Bicycle Safety Program Comes to Huntington Beach

Photo of the Huntington Beach Bike Path, it's usually not this empty. Photo: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.