"Tell me again about riding your bike on the Back Bay."
"Oh, my, that was so long ago. Before cycling was banned."
"Why was it banned?"
"Well, Tess, it's a long story."
"Tell me, please!"
"Well, it kind of started early in 2014, after three riders were killed by hit-and-run drivers."
"Did the police ever find the drivers?"
"Yes, dear, but apparently it wasn't a felony or murder if you were allegedly zonked out on drugs. Or had to get to a nail appointment."
"But what did that have to do with the Back Bay?"
"It didn't, not directly, anyway."
"Then what happened?"
"There were people that didn't like bike riders, and they felt emboldened to try and get rid of cyclists. They thought that if they could start with stopping people from riding in a small area it would spread."
"Why did they hate bike riders?"
"Oh, there were many reasons. Mostly they got mad at people who got in the way of them driving cars as fast as the wind, or made them change lanes, or just were in the way. Maybe they didn't like Lycra. To be fair, sometimes bike riders did silly things."
"Oh, running stops signs and stop lights. Being to far to the left in a lane, or too far too the right. Looking like they were having a good time, I think."
"But wasn't it wrong for people driving cars not to be safe, too?"
"We used to think so. But we got over that."
"Did you like riding in the Back Bay?"
"Of course! Cars could only go one way, and maybe the sheer beauty of the area kept drivers from speeding and more aware then they were on normal streets."
"So cars didn't want bikers off the Back Bay?"
"I don't think so. The issue was other people in the Back Bay."
"Well, one day there was a big problem, and I saw it with my own two eyes. There they were— spread out 5 to 8 deep, like an outbreak of acne on the face of a teenager who's had the audacity to eat pizza, French fries, and chase it all down with an extra-large DQ Blizzard."
"Cyclists in a pace line?
"It wasn't bike riders. At least cyclists for the most part are paying attention to other users. Maybe not always observing the 15 MPH max speed limit, but pretty much aware of what goes on with bikes, cars, runner, strollers and such No, dear, it was a group who wanted to see nature. They were determined to do what they wanted, and damn anyone else who wanted to safely use the Back Bay multi-use trail. This was the Newport Bay Conservancy's monthly field trip, I was told. "
"What made the Back Bay unsafe?"
"It occurred to me that maybe what made the Back Bay "unsafe" wasn't cyclists. Or cars."
"Then what was it?"
"I though about that, and then I had an epiphany. Maybe the problem was tour groups, power walkers marching resolutely with headphones, running teams that couldn't pick a lane (I would blame Corona del Mar high school for much of this, but to be fair maybe another school was using CDM-branded gym wear as a diversion), and motorcycle gang-like Mommy and Me high-performance stroller squads with no respect for anybody. You think riders are concerned with performance metrics? I'll bet there's a secret stroller cabal with a private Strava site. I thought they probably also got points for making bike riders flinch."
"Why was the Back Bay so crowded?"
"Because many people could only use half of it."
"What do you mean? Aren't there two sides?"
"Maybe we should be talking about the Back Bay in its entirety. The west side was pretty much reserved for hikers and walkers. I seem to recall signage prohibiting any sort of cycling or motor-propelled transportation."
"So why didn't the Conservancy just do their monthly appreciation events on the west side?
"Well, they got on a roll, and after managing to get cycling permitted north bound only, like cars, and then getting it banned entirely, they made it a requirement that anyone left using the east side of the Back Bay had to be carrying a birding book and binoculars."
As you may have heard, there really is a movement to restrict cyclists from using the Back Bay. There are many people and groups marshaling against this. You can do something, As reported by many local cycling advocates and advocacy group, there are three upcoming meetings that concerned cyclists should be aware of. The following is from a notice sent by April Morris:
• 5pm Thu April 17th meet at the Civic Center (100 Civic Center Drive, NB – same room as the committee meeting on Monday) where we'll define scope of work and ask for help on direction. Emails can be forwarded to frank@bikeNewportBeach.org
• 11am Sat April 19th, the day before Easter will likely be a very busy day on the Back Bay loop, so let's go and observe. Meet at Bayside Drive North at PCH.
• 5pm Wed April 30th meet at the Civic Center for a final review of the issues and recommendations that will appear in the sub-committee's report to the Bicycle Master Plan Committee