Orange County Plans a Four-Mile Parking-Protected Bike Lane

Three-lane Hazard Avenue with protected bike lane. Image: Orange County Public Works
County officials are in the works to reduce the number of lanes in a four-mile stretch of Hazard Avenue in North Orange County. The new configuration would reduce the mostly four-lane street to three, which would include one lane going east and west, a middle turn lane and a parking protected bike lane. Image: Orange County Public Works

Reduced traffic speeds and a progressive bicycle lane looks to be coming to North Orange County.

Last week in Westminster, Orange County officials presented a proposal to reduce travel lanes and add a parking-protected bike lane on a four-mile stretch of Hazard Avenue, which connects Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and Westminster. The majority of the $3.5 million project is expected to start construction in 2020, with one mile on the easternmost portion beginning construction in 2019.

The new configuration would reduce the mostly four-lane street to three lanes, with one lane in each direction, a middle turn lane, a striped bike lane adjacent to the curb, and parking on the outside as a buffer against car traffic. While a concrete curb, planters, and plastic bollards were considered as barriers, the three cities prefer using parking as a buffer because they were concerned about maintenance costs, said Edward Frondoso, a project manager with OC Public Works, the lead agency with the project.

This project has been in the works for many years, but has gained momentum recently. In 2013, the Hazard Avenue corridor was included in a study of regional bike connections by Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). Hazard is a roughly four-mile portion of a regional corridor stretching over eleven miles between Seal Beach and Santa Ana. In 2017, the county partnered with Southern California Associations of Governments’ (SCAG) Go Human campaign on a pop-up demonstration of a protected bike lane on Hazard Avenue, and last year the county held community workshops to gather feedback on the project and answer questions from residents.

Adolfo Ozaeta, traffic engineer for City of Westminster, talks to a community member during the County's community meeting about the Hazard Avenue Improvement Project. Kristopher Fortin/Streetsblog CA
Adolfo Ozaeta, a traffic engineer for the City of Westminster, talks to a community member during the county’s community meeting about the Hazard Avenue Improvement Project. Kristopher Fortin/Streetsblog CA

The project seems to be progressing but still has some hurdles to overcome. It was awarded full funding through the state’s Active Transportation Program in 2017, and has received letters of support from Santa Ana and Garden Grove. But Westminster, where more than half of the project area is located, has yet to submit a letter of support, and a letter is needed for the project to move forward.

The project has become a signal of a wave of change happening in the county, said Nathan Wheadon, spokesperson for OC Public Works.  Officials are beginning to see that it is useless to keep widening streets and freeways  eh, not really  so “our focus now is to make the existing streets we have work better,” said Wheadon.

More than thirty people came out to last week’s community workshop at the Westminster Chamber of Commerce.

Multiple residents claimed that the project would increase congestion, and others mocked the idea that kids would ever ride their bikes to school.

Yet there were also residents that were excited about the project. Thirteen-year-old Ivan Manzo, a Santa Ana resident, said that he supported the bike lane because he felt it could also be a space for skateboarders. “If it’s a lane big enough for bicyclists, it can also encourage skateboarders to go out and use it,” Manzo said.

Tim Troung, a Garden Grove resident, was not shy about his support. “I really love this project,” said Troung. He lives on Hazard and has witnessed collisions almost every other month on the street. He has seen mostly car-on-car crashes from motorists doing U-turns in the middle of the street or speeding and rear-ending other drivers. What he wanted most to know from staff was how the project will reduce car speed.

Hazard Avenue crosses into Westminster, Garden Grove and Santa Ana. The majority of this four-mile stretch has four travel lanes. Image: Orange County Public Works
Hazard Avenue connects Westminster, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana. The majority of this four-mile stretch has four travel lanes. Image: Orange County Public Works
  • This project appears to be reducing the number of travel lanes by half, which usually does a decent job of controlling speeding. I’ve seen little reason to believe that the same results wouldn’t be accomplished here.

    The “tiny door zone buffer zone” is a minor issue in this instance since passenger side doorings don’t present almost any of the same risks at all.

    I agree that the jury is definitely still out on the crossing points, but that means that it’s premature to claim that they’re bad when the final design hasn’t even been seen.

    Finally, I’m not running the project, I couldn’t tell you why they chose to use the graphics that they did. Feel free to contact the Department and get some answers or see if they have more/different pictures.

  • I never said that turning crashes weren’t the most common source of bike-car crashes, I said that they’re NOT the most common source of fatal car-bike crashes. That distinction belongs to the “rare” same-direction crashes, representing a disproportionate impact.

  • You seem to be in denial of the most common source of bike-car crashes – which are turning and crossing movements. You should educate yourself on this stuff before making a fool out of ourself here.

  • MikeOnBike

    No, our land use patterns, built around the automobile for the last 50+ years, are the root cause. And we never had the transportation cycling culture that other countries have.

    Building poor imitations of their infrastructure, all by itself, is not going to fix that. Ignoring obvious design problems (door zone, poor sight lines, gutter seams) is going to get some cyclists hurt, or worse.

