Drivers and bicyclists have a long history of sharing the road, and how people share the road can be behavior challenge when drivers and bicyclists are not tolerant and respectful of each other’s rights and vulnerabilities. We have drivers who may speed, ignore stop signs, don’t stop for pedestrians, and drive under the influence. We also have bike riders that may block traffic, don’t stop at stop signs, and ride recklessly. The laws in the California Vehicle Code are intended to address this.
For both, illegal behavior and recklessness are scary, life-changing and potentially, life-threatening. Everyone feels vulnerable to an honest mistake or misjudgment. It is clear that nobody wants to be killed or hurt on a bike and no one wants to be in the car that hits the bicyclist. And, to many people, the other party is typically responsible or at fault for the activity and behavior that is intimidating, pushing the envelope, leading toward a significant incident, or illegal.
In Palos Verdes Estates, it is uniquely challenging because we have many narrow lanes, hilly roads, an entire community of residential properties, no signals, many stop signs, an aversion to street clutter such as signs, no bicycle lanes, local and pass-through traffic, and scenic views that attract both drivers and cyclists.
Our enforcement is even more challenging because resources are limited. Within our available funding, we have no more than 3 Police on duty to: patrol, respond to crime, enforce laws, manage traffic, handle arrests, respond to a variety and numerous resident complaints, and address disputes throughout the entire City. With our personnel providing public safety and respond to calls, our Police cannot be everywhere at one time to address violations of law nor may it appropriate, so we must prioritize enforcement.
Since the Police Department can’t enforce everything all the time, we also rely on education and engineering to address the behavioral challenges associated with use of the roadways. For education, we often use signage and roadway markings.
This brings us to today. With a few bike incidents this year, and recognizing that the cyclist/motorist conflict has always existed, there is no one solution to the conflict and tension portrayed by the behavior of those who use the roads. Therefore, signage has been identified for increased education and a master plan has been identified for engineering a solution. A measured, realistic, and incremental approach is necessary.
With both bicyclists and motorists having equal access and rights to the roads, given the City’s limited resources, and recognizing the heightened sensitivity and attention on this issue, the question that was before the Traffic Safety Committee and is now before the City Council is generally: What can or should be done to manage the shared and safe use of the roads by both drivers and cyclists where there is finite real estate that cyclists and motorists are equally entitled to use, both may not abide by all laws, and available resources for solutions are limited?
While the City considers this, one reality is that: everybody must rely on – and trust– each other’s civility, sense of responsibility, reasonableness and intuition for the safe use of roads. Everyone must be patient.