 feet of clearance as required by CVC 21760.

As a person who rides about 100 miles a week I can attest to the poor condition of not only the bike lanes on, or adjacent to, our network of roads, but also to the deterioration of dedicated bike paths where motor vehicles are not allowed.

Remember bikes typically don't have a forgiving suspension system, like cars, so every rut, bulge from a nearby tree root, pothole, gap, loose gravel or debris is hazardous to the rider. Combine this with the hundreds of new "DecoRide" bike sharing bikes recently installed by the City and its bike sharing partner and we have a formula for some potential disasters.

It reminds me of the City's short sighted logic on the maintenance of trees in the public right of way. By eliminating tree trimming the city saved a few dollars but paid millions when one of the trees fell, severely injuring a citizen. Our bike lanes and paths are another potential problem that can be averted by properly maintaining them.

While I believe it is my responsibility to ride defensively and obey the rules of the road, the poor condition of the bike lanes & paths, their inadequate design and lack of ongoing maintenance or upkeep will prove costly to the City.

How about a bike group adopts bike lanes for cleanup as is done on higways.

While the idea has merit, it's one thing to pick up trash along our freeways, typically part of some sort of community service ordered by the Courts. It's something else when we are talking about properly "maintaining" a roadway or actual street surface.

Some bicyclists do clean up paths and bike lanes.

The thing is, bike lanes benefit motorists more than bicyclists by getting bicyclists out of their way. Just try riding a bike outside a bike lane sometime and notice the exaggerated histrionics from people who can't believe that a bicyclist is making them change lanes, as if that was a terrible hardship.

I think there are a few issues here. I have a couple of different opinions regarding these issues.

  1. Safety of bicycle lanes - especially lanes close to freeways / highways - should be better.

On SR-56 a few years ago a car flipped over into the adjacent bike lane and killed a cyclist (another was severely injured). You can still see the memorial on the fence near Blk Mtn Rd / SR56. Any lane that is dedicated to bicycles should be kept safe and any lane next to a freeway should have physical barriers which make it near impossible for vehicle to veer off to where cyclists / peds / etc may be.

  1. In my opinion, cars rule the road and always will.

Sorry I know everyone won't agree with that. Certainly drivers should do their best to obey all laws and to drive cautiously around slower vehicles / bikes / pedestrians.

Probably 95% of the time I'm on the road I'm in a car; maybe 5% of the time I'm on a bike. When I'm on a bike I treat the road as the cars' turf and I make sure I always stay out of the way of cars. Regardless of what lines are drawn or laws are in place the laws of physics will always win and a much heavier and faster object will always win in a collision.

I think in many situations a line or even a law can provide a false sense of security. I don't think bike lanes should be put on roads where they cannot be safely maintained and cannot safely fit in a way that supports the primary use of roads - which is automobile transportation (and will be for the foreseeable future).

So I guess my bottom line feeling is the emphasis should be more on the quality and safety of bike lanes than on increasing the quantity of bike lanes.

The San Diego County Bicycle Coalition offers free safety classes every month in Oceanside. They will teach you to drive your bicycle defensively to maximize your visibility, predictability and clearances.

Trying to stay out of the way doesn't work. It mostly just helps set up most crashes. The margins are no place to be.

I guess only the cyclists in Oceanside ride safe. What about classes in the rest of the city?

It's really not that difficult to travel to Oceanside to take the class. It's taught in two parts. The first part is classroom. You don't even need a bike for that. The second is on the road. You need a bike for that.

The classes are in Oceanside because the local advocacy group lobbied for and received funding from SANDAG to support the program.

Local classes would keep the amount of vehicle traffic off the highway and streets. And Oceanside is not just a few minutes from San Diego! It's a haul and the price of gas is not cheap.

The coalition should travel to other parts of the community and hold their classes at libraries or rec halls....no? That would decrease the amount of road traffic.

Like I said, the funding came through a local Oceanside group. Their grant. Their choice of venue.

If you really care about it, see if you can work on getting a program closer to the center part of the county.

It would never happen here, of course, but some cities have more commuters on bicycles than on any other mode of transportation. Copenhagen has a separated system of bike lanes with--get this--their own traffic signals. Those signals are of the same type as used for the motor vehicles, but are smaller in size, and tend to be mounted a bit lower. The cyclists obey them! On weekdays, you'll see suits, skirts and dresses on the cyclists, just pedaling along as if it's the most natural thing to be doing, and for them it is. Denmark is not encouraging car ownership. It is a very expensive place to own or operate a car, even a small one. I do wonder what it is like to try to commute by bike in the winter in Scandinavia, because even in summer it doesn't get hot.

Could SD become a bike commuter city? Possibly, but the locals (myself included) can't take a little rain, or a really hot day. Most people would just wimp out on bicycle commuting.

We need to ban bicycles from major throughfares. If the road is so "dangerous", STAY OFF OF IT! Ride your bike on a side street.

Major thoroughfares have a tendency to have multiple lanes.

Is the left lane broken?

In any case, state law prohibits local governments from banning bicycles on roads other than controlled access highways (like freeways).

Bicyclists have a right to the road. Get over it. It's really not that tough to move over to pass. You do not own the road.

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