Advocacy is hard: A Ventura County case study

I was hunting for details on this Ventura County hit and run in which a reckless driver hurtling past traffic in the bike lane fled the scene after seriously injuring a cycling when I found this short news item about a proposed fixed gear ban on Ventura County bike paths.

Ventura County officials are considering banning fixed-gear bicycles from county park trails after a bicycle collision severely injured a rider.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 22 approved a first reading of a new rule in the county parks general ordinance that would restrict bicycles without brakes from county park trails.

In my area, I routinely scan the agendas for several governing boards in Santa Cruz County to keep abreast of issues that may potentially impact cycling and cyclists. Hopefully, bike advocates in Ventura County do the same thing. If so, it’s easy to see how they could have missed this one. Here’s what they saw on the agenda for the October 22, 2013 County Supervisors meeting.

Ventura County Supervisors agenda fixed gear bicycle ban

This seems completely innocuous, right? Even if you drill down to the actual proposed county ordinance, you see a 24 page document that modifies Ventura County code regarding rules and regulations for county parks. We finally see something halfway interesting way down on page 19.

No person shall operate a bicycle, motorized bicycle or power-driven mobility device on a County trail or path unless the bicycle, motorized bicycle or power-driven mobility device is equipped with functional brakes.

You had to attend the meeting or view the online video and stay awake for nearly three hours to learn this ordinance is intended to target the unsafe operation of fixed gear bikes on county park paths. Ventura County Supervisors apparently believe that fixed gear bikes all lack brakes, and the discussion at the October 22 Supervisors’ meeting focused on the danger of operating fixed gear bikes.

It’s easy for laws like this to fly completely under the radar, even when people are paying attention to the issues. I sometimes hear from friends about ineffective bicycle advocacy groups here in California, but they really depend on people like you to watch these meetings. Besides county supervisor meetings, other government boards to look for in your area include city councils, planning and zoning commissions, school districts, community college districts, water districts and transit boards. There are also regional bodies responsible for transportation planning and air quality that have an influence on the attention cycling receives.

Ventura County passed the ordinance to modify the county parks regulations last October. A second reading and passage is required before this ordinance becomes law. The second reading will likely be included in the consent calendar sometime in the very near future, which means pro forma approval unless somebody in Ventura County makes a stink about it to the parks department and the supervisors.

California already has an equipment law requiring brakes on bikes, so this county ordinance seems superfluous. I don’t know why supervisors for this county north of Los Angeles County believe another law is necessary.

About that Highway 101 hit and run near Rincon Beach Park

About 11:15 A.M., the driver of a black Hyundai Elantra was reportedly driving recklessly on southbound Highway 101 near Rincon Beach Park about midway between the cities of Santa Barbara and Ventura. She was passing traffic on the right by driving in the bike lane when she struck the cyclist and fled the scene of the collision.

The cyclist was sent to Ventura County Medical Center with major injuries.

The suspect vehicle may be missing the cover to the passenger side mirror. Officers were sent to address 4014 Modoc Drive in Santa Barbara; I don’t know if that’s the address on the suspect vehicle registration or not.

There’s no word on if Ventura County Supervisors propose to ban Hyandai Elantras after this hit and run injury collision.

3 Comments

  • bikinginla
    November 25, 2013 - 9:54 am | Permalink

    My guess — and it’s only a guess — is that Ventura County officials are unsure whether state traffic regulations apply to off-road trails. I’ve asked LAPD officials that very question more than once, but have yet to get an answer.

  • November 25, 2013 - 11:43 am | Permalink

    That thought occurred to me also.

    Police department representatives are not always the right people to ask about nuances of traffic law and vehicle code. Ventura County presumably keeps an attorney on staff who could answer questions like this. I suppose I should watch that county meeting video through to see if they got around to asking those questions.

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