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October 11, 2006

Back Bay Bicyclists Bad Bikers?

In July 2003 I wrote about a Bike Ride I took that included the Back Bay in Newport Beach, Ca.

On July 11th, of this year, I got an interesting reply:

As a jogger at back bay I have an issue with the cyclists that ride through the nature reserve at high speeds and act as if they own the road.

This road is a multi purpose road and cyclist are supposed to yield to pedestrians. Slow down and enjoy the beauty of nature while you ride, or ride somewhere else. I would appreciate it if everyone could spread the word out so we can all enjoy the back bay.



I wrote back the following:

Sherry, while your point is well taken, you will agree, I'm sure, that it is only a small minority of cyclists that have their heads up their behinds so deep that they can't see those around them, or take the time to notice, and enjoy, the view, because they are so busy pedaling fast. ;-D

Thanks for stopping by! ;-D

And this is what she wrote back:


I hate to say that I can't agree with you that it is a small minority.  I go to the Back Bay every day and I am seeing more and more speedling rude cyclist.

I am going to keep a journal and I will share the incidents I witness with you in a month.

Yesterday there was a lady walking on the dirt that had two small dogs on a leash walking on the road, the dogs were taking up the space of one person.  There was another person walking on the road on the opposite side. There was still plenty of room for the biker but he was flying and was going to have to slow down a little to manuver through the middle of the road so he yelled out "get your mutts off the road or I will run over their mangy xxx."

I have also seen a small child run across to see a lizard, or some other animal, that ran across the road nearly get mauled by a speeding biker.

Since there is no set bike trail for that multi use road only bikers that want to take a nice leisurly ride should go there.

No offense to you I am sure you are not one of these guys.


Well, I thought, this ought to be interesting.

The Bike Trail around the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Preserve is one of the most popular outdoor areas in Orange County.

It is used by cyclists ( Clubs, Racers in training, and ordinary solo riders like myself. ) as one part of much longer rides, and by cyclists out just for a jaunt around the Bay.

It is used by walkers, joggers and, on parallel trails along the north portion, horseback riders.

The young, the old, and families can be seen there, and the weekends are especially busy.

Over the 2 years I lived in Costa Mesa early morning bike rides around the Back Bay made the place my favorite ride locale.

I did not hear from Sherry again until Sept.27th:

Hi Kiril,

I know I am late in reporting to you and I have not been as dedicated as I should have. The daily counting of incidents and recording them simply took away too much from the reason I go to they Back Bay.

I can still report that although the number may be less than I originally thought ( Less than half of the cyclists. ) there is a definite problem with cyclist traveling too fast on the Back Bay multi-use trail.

Over the past couple of months I did almost get hit by a cyclist traveling down the paved trail off Mesa where it meets the trail from Irvine to Jamboree and I have a witness to that.  The witness is no-one that I knew, just a fellow walker, and after her initial shock of the near miss, she commented on problem of cyclist going too fast.

I spoke with a Back Bay employee who told me that particular intersection is where a lot of cyclist run into each other and they have to call for emergency assistance.

Another Back Bay employee, holding the rear of the line on a bat tour, also shared with me that they are constantly shouting out to cyclists to slow down. I must say I was surprised to note that the problem involves young and old, male and female and a variety of nationalities.

On a Saturday morning around 8:00am a cyclist was going so fast as he entered the multiuse trail off University he hit one of the plastic cones attached to the concrete base in the middle of the trail.

The most serious problem seems to occur on the multiuse trial that runs parallel to University Drive on the bridge where the speed limit is 10mph.

I did read where park rangers are now allowed to give tickets and tried to contact them through the website e-mail one time to inquire if this might be possible for the bridge area, but I did not receive an answer.

I do think it is only a matter of time until a small child, an elderly person, or a foreign visitor, and definitely a cyclist is seriously injured on that multiuse trail.

If cyclists want to go that fast they do have an alternate route available.

Maybe when I have more free time I can do more to bring attention to this problem.


I wrote her about her delay in getting back to me:

That's understandable.

Much more fun to enjoy the scenery, hee, hee. ;-D

Then I continued:

I found your report interesting, and reason enough for me to follow-up with an investigation of my own of some sort.

