RANCHO SANTA FE — The CHP has begun cracking down on weekend bicycle riders, who travel in packs of as many as 150, occupying traffic lanes and clogging streets in the Rancho Santa Fe area.
During an enforcement action on Saturday Aug. 7, numerous citations were issued and many others were educated about the rules of the road, CHP Officer Eric Newbury said.
He said that some of the people stopped were aware of the law and ignored it, but others “didn’t have a clue.”
Newbury said that since many of the bikers belong to clubs and socialize with each other, the enforcement operation should have an impact. “We’re hoping the word is out,” he said. “We don’t want to infringe on other people’s freedoms, but if they are putting themselves in danger, we have to step in.”
Matt Wellhouser, chief of the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol, said complaints from residents about large groups of bicycle riders taking over local streets have increased in recent years.
“Since the sport of bicycle riding increased, we get more complaints and I think more the local clubs have been seeing more riders joining their ranks,” Wellhouser said.
He said the complaints are generally not about two or three bikers riding in groups, it’s the larger pelethons that come through, mostly on Saturdays.
“What has happened is we get more and more complaints from residents about riders either using too much of the road or not allowing passing cars to go by,” Wellhouser said. “Sometimes they (bikers) can’t because it is the nature of the road,”
On several stretches of area roadways, there is room for a car or a bike, but not both, he said.
“We get complaints they clog up the road and wait in intersections for slower riders. We’re talking 30 or 40 riders. It gets to be a big problem,” said Wellhouser, who has been an avid biker himself for more than 30 years.
He said the Rancho Santa Fe roadways are public roadways and everyone is welcome.
“It’s a nice place to ride, but you have to take into account there are fast-moving cars and narrow lanes,” he said. “If you push the limit in the traffic lane you have to take care. You are not going to win a battle with a car.”
He said he asks for everyone to use a little common sense.
Newbury said the issue is not just in Rancho Santa Fe.
“Just based on the number of complaints, we are talking the entire North County,” he said. And it is not just bicycle clubs, but independent groups and solo riders as well.
Steve Borer, president of the San Diego Bicycle Club, said he has met with law enforcement officials from the jurisdictions where the club rides and that he as president repeats the mantra of safety and following traffic laws. The club has 450 members.
“We have a monthly newsletter and I do a president’s page writing extensively about following all the laws,” said Borer, a former San Diego Police Officer.
During rides there are leaders who make sure everyone is following the law.
“Safety is a huge thing,” he said. “We train people to ride safely.”
He said the average club ride is about 50 miles and can include several different law enforcement jurisdictions.
“I tell them, if you see something, write it,” Borer said. “Get our attention.”
Newbury said the vehicle code states that if a bicycle rider can maintain the speed of traffic, they are allowed to ride in traffic lanes. Once the speed goes up, say to 45 mph, they are supposed to yield, move to the right and let traffic pass, he said.
“You need to understand the rules of the roads,” he said. “Once they start bogging down traffic, it becomes an issue. We are not trying to ruin your day, we are trying to keep you alive. That is our job.”