A green lane for El Camino Real

The city of San Clemente, California in Orange County considers several bicycle facility projects. Among this is a proposal to paint the outside lanes of El Camino Real green to emphasize their use as shared space for cars and bicycles.

Green traffic lane on El Camino Real?

Portland, Oregon pioneered colored bikeways in the United States about 10 years ago, following the example of some norther European cities. Research suggests drivers are more aware of cyclists in the bike lane when its painted a contrasting color. Three years ago, the city of Long Beach, CA expanded on this concept by painting a half mile segment of a regular traffic lane of 2nd Street green.

The city of San Clemente is now considering a similar treatment for the nearly entire three mile length of El Camino Real through central San Clemente between Avenida Pico and Calle del Comercio. El Camino Real is packed with automotive tourist and beach traffic during the summer.

Green lanes are proposed also for Camino de Estrella where an interchange with I-5 increases the hazard for cyclists crossing over the Interstate highway.

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You can view a draft of the complete proposal here [PDF]. More discussion and background in The Orange County Register: San Clemente panel is open to broad menu of bicycle projects. Also follow PEDAL on Facebook: “Bicycle, pedestrian, SRTS, & Complete Streets advocacy based in San Clemente, Calif., USA.”


  1. Painting any kind of car lane green strikes me as a very bad idea, because as car drivers get used to driving on green, the color will lose its effectiveness and meaning as an indication that this space is for bikes only. I very much believe that we’ll see an uptick in car drivers driving in bike-only lanes if we muddle the meaning of the color in this way. I’m obviously all for alerting drivers to the fact they need to share the road, but we need to chose a different color or method of doing that. There are lots of other traffic calming devices which have already proven themselves effective at slowing traffic and increasing safety for vulnerable road users. This looks to me like a move in the wrong direction.

  2. I agree with Sarah, it’ll work for 3-6 months, and after that, we’ll just get used to the idea of driving on green, and in a few more years the city will get tired of paying for the maintenance of painting the roads, and this idea will likely die off slowly.

  3. I really thought the sharrow-width-green-bike-lane-stripe-in-the-slow-lane thing was this awesome/incredible idea when it hit — i hoped it was _the_ solution we were looking for for roadways that towns didn’t have the guts to rechannel — but it’s been about as effective as sharrows — significant, but only on a very narrow scale.

    I’ve visited, if not ridden, the green-striped lanes in Belmont Shore/Long Beach, and they look cool, but that’s about it. There’s an occasional bike or two, but it literally looks like being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic like all the other cars, and instead of filtering up the side, you’re stuck on your bike, sucking up the fumes of the SUV in front of you, and wondering if the car/truck/bus behind you is going to end your life. Some bikers do manage to filter up the right side of traffic, but it does not look like an inviting proposition.


    Belmont Shore is a very lively restaurant/shopping/retail commercial district, but with two design patterns that will continue to prevent most cycling there without extreme measures. The main issue is the raised center median. The other are the cyclist push-outs/pedestrian bulb-outs. These patterns make improving the area for walking/biking a near impossibility.

    It’s a very lively area — somewhat like Santana Row — just with tons more car traffic, fewer trees, more noise, and narrower sidewalks.

    I don’t suspect striping the entire lane green instead of just the middle 5 or 6 feet of it will make any difference. Once drivers know they/we are legally allowed to use it, they/we will use it and abuse it just like they/we do every other driving lane.

    It would be similar to the bus/bike lanes in Paris, designed primarily for Mobilien — their semi-BRT system — with bike access an obvious afterthought. We shouldn’t confuse a ‘safe’ place to ride with a ‘comfortable’ place to ride.


    So, with all that, one could argue that a green painted outside lane would be a very small step towards allowing more people to bike. I guess that is true, and for that, we should look at it. If it could move biking along a particular corridor from 2% to 3%, then it’s something we have to look at. But we need to have realistic expectations about what paint will achieve — a 50% increase on that corridor? Sure. But a significant step towards a better future? Not even close.

    The real solution, of course, remains separate/segregated space for bicycles.

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