There are plans afoot to possibly extend the trail west to PCH so it connects with the route on the south side of the bay.

I want to come down and ride around, and take pics of the spots you describe, but am not entirely sure of each exact spot it has been so long since I've been down there.

On Sept. 29th she wrote:

Thanks for following up with the story.  Please keep me updated on the progress.  I will e-mail with any additional info, as well.

When I have the time I am going to request information from the County regarding the accidents that have occurred at Back Bay over the past couple of years because the discussion I had with Back Bay personnel leads me to believe that have been several incidents.

My ideal resolution would be that larger signs with yield to information and speed limits be posted frequently over the entire multi-use trail.  The same information should be relayed to the cyclist groups that ride that trial.  I did e-mail some Orange County cyclist groups I found on the internet and received no reply.



On Oct 1st I wrote her the following:

Hi there!

I spent 4 hours on both sides of the Back Bay, 10am to 2pm.

I saw a lot, and took 11 photos.

I was not impressed with the behavior of some  of my fellow cyclists.

I talked with some joggers, and cyclists, and even with a gal on horseback who is with the local equestrian association.

I talked with a Sheriff's Deputy, and a Park Ranger, as well.

I had only 1 bad experience with a  group of walkers.

There is definitely a story here.

Sherry took another walk, and had no bad experiences, and told me that she is sure there are rude walkers out on the trail as well.

My experience on the Back Bay showed me that the problems there are caused by the actions of both Cyclists, and Walkers/Joggers.

I want to make regular rides at the Bay a part of my life again, despite the issues of safety that I've uncovered, for the simple reason that it is a beautiful, and peaceful, place to ride.

My next posts on the subject will, I hope, open folks eyes, and begin to bring this discussion out into the open.

Part 2 can be read here.

October 11, 2006 in Share the Road, and Trail: Safety Matters! | Permalink


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Hey yeah, this is a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned.

I mean, as cyclists, we expect people driving cars to watch out for us and pay attention, so at the same time, cyclists should pay extra attention to runners and people out walking.

Just my two cents, but on my commute, I can use a nice multi-use path, and I've noticed that joggers, and people walking can't hear a cyclist coming up from behind them--nor see them of course.

And usually if there's a group, they are blocking my way.

People do appreciate me slowing down, acknowledging the fact that I did so, and saying good morning.

I think this is just good manners.

The same goes when I'm riding and a group of runner or walkers is approaching.

A cyclist should slow down to be courteous, don't you think? And let the people regroup so that the cyclist can pass.

Most people really appreciate this from cyclists, but a cyclist speeding down a narrow multi-use path, head-on--that is scary to most people.

Anyway, I have seen Roger RamJets weave in and out of walkers and joggers with their kids and dogs at 17 mph on the river path I ride--and I have to say its quite un-nerving to the jogger.

Kind of like when you're cycling, and some jerk passes you at 55 mph coming as close to you as he can without running you down.

Man, it's just mean...

Posted by: Bruce | Oct 12, 2006 1:25:12 PM

Bruce, you hit it the nail on the head, my friend. ;-D

You know something I've noticed?

Cyclists "expect people driving cars to watch out for us and pay attention".

That means get off the cell phone, stop eating, shaving, or putting on make-up, and don't play the radio so loud I can hear the damn thing through your closed windows, a half block away!

On the other hand....

"Cyclists should pay extra attention to runners and people out walking."


Just 1 of the reasons is because many of the joggers do so with radios strapped to their noggins, as do some walkers, thus making them oblivious to us barreling up on them from behind.

We-uns, therefore, need to loudly announce "On yer Left!" then safely move enough to that Left to take into account any sudden reactions by the surprised person on foot. ;-D

Cyclists are forced to deal with distracted people, whether they are on foot, or behind the wheel of tons of fast moving metal. ;-D

We can't win! ;-D

Posted by: Kiril, The Cycling Dude | Oct 13, 2006 2:17:35 AM

I am in agreement with most of the points raised here by Sherry, Kiril and Bruce. My experience with trails in the St. Louis metropolitan area tells me cyclists and pedestrians could do more to improve their behavior on the trails.

