CABO Comments on Santa Ana River Trail

Below are comments from the California Association of Bicycling Organizations (CABO) on the RRTAC July 19 agenda items relating to the Santa Ana River Trail (SART):

1. First and foremost, we applaud the county’s efforts in reaching out to and working with the cycling community to come up with a SART detour well in advance of the widening of the 91 freeway.  Furthermore, we appreciate the county’s commitment to come with a long term solution that will most likely be more attractive than the original concept of a bikeway adjacent to the freeway.

2. When cyclist access to State Route 91 was severed due to conversion to a freeway in the 1970s, the section of the SART between Gypsum Canyon and Green River was constructed to provide an alternate transportational route for cyclists in accordance with Streets and Highways Code Section 888. This section reads as follows:

888.  The department shall not construct a state highway as a freeway that will result in the severance or destruction of an existing major route for nonmotorized transportation traffic and light motorcycles, unless it provides a reasonable, safe, and convenient alternate route or such a route exists.

Since this section of the SART replaced 24/7 road access, 24/7 access MUST be preserved on this section of the SART, irrespective of other policies regulating bikeway hours of operation.  Currently there are posted detour signs posted with limited hours, which is unacceptable.

3. Several signs with a cyclist speed limit of 10 mph have been appearing at various entrances of the SART. Cyclist speed on bikeways is governed under county ordinance as follows:

Sec. 2-5-43. – Bicycles. Unsafe Operation. No person shall operate a bicycle in any manner that endangers any person or animal or at a speed that is greater than is reasonable or prudent, having due regard for other users and the surface, width, and grade of the road or trail, and in no event in excess of ten (10) miles per hour, unless a greater speed is posted.

While a 10 mph speed limit might not be unreasonable in a park or beach setting, it is unnecessarily restrictive on a facility such as the SART, where there are many portions with excellent sightlines where cyclists can travel much faster without endangering themselves or other users. We suggest that the county remove the latter clause in 2-5-43 setting a speed limit. The remainder of the ordinance text already sufficiently addresses the need for cyclists to reduce speed if necessary due to trail conditions and the presence of other users.

In any event, Section 2-5-43 is under “Division 5 – Parks, Beaches, and Recreational Areas” in the county code and only applies to those areas.  This speed limit ordinance should not apply to the section of the SART between Gypsum Canyon and Green River, due to its primary purpose as a transportation facility as it was constructed under the provisions of Streets and Highways Code 888.

4. The SART is popular with bicycle commuters, and daylight-only operating hours would restrict the SART’s usefulness as a commuting facility.  Unlike a wilderness park where a nighttime closure is often needed for the sake of the wildlife, we see no such reason for such a restriction on the SART.

5. Finally, there was a car show at Canyon RV Park at Gypsum Canyon this past Sunday which encroached on the SART passing through that area. Cars were lined up along the SART, with the SART itself used as the walkway for viewing of the cars.  Furthermore, the cars in the show were driving on the SART to enter and exit the area.  We have photos available upon request.

4 thoughts on “CABO Comments on Santa Ana River Trail

  1. James

    I noticed that this summer OC Parks have posted new regulation signs on the SART. They indicate that according to OC ordinance 2-5-43 speed limit on the SART is 10 MPH! According to the ordinance, the only exception is where the limit is posted higher. I ride at an average of 15 MPH (19 MPH with tail wind, 12 MPH with head wind), and I pass about the same number of other cyclists as pass me. I tried to ride at a maximum 10 MPH and could not do it for more than a few minutes. The SART is a flat, level and wide trail with minimal slow traffic. I have been a regular rider for over 35 years, and have never felt there was an issue with my speed. I slow down when the conditions warrant it, but now I am guilty of a misdemeanor every time I ride. What do others think? Does the 85th percentile rule for setting traffice speed limits apply to bike trails such as the SART? By the way, it appears that the creator of this video at times also exceeded the limit while preparing the video!

  2. Bob Shanteau

    Unfortunately, the 85th percentile rule only applies to highways .

    This is the definition of highway in the California Vehicle Code: “Highway” is a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. Highway includes street.

    And here is the definition of bicycle: A bicycle is a device upon which any person may ride, propelled exclusively by human power through a belt, chain, or gears, and having one or more wheels. Persons riding bicycles are subject to the provisions of this code specified in Sections 21200 and 21200.5.

    So a bicycle in California is defined as a device, not a vehicle. Because bike path and shared-use paths are not open for purposes of vehicular travel, they are not highways.

    Although Section 891 of the California Streets and Highways Code requires that local jurisdictions construct bike paths in conformance with the Caltrans Highway Design Manual and the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices , the California Vehicle Code specifically delegates regulation of the operation of bicycle facilities to local jurisdictions .

    Part 9 of the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is entitled, “Traffic Controls
    for Bicycle Facilities,” but it contains no guidance concerning speed limits on bike paths or shared-use paths.

    Thank you for bringing this to CABO’s attention. I will talk to the people at Caltrans who are responsible for the CA MUTCD and bring it up to the California Bicycle Advisory Committee at its next meeting on October 7 in Sacramento.

  3. Jim Baross

    I hope that bicyclists will bring up these issues and the issue of Trail Immunity being applied to Bike Paths at the SART Open House on Nov 13th; and maybe post here what gets done at the open house.
    I will try to attend.

  4. James

    @Jim Baross
    Jim, I just today was informed by the website that you posted a comment here. Better slow than never! Anyways, I attended the Open House. No one from OC Parks attended (the agency responsible for posting the trail regulations). The one County staffer from Public Works that I spoke with told me that it is OC Parks policy to post the most strict trail use restrictions as permitted by County Ordinances, even if the County Ordinances permit lesser restrictions. He told me that if I could provide independent evidence that supports less trail use restrictions, County Staff would consider it. He told me that he was unaware of any such evidence, therefore the most strict trail use regulations are implemented. He seemed to agree that a 10 MPH speed limit was unreasonable, but he was careful not to actually say that. In a free society, we the taxpayers would be permitted to use public facilities in any reasonable manner, but in Orange County we are given unreasonable restrictions and told that we as citizens must provide the evidence to permit reasonable use of those public facilities! I thought the Iron Curtain had come down, but I guess I was wrong.

Comments are closed.