    We can’t fake our way to a cycling culture.

  • Jacob

    These are the arguments that kept bike mode share in the US at around 1% for the past 50 years.

  • MikeOnBike

    We know that high motor speeds correlate to more severe injuries. Likewise high motor speeds correlate with higher levels of traffic stress (LTS). Lower the speeds, you lower the injuries (along with the LTS).

    So will this project meaningfully lower the traffic speeds?

    And given some of the other design flaws mentioned elsewhere (like the tiny door buffer zone) how much faith do we have that the crossing points will not be designed poorly?

    The illustration at top shows one parked car midblock. Why not illustrate the impeccably designed intersection sight lines?

  • That first sentence is a link to a study, the results are that where it’s more comfortable, it’s safer. Exactly which way the relationship goes wasn’t determined, but it’s also mostly academic since many safety improvements also increase comfort. Also, cyclists are only hidden if it is designed poorly. Any half-decent design would include the necessary sight lines at crossing points to ensure that visibility is maintained.

  • MikeOnBike

    Are you saying the comfort makes it safer? Or the safety makes it more comfortable?

    If it’s really safer, why don’t they say so?

    As others have pointed out, this design keeps cyclists hidden from turning motorists and feeling safe, right up to the moment of impact.

  • Comfort is a proxy for safety (which should be pretty obvious by comparing with The Netherlands but I digress).

  • Todd Frank

    Road diets 🤣 those aren’t about returning streets to all people. Those are about controlling traffic so they don’t have to enforce laws. And they do so by putting cyclist and pedestrians in more dangerous situations. I wouldn’t ride in the glorified death trap they call a bike lane. They are really just a ways to squeeze the lane of traffic, while hiding you from view and setting you up for a right hook and cross collisions.

    Those are death lanes, intended to narrow travel lanes, sold to you as a bike lane, they are worthless for actual cycling.

  • Good points and all easily overcome with good design such as included in the CROW manual for bicycle traffic.

    Yep, there should be a curb/gutter with drainage between the parked cars and the bikeway for runoff, debris and to keep parking cars from entering the bikeway. The bikeway then needs only very minimal drainage. This is not difficult to do as a retrofit but my guess is that this project will unfortunately be limited to paint.

    Car parking can be ended far enough from a junction to provide sufficient visuals but there are many other issues with how US traffic engineers design junctions (vs European) that will make this much less safe for people riding bicycles or walking than a similar junction in Europe.

  • Really? Then why are bicycle riders in The Netherlands, Denmark and other places where these are standard less than 1/10 as likely to be hit, injured or killed as bicycle riders in the U.S.?

  • Based on the plans in the pictures above, it’s not going to be the same type of design at all.

  • Turning crashes might be the most common crash (and are logically basically the only crash possible), but same-direction crashes tend to be more deadly. Those crashes are basically eliminated by the separated bikeway design and guidance on proper intersection design to minimize crashes also exists.

  • Tricia Kovacs

    Regarding maintenance, will the sweepers fit in the new separated bike lanes? I guess you probably don’t have snow to worry about like those of us in the midwest. And what will you do with the bus stops? We had to build bus islands with curb cuts, and we had to remove the bus shelters (I assume because they would block the view for turning vehicles). Think about how difficult the bus stop will be for a pedestrian who is blind to use.

  • Tricia Kovacs

    Here’s another recommendation. Travel to Columbus, Ohio and ride on Summit St or travel to Washington DC and ride on 15th St. I promise you will change your mind.

  • Tricia Kovacs

    Please contact city staff at Columbus Ohio and ask about the crash history of our parking separated 2-way bike lanes on a 1-way street. Prior to the bike lanes, we had an average of 1.5 bike/car crashes per year. After the bike lanes, we had 16, 11 and 6 bike/car crashes the first 3 years. It’s hard to measure the cyclist counts cause they were only done for one interval before the bike lanes were installed and it was when nearby Ohio State University was not in session. But using those counts anyway, cyclist counts increased approximately 50%. We have bicycle signals and lots of signage about contra-flow bicycle traffic, but not all intersections are signalized so we still have intersection conflicts, particularly drive-outs with contra-flow cyclists.

  • Every driveway or intersection is an opportunity for the most common types of car-bike crashes; right hooks, left cross, and drive outs. All these crash types are common when bicyclists operate outside the area where motorists tend to look and the risks of these crashes occurring will be significantly greater along this proposed bikeway because the users will be hidden behind the parked cars. Last year there was a right hook fatality in Washington DC. A truck driver turned into the path of a cyclist who was hidden behind a row of parked cars inside a “protected” bikeway that channels its users to the right of turning traffic!

    Also, the 3’ door zone buffer is barely enough – many vehicle doors open more than that. So the “startle zone” will intrude into the bikeway.

    It appears Hazard currently has concrete gutters and that will be included as part of the bikeway. Apparently a large number of transportation professions were asleep in class they day they were taught gutters are for drainage of water. Gutters also nicely collect debris (as do the edges of roadways) and the gutter seam is often a nasty crash hazard.

