Mount Diablo Scenic Boulevard Draws Cyclists and Puts them at Risk
DIABLO, Calif. (Sept. 25, 2019) — Thousands cyclists frequently ride one of the state’s most dangerous roadways: Mount Diablo Scenic Boulevard.
This beautiful, winding and scenic ride, however, is also a treacherous route dotted by distracted drivers that often don’t share the road.
Indeed, there are daily near-miss collisions as bicyclists and vehicles share this scenic narrow street. It’s known for at least five tight blind curves. There are portions of the roadway where there is no marked center divide lines and no paved shoulder, and pretty much no room for both types of users to safely navigate this road. Some parts of the two-lane roadway is just 16-feet across compared to a standard 24-foot width for this type of roadway. It’s common for motorists to become distracted by the views and drive through the center of the road. They too often cross solid double yellow lines and face off with cyclists or too often they violate California’s 3-foot rule for passing a bicycle .
This obviously puts riders coming up or down the incline at increased risk of being hit, according to a survey by the Mount Diablo Cyclists. Impatient motorists heading uphill often put slow-moving riders at risk as they try to speed by them.
Ultimately, the bicycle riders outnumber vehicles by 700 to 500 on a typical weekend day and they are the ones who are at risk of being hurt.
One riders who paid the ultimate price was Maayan Jones, 46, of Novato, a married father of two young children. He didn’t stand a chance against a blue 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche on June 27th when he was struck near Mount Diablo Scenic Boulevard and Diablo Ranch Drive. He suffered major injuries and died at the hospital. It’s a situation that may not have happened if the roadway was properly maintained.
Private Road Versus Public Road
Mount Diable Scenic Boulevard is a private road owned by property owners on the street, but the public uses it to access the State Park. In fact, the public was granted a perpetual right of way back in 1931 that allows them access to expand the roadway with a 60-foot-wide easement. The road, which has posted speed limits of 25 mph, connects to South Gate Road, the entrance to Mount Diablo State Park from Diablo Road in Danville. It is the legal obligation of the state of California to maintain the roadway for the safety of the public, whether they are in a vehicle or riding a bicycle to access the State Park.
Indeed, there were 150,000 vehicles that use Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard to access the park last year, according to California State Park records. Additionally, roughly 200,000 cyclists rode up and down the Mount Diablo that same year.
Despite the large number of cyclists sharing the road with motorists, the state hasn’t stepped up to improve the roadway and make it safer for the public.
In fact, the California Department of Parks and Recreation was given a 1992 court order to maintain the road where Jones and many others have been hurt in collisions here. A Contra County Superior Court judge ruled that the state must maintain the roadway’s easement in proportion to its use. The state and property owners were supposed to meet to determine each side’s financial responsibility for the improvements and maintenance. Unfortunately, the two parties never met and nothing was ever done.
The only known repair for the roadway in recent years was back in 2012 when Mount Diablo Scenic Boulevard was chosen for the Amgen Tour of California. The crumbling asphalt on the worst half-mile stretch was coated and repaired to a cost of $104,000 to allow for the premier race to take place.
Bicycle Turn-Outs Make Road Safer
In an effort to improve safety on Mt. Diablo, bicyclist enthusiasts worked with the State Parks to create three bicycle turnouts in 2016 to allow motorists to pass uphill-bound cyclists without encroaching on the cyclist. After these initial turnouts were installed, they were found to be successful and ten more were constructed along Mt. Diablo the following year in 2017. Now cyclists are asking state senators to approve the installation of even more to ensure the safety of riders.
As of April 2019, an additional four locations have been approved for fiscal year 2019-2020.
Hopefully motorists and cyclists will find a way to share this roadway and collisions will be a thing of the past. For now, if you ride a bicycle it’s important to take every safety precaution and if you are a motorist be patient, drive slowly and provide at least three feet of space when passing a cyclist.