Bicycle Safety Program Comes to Huntington Beach

Photo of the Huntington Beach Bike Path, it's usually not this empty. Photo:##http://www.destination-southern-california.com/huntington-beach-ca.html##Destination Southern California##

(Last month, Huntington Beach announced a new program to offer scofflaw cyclists a chance to go to bicycle safety school in lieu of paying what can be a hefty fine for illegal cycling.  The program received some pretty harsh feedback on social media, but when I looked into it, I thought it was a pretty good program so I asked Huntington Beach Council Member Joe Shaw to write a piece for our best practices series explaining the program.  Incidently, this is Shaw’s third piece for Streetsblog having written for StreetHeat, our predecessor site, in 2007 and again for Streetsblog in May of 2008.  You can follow him on twitter at @joeshawforhb)

Tens of thousands of our residents recently rode bikes to our annual Fourth of July parade and fireworks. On the Fourth of July, Downtown Huntington Beach resembles Amsterdam times ten, with bicycles chained to every available surface.

Huntington Beach conitiues to be one of the most bicycle friendly cities in Orange County, recently recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, only the second Orange County city to be so designated.

From 2008-2010, Huntington Beach had 450 bicycle/vehicle collisions, with around 300 citations issued to bicyclists.

Legally, bicycles are fined just like other vehicles but the citation is not attached to the driving record.  Citations are pricey with a “failure to stop at a stop sign” citation at $233!

As part of that effort to be a bike-friendly community, our police department is now offering an Adult Bicycle Safety program, modeled after our juvenile program in place since 1972.

Now if you’re issued a citation as a bicyclist — attending the Bicycle Safety Program will result in a dismissed citation.

How the program will work:
• Our police now have the option of issuing an “Adult Bicycle Citation” in lieu of a regular traffic citation.
• The new Adult Bicycle Citation will allow the individual to attend a two-hour Bicycle Safety Class for a $50 fee, similar to traffic school for motorists.
• The class will be held on the third Thursday of each month in the Huntington Beach City Council Chambers.
•After attending the class, the citation will be dismissed and no further action will be taken against the individual.
• If the individual desires to contest the citation, or chooses not to attend the class, the citation will be forwarded to the court and treated as a normal traffic citation.

So far this new program has been a success with bicycle riders in Huntington Beach, according to the police officers on patrol. Most riders appreciate the program as offering an alternative to high fines and court.

I’m excited about all the possibilities we have for making Huntington Beach even more bike-friendly. The city and our police are working with the Huntington Beach Bicycle Advocates on other programs and initiatives that will result in improved public saftey and improved access to our streets for our thousands of cyclists.

12 thoughts on Bicycle Safety Program Comes to Huntington Beach

  1. I don’t think this is a bad program—it appears to treat adult cyclists like legitimate road users. Ideally, this will impress upon casual and/or unenlightened bike riders that they ARE legitimate road users, and to act accordingly.

    An aside: the term “scofflaw cyclists” is both sensationalist and condescending. It implies that there’s a contingent of rebellious bike riders who are a scourge on civic order, and must be dealt with for the public good. Do we ever hear the term “scofflaw motorists”? No, we always speak of individual drivers who break traffic laws, or laws that need to be passed to encourage safe behavior among motorists.

  2. Wow, an innovative new program to fine and harass cyclists (clearly the most dangerous user group in the carriage way). 

    What other pioneering techniques will the City of Huntington Beach come up with?

    I have one: how about counting how many people use bikes in your city? Then, with the crash data you have thoughtfully compiled you can see if this stupid campaign to tax bike riders (already paying more than their share to cover the costs of roads and local law enforcement) is doing anything other than driving people back into their cars.

    Best of luck – and no wonder I stopped visiting Huntington Beach! As if the local gangs of nazis weren’t enough.

  3. I used the term scofflaw, not Joe.  And it’s because I do use the term scofflaw motorist, scofflaw parker, scofflaw pedestrians….I just like the word scofflaw.

  4. i’m gonna try to head to HB in a couple of weeks for the Open — should be good. the place is definitely not bike-friendly. i’d put it on par with, maybe San Jose, for bike-friendliness. if you’re on main street in downtown, you might live — otherwise, don’t bother.

    and the reason bazillions of bikers come out for the 4th of July down there is because…wait for it…the biggest deterrent to bikers is effectively gone that day…cars. the PCH through Huntington Beach shuts down to motorized traffic completely except for cops/etc. — it’s one of the best ciclovias i’ve ever seen, even though they don’t call it that. it’s LA’s true origial ciclovia.

    word up to beach cruisers.

    and ticketing cyclists for anything but harming pedestrians is offensive and should be punishable by a minimum of one year in jail.

  5. @Daymen:disqus: OK, I admit “scofflaw” is a funny word. For some reason it seems to me that it has been inordinately used in the media to describe cyclists, but as long as anyone can be a scofflaw on Streetsblog, I suppose it’s an equal-opportunity term.
    To the others: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you both seem to indicate that you think cyclists should never be cited for traffic violations of any kind (with the possible exception of harming a pedestrian). This would mean that cyclists would be granted a privileged status that no other citizen would have, simply because they are on a bicycle.

    That position is just too ridiculous for me to address in any serious way.

  6. A crackdown on cyclists (or pedestrians) disobeying the “streets are for cars” rules serves as a clear deterrent to some of the safest and healthiest options for getting around. It turns the risks posed by the truly dangerous, i.e. the private motor car driver, into unquestioned conditions of everybody else’s mutual surrender of the right of way. There are more effective ways of keeping cyclists and pedestrians safe – early education in cycling skills in schools, an engineering regime that respects the rights of non-motorists in the carriage way.

    Sending the cops out to ticket and harass those riding bikes only discourages the use of bicycles. The attitude that creates this crackdown turns a solution (cycling) into a problem.

    How will the City of Huntington Beach quantify the results of their anti-bike campaign? Do they perform an analysis of how many people they will potentially discourage from even riding a bike? Do they performa an analysis of the their re-education propaganda classes? I doubt it, based on the article above.

  7. My love affair with the word Scofflaw started when I was back in NJ and it turned out our Attorney General had a habit of intimidating local police into refuting tickets for powerful politicians…namely her and her husband.  She was the Scofflaw A.G. in every letter or article we wrote until she was ultimately forced out.

  8. You’re still saying that cyclists should be exempt from traffic law because they are “better” than cars, and I still say that’s loony.

    It’s true that there are some traffic laws that favor cars (which is frustrating). However, if a cyclist who doesn’t know any better is routinely riding against traffic in HB & goes to Adult Cyclist Traffic School after being cited, I’m OK with that. 

  9. hello, i have a ticket citation- stop sign violation which is due on july 10, 2012.

    i see that the bike program is held every third thursday of the month,
    kindly let me know how and if I can still attend this program and waive the ticket fee?

  10. Did you call the court? At the very least, exercise your free 60 day extension right and figure it out before the 60 days are up. You can find directions on getting an extension on the back of the ticket.

  11. Wow, it’s been awhile…i don’t have the number, but I remember from my notes that you just call the traffic court.  I have no idea if the program still works.

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