I did make an effort to call out "on your left" when riding past pedestrians on the trail, but I often found that produced a panic-stricken response from pedestrians that created more problems than had I just passed them. While I still say "on the left" when I'm out on the road, I say "passing on your left" on the trails. That seems to help.

In our region, pedestrians create a problem when they walk/run two or more abreast not just across their lane, but across the entire path. They seem to be oblivious to the fact there are multiple users of the trail.

It's similar to what I've seen on group bicycle rides on rural roads in Illinois. Cyclists seem oblivious to the fact there are multiple users of the road and ride three or more abreast, making it difficult for cars to pass them. And the organizations that run these rides do little to educate cyclists that it is unsafe -- and illegal -- to ride three or more abreast on most Illinois roads.

But getting back to the topic, it's clear to me that cycling, walking and running groups need to get together with the agency responsible for operating the trail to develop guidelines for trail use. And then they need to educate people of those guidelines and enforce them.

Posted by: Roger | Oct 13, 2006 10:53:03 AM

Welcome to the discussion Roger.

It has been obvious to me for quite some time that there is often an antagonism between cyclists and Motorists, and though I'd seen some of the same between cyclists, and folks on foot, it took spending 4 hours exploring one of my favorite places to ride, during one of its busy periods, to make me realize that this is a serious issue on popular Multi-use trails.

I seriously wonder what the club ride leaders do as far as education, and how honest they are when they say they have rides where they go as fast as the slowest rider and leave no-one behind, but these are ideas for future stories.

Education, and enforcement, ARE key, but with scarce financial, and manpower, resources it can sometimes be difficult to pull off.

I like your ideas of a slightly different "Passing" call for multi-use situations.

Your points about pedestrians/cyclists taking up too much of a path are dead on.

I saw both on my visit, and when you see the photos of the trails you will wonder what these people are thinking.

Posted by: Kiril, The Cycling Dude | Oct 13, 2006 11:22:21 AM

Are you sure that stretch is a multi user trail?

I think it is a two way street - with Bikes only on one-way (South Bound) and all vehicle traffic allowed on the other side of the double yellow line (North Bound).

There is no sidewalk or even striped shoulder so pedestrians should be walking on the dirt path along side the road - and ideally facing on coming traffic.

The posted speed limit should be followed by all vehicles; motorized or not...

Why do people allow dogs and children to walk in the street?

William A. Sellin
City of Irvine-Community Services Supervisor

Posted by: Bill | Oct 17, 2006 2:08:15 AM

Welcome to the Dude, Bill!

The North, east, and south is Class 1 ( Off road, paved ).

The west, except for 1 block of sidewalk, is a Class 2 Striped Lane.

There is also a Class 1 that leads to the park at PCH and Jamboree, and one that leads behind an RV Park.

The whole kit and kaboodle is multi-use, officially, and otherwise.

On the south side walkers, and joggers, use the bike lane, in both directions, and even do the same close to the side of the road on the car only side of the street.

You find a lot of walkers there due to the hiking trails, and Nature "Info" Stations.

I will soon post photos that will show what the scene is like on both the north, and south trails.

This south stretch is officially a part of the new Mountains to the Sea Trail, and I've even heard that its possible a staging area for users of the 20+ mile trail may eventully be created on the south side.

Posted by: Kiril, The Cycling Dude | Oct 17, 2006 2:25:57 AM

Kiril, many, many, cyclists I encounter on MUPs are rude.

They totally tick me off with their anti-social behavior.

And then they get onto cyclist discussion forums and whine about the pedestrians and children on "their" paths!!


MUP means "Multi-Use Paths" ;-D.

***END NOTE***

Posted by: Fritz | Oct 18, 2006 12:51:45 PM

I'm 17, I cycle casually on this exact same path in question. I usually don't go that fast, but when I do, I've never had a problem with anyone. Maybe I haven't been doing it long enough, but it's been about 6 or 7 months now and I've had zero problems. I slow down if I have to, but most of the time I just yell out on the left or something and then say good morning haha but it's worked fine for me. I really don't see much of a problem around there, but then again you guys have been cycling longer than I have.

Posted by: Chris | Dec 10, 2006 4:28:23 PM

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