Update on Coast Highway Bicycle Ban in Dana Point

(Backdated to archive in the CABO blog)

By Dan Gutierrez and Brian DeSousa
California Association of Bicycling Organizations (CABO)


The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) cycling roadway ban ordinance in Dana Point, California (between Palisades and Camino Capistrano in Capistrano Beach) will not be approved.

At about 12:45 this afternoon (September 20, 2006), the Traffic Safety Subcommittee of the Dana Point City Council decided unanimously to recommend to the full Council that they NOT enact the proposed ordinance banning cyclists, pedestrians, and other human powered transportation users from using the roadway and shoulders on PCH. This action was the result of the subcommittee, which included the Dana Point Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem as members, accepting the argument from the cycling community that: a) the roadway design was not the cause of the recent unfortunate injuries and fatalities on PCH. b) forcing fast cyclists onto the narrow pathway was not in the best safety interests of path users and road cyclists.


Pacific Coast Highway between Palisades and Camino Capistrano is a two-lane road with shoulders between a railroad right of way on the ocean side and steep bluffs on the inland side. On April 8, two joggers were severely injured from a hit-and-run driver who had an outstanding warrant for a previous DUI. On May 6, a bicyclist died in a collision with an automobile, for which the bicyclist was found at legal fault.

On May 24, the City Council approved amending the roadway resurfacing project to narrow the travel lanes to 10 feet and the shoulders to 6 feet to make room for a 10-foot wide two-way path on one side of the road separated by K-rail (concrete barriers).

On July 25, another bicyclist died in a crash with an automobile, for which the automobile driver was cited for DUI. As a result of the recent injuries and fatalities, on August 23, the City Council had the first reading of a proposed ordinance to permanently ban cyclists from using the roadway portion of PCH and requiring them to use the sidepath.

Seeing that such a ban, if enacted, could lead to similar bans elsewhere in the state, the California Association of Bicycling Organizations (CABO) worked with local cycling club and advocacy organization leaders to devise a strategy to fight the ban. The second reading of the ban ordinance was scheduled for the September 13 City Council meeting, after which it would have become law. Due to numerous letters, faxes, and emails from the cycling community, the reading of the ordinance was pulled from the City Council agenda, and the matter was deferred to the September 20 meeting of the Traffic Subcommittee.

Traffic Subcommittee Meeting Details

The Dana Point Director of Public Works, with whom Brian and I (Dan) met three weeks ago to gather technical data, was instrumental in pre-arranging with the subcommittee to have CABO give a technical PowerPoint presentation with integral video that was longer than the normal three minutes allotted to public speakers, and by also allowing us to present first (actually second after the Public Works director showed a few still photos of his own).

Unfortunately Brian, our CABO area director, whose territory includes Dana Point, was not able to break free from some important work commitments, so I agreed to give the briefing in his place. Brian did a fantastic job of working with all of us to coordinate meetings, shoot video and put together the briefing for the sub-committee. The ten-minute briefing was very well received by the subcommittee.

Three others also spoke at the meeting, Roger Taylor of the Bicycling Association of South Orange County (BASOC), a private citizen who lived in San Clemente (who opposed the ban and asked that the road be restored to its former configuration), and Rock Kendall (the attorney for the Orange County Bicycle Coalition (OCBC) and a citizen of Dana Point). Roger and Rock both gave testimony that was quite complementary to our presentation and helped to show that the cycling community was unanimous in opposing the ban. I believe this along with the fact that the original road cycling ban was NOT brought before the traffic safety subcommittee, which one member publicly stated to her City Council colleagues, made it easy for the subcommittee as a whole to reconsider the idea of mixing fast road cyclists with slow path users.

The same subcommittee member, upon seeing the public works director’s photos, indicated that she rides a bike and would NOT want to use a path so narrow. I could tell by the disturbed look on her face that she agreed with our contention that fast cyclists should not be on a narrow path even before she had a chance to see the dramatic pathway video showing two groups of cyclists at a closing speed of 50 mph. She also started off the committee discussion of the ordinance by giving a nearly verbatim reading of our conclusion slide by stating that cyclists should be able to choose between the road and the path, and the other members added some standard verbal boilerplate which amounted to “me too”. The subcommittee then quickly made a motion to recommend that the council drop the ordinance, seconded it, and made a unanimous voice call to approve the motion.

Another positive action resulting from the decision to NOT enact the road ban was the Director of Public Works’ announcement to the subcommittee members that he would solicit input from CABO to devise improved signage alerting motorists to the presence of cyclists. In a very brief, private conversation with the City Engineer, he liked my suggestion that standard MUTCD signs such as “Road Narrows”, “Watch for Bicyclists”, and “Share the Road” could be used in combination to alert motorists to the fact that even though bike route signs direct path using cyclists to the sidepath, that motorists still understand that road cyclists can and will use the road/shoulder.

Thanks and Conclusions

Many thanks are in order to the CABO board, and those League Cycling Instructors (LCIs) who helped me and Brian shoot some dramatic pathway video that figured prominently in the presentation. These include LCI Serge Issakov, our CABO San Diego area director, and LCIs Phil Thomas & Michael Plumlee of the Southern California Chapter of the MS Society, all of whom were certified as instructors earlier this year by our CABO President and LCI trainer, Jim Baross! In addition Executive Director Don Harvey and attorney Rock Kendall of the OCBC were excellent team players in our efforts to kill the ban, as was Roger Taylor of the BASOC.

Overall, this was an extremely positive result and a model for future CABO advocacy efforts, since we did not have to resort to direct adversarial pressure at the City Council meeting. Instead were able to use methods of education and influence with city staff to re-direct the issue to the traffic safety subcommittee, and as a result were given an invitation to educate the subcommittee. Of course the many thousands of e-mails to the City Council and OCBC threat of legal action also helped to persuade the city to reconsider the roadway ban internally, instead of creating conflict at a City Council meeting.

Thanks again to everyone that helped CABO reaffirm cyclists’ road rights in California.

Link to Video of Path


Recent newspaper articles

Orange County Register, Thursday, September 21:


Orange County Register, Wednesday, September 20: