Local Government

Bicycle Safety for Fullerton Loses at City Council Meeting

Council had the opportunity to improve travel safety on Associated Road at little or no cost at the May 16th City Council meeting. Instead, faced with opposition to the proposal, the Council majority supported the status quo. (The agenda item was to provide direction to staff, not for a vote.) Associated Road is scheduled to be resurfaced due to water main work and poor pavement toward the north. This provides the opportunity to reconfigure the street for greater safety which the City Engineer recommended.

Currently, the road has four traffic lanes, a middle lane for turns, and two 6-feet wide bicycle lanes. The staff-originated proposal, for which direction was sought, was to eliminate two traffic lanes, add parking and widen the bicycle lanes. Property owners on the street were directly notified of this reconfiguration proposal, and it generated a lot of concern, mostly about parking and related issues. However, the City did not inform other stakeholders, such as bicyclists and drivers throughout Fullerton.

Nearly 200 messages on one thread were posted on NextDoor, and Councilmembers undoubtedly received many more. In addition, many NextDoor messages and statements at several public meetings opposed the initial proposal. This proposal included on-street parking, lane reduction, and a “class IV” bicycle lane between parked cars and the curb. The primary concern expressed was opposition to parking, with opponents concerned that it was unnecessary and would bring undesirable changes to the area, such as unhoused persons camping overnight. However, an overnight parking ban would still be in effect. A secondary concern was that lane reduction would result in congestion and a less safe street, despite data showing that neither of these concerns was well-founded.

Three Councilmembers spoke to the issue.

Shana Charles, whose district includes Associated Road, opposed the parking proposal and declared it dead. She continued to support staff analysis concerning safety and gridlock but asked for more data and analysis to be presented at a future meeting.

Bruce Whitaker spoke at length, emphasizing that he is a bicyclist and supports safe bicycling, but seemed to suggest that bicycling should only be on dedicated bike paths since bike lanes on streets could be put towards better uses like mass transit (he considers automobiles to be mass transit) and freight delivery. He dismissed bicycle advocates as a “super-minority” trying to impose their views on most drivers (his comments are at 4:07 into the meeting). He expressed concern over a new 380-unit development on the Brea Mall parking lot (a result that suggests that the mall is faltering, thus reducing, not increasing traffic) and also expressed the need for additional routes when there are accidents that block the 57 freeway (probably not something that residents want to encourage). He spoke not just of congestion but gridlock.

Nick Dunlap spoke more briefly (4:18 into the meeting), referencing an accident at Bastanchury and Associated, which he said would have been worse if there were a bicycle lane there (there is), and the College Town development proposal. The relevance was not clear. His principal reason for opposition to this proposal was that the residents opposed it, even though only those property owners on the street had been notified. Thus the turnout at various City meetings has been dominated by those notified and those the City contacted. He did not acknowledge that most of the opposition was to parking, and he did not refer to the data showing that reconfiguration would make the street safer and that there would be no congestion. He then tried to table the item, saying that repeated meetings were only to wear the opposition down, but since this was only an item to provide input, that motion was not permissible.

Mayor Jung did not speak directly to the matter but, in doing so, left the impression that he agreed with the points made by Dunlap and Whitaker. He suggested that the staff had sufficient feedback and gave no specific direction to the staff.

Councilmember Zahra was absent.

Several tactical errors were made if the staff was trying to build support for reconfiguration. First, the proposal contained three related items: lane reduction, parking, and a Class IV bike lane (separated from traffic, in this case, with parked automobiles). They argued that the proposal was to increase safety, but the contribution to additional parking safety and a new bike lane is arguable. The lane reduction would not have generated as much opposition without those. Next, staff directly notified only property owners, the minimum required by law. Groups and individuals who might have been more supportive did not receive the same encouragement to comment.

The staff’s presentations could have been more complete with more data and analysis on accidents and congestion on Associated and other streets that have undergone lane reduction in Fullerton (and elsewhere). However, one interesting item that did come out was that 85% of cars on Associated are driven at over 50 MPH.

Despite Mayor Jung’s comment about sufficient feedback, the suggestion by staff and Charles of an additional meeting with a more robust analysis and focus on lane reduction is helpful. Many commentators (and perhaps some Councilmembers) seemed unaware of the data on safety and congestion and should at least have the opportunity to consider it.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data demonstrate that for streets with under 20,000 daily trips, well-designed streets with two lanes are safer and have no more congestion than streets with four lanes. In addition, the vehicle count on Associated is 10,800, well below the potential congestion level.

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4 replies »

  1. The alleged basis for this proposal was improved safety, but no safety data had ever been presented to the council nor any prediction of improved or diminished safety as a result of this proposal. So, the whole proposal was correctly viewed by residents and drivers as a scam to convert half of a Fullerton road into a parking lot.

    The “ban” on overnight parking is a myth. Parking is illegal only between 2 AM and 5 AM. The punishment is a citation. After 3 days of overnight parking the police are authorized to tow the vehicle. This is not a ban.

    Fullerton residents and drivers are fed up with the increase in congestion over the last several years. This proposal is viewed as another attack on the quality of life here and, if passed, a template for evermore lane reductions throughout the city just because the roads are “underutilized” during parts of the day, as though that’s some sort of crime.

  2. A ridiculous proposal. Why not do something that makes sense like banning all big trucks north of Orangethorpe in our city ? This council has allowed more and more warehousing to be built and they need to get the big trucks off of our streets for our safety and to protect our crumbling roads.
    Show some common sense for once.

  3. “Two 6-inch wide bicycle lanes?”
    If the Fullerton Observer wants to hire an editor, I might be available.
    My price isn’t cheap, but I’m better than your current guy.

    • Thank you for the correction. It has been updated. The editor does not get paid and works around 10 to 15 hours per day. Still interested? Give me a call. 714-525-6402