    It’s important journalists understand there is no such thing as a “protected bike lane.” “Protection” is a myth, and these bikeways are NOT bike lanes as defined in standards. Cyclists are not required to use them like they are required to use actual bicycle lanes (although there are many exceptions to this law).

  • “And I’m guessing this person is a vehicular cyclist.”

    Funny thing about those pesky VC’ers. They recognize where the most common sources of danger and conflicts occur. This proposed bikeway has a lot of them.

  • Promising turn of events from the OC, which isn’t exactly known for being the standard bearer of bikeway innovation. The only concern is that they take the time and space to make sure that it’s done right, including removing parking where appropriate for maintaining safety.

  • Remember, every car lane is a bike lane. I assume they will have to let cars pass when they are blocking 5-cars. There is so much wrong with this. Slowing cars down leads to pollution.

    The main problem “experimental” translated is PERMANENT.

  • Pete van Nuys

    At best this will turn out to be an experimental facility, inspired by ignorant do-gooders; it will not bring new bicyclists to Hazard, at most it will attract those who are already bicycling, concentrating them here in newfangled bicycle congestion. What is really most likely to happen is forteold by the kid’s comment in the article: skateboarders, 28mph Cl. 3 eBikes, gas powered Whizzers, electric skooters competing for space. I predict chaos. If I had to ride between these cities I would be looking for a viable alternative route. Or if I’m wrong, nobody will use it and it will ultimately be removed. Ah, yeah…. I’m a VC of 50+ years, so feel free to ignore these comments.

  • MikeOnBike

    Not to worry, the un-swept debris will give you a flat tire before you get to the intersection.

  • gbshaun

    Oh please no. I’m a frequent cyclist and that is the WORST place to stick a bike lane. Even if we survive the doorings and pedestrians on the straight sections, it makes us far more likely to get hit at the intersections, … which is where most crashes happen even without this.

  • MikeOnBike

    “Class IV bikeways can reduce the level of stress, improve comfort for more types of bicyclists, and contribute to an increase in bicycle volumes and mode share.”

    Oddly, they don’t say anything about it being safer. Shouldn’t that be the first priority?

  • com63

    good point. The Caltrans guide says this:

    A Class IV separated bikeway, often
    referred to as a cycle track or protected bike
    lane, is for the exclusive use of bicycles,
    physically separated from motor traffic
    with a vertical feature. The separation
    may include, but is not limited to, grade
    separation, flexible posts, inflexible barriers,
    or on-street parking. Separated bikeways
    can provide for one-way or two-way travel.
    By providing physical separation from
    motor traffic, Class IV bikeways can reduce
    the level of stress, improve comfort for
    more types of bicyclists, and contribute to
    an increase in bicycle volumes and mode
    share.

  • Joshua Putnam

    Worth noting, FHWA rejected the “protected” marketing spin, their standards call these “separated,” not “protected.”

  • gf

    We are not the same person.. but I am a cyclist who rides according to the California vehicle laws, yes.

  • com63

    Something tells me gf and ShatteredGlass00 are the same person. And I’m guessing this person is a vehicular cyclist.

  • com63

    Ummm, because “protected” is what these things are called. Even Caltrans says this. Most casual bike riders feel more comfortable in these types of lanes than in Class II lanes and that is why they get built. Yes, there is probably heightened pedestrian conflict potential, but collisions with pedestrians usually aren’t what is killing cycles. There is a buffer to prevent dooring, but if you do get doored somehow, at least you aren’t falling into the traffic lane.

    You are welcome to keep riding in the vehicle lane though.

  • gf

    UGGH.. .I ride this street occasionally as an alternative route on my cycle commute. It is FINE as is with two travel lanes and even a decent shoulder! Now they will make it
    even more dangerous for cyclists and slower & more confusing for motorists! FAIL! Don’t do this Orange County! People will park too far over into the “bikeway” (class IV btw not a “bike Lane” not MANDATORY USE by law) and there will be a danger of parked car passenger doors opening into the “lane”… cyclists will be obscured and out of sight of drivers, and cyclists who know the law will use the one main traffic lane now slowing traffic and angering motorists who DON’T KNOW THE LAW. the loss of a travel lane will also cause more traffic and the parking spots will encourage more parking along the street than there is now! How is this better?

  • ShatteredGlass00

    Why are you calling such a travesty a “protected bike lane”?

    It’s not protected. People on bikes in the bikeway and roadway traffic will be obscured from each other by parked cars, where the bicyclists are constantly threatened by passenger-side doorings, and having to avoid pedestrians obliviously walking between sidewalk and parked car, until critical crossing points. They are likely to not see each other until too late to avoid collision.

    It’s not a bike lane. Bike lanes are class II bikeways and are mandatory use by CVC 21208. This is a class IV bikeway and bicyclists are thankfully not legally required to use it.

    But thanks to you for adding to the confusion and making it even more likely for cyclists who have the sense to avoid this death trap to be harassed by motorists and law enforcement for riding in the general purpose lanes.

    You can do better.

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