Local bicyclists, elected officials and state representatives are set to come together at Mount Diablo State Park on Friday to recognize a newly completed traffic-safety project on the park's main roadways.
New roadside signage and on-road markings installed this summer aim to advise drivers and cyclists to slow down, enjoy their trip and be aware of others using the roads to help avoid crashes, according to Ryen Goering, Contra Solano sector superintendent for California State Parks.
"The goal was to reduce accidents in the park," Goering said. "The goal was to improve safety on the mountain."
The estimated $376,000, three-month construction project -- funded through the State Parks budget -- featured new signs like "Do Not Pass Bikes on Blind Curves," "Avoid Crash, Slow Down," additional stop signs and revised curve and speed advisory signage, Goering said.
Also included were new solid double-yellow lines on-road striping, designated passing areas and bike sharrows -- roadway arrow and graphic indicating a shared lane between cyclists and cars.
The project, which spanned all of the park's main paved roads (North Gate, South Gate and Summit roads, 17.5 miles overall), started in July and wrapped up Sept. 20, Goering said. Work was originally set to start at the end of last year but a contracting issue led to delays.
The changes were developed as a result of area bicyclists and residents approaching state officials and elected representatives about the need for safety improvements on Mount Diablo State Park roads, according to Al Kalin, president of Mount Diablo Cyclists.
"We wanted to do something to save lives and improve safety for cyclists and motorists," Kalin said about why he and fellow cycling advocates took their concerns to officials like Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon) and State Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), whose districts include the San Ramon Valley.
"After hearing first-hand from local cyclists, as well as seeing recent news reports of cyclists and drivers injured along the mountain, I knew this issue required action from the state," Baker, a first-term Assembly member, said.
Baker said her office worked with State Parks officials, local cyclists and Glazer's office to achieve what she considered "much-needed roadway signage, public education materials and striping improvements."
"The signs, which are now installed along Mount Diablo's roads, are an important reminder for drivers not to pass bicyclists on blind turns -- for their own safety, and the safety of the cyclists," Baker added. "This progress shows that cooperation and persistent, direct engagement can yield results: the mountain will be safer."
And the need for safety improvements was certainly there, according to supporters of the project.
"Because of an increase of bicyclists in the public park, it has created more interactions on the road of cars mixing on a very windy, narrow road with bicycles," Goering said.
State Parks recorded an annual average of 25 to 30 vehicle crashes on paved roads at Mount Diablo State Park prior to last year, a total that includes solo car, solo bicycle and car-versus-bicycle incidents, Goering said. The car-vs.-bike crashes are the rarest, according to Goering.
The majority of crashes were caused by excessive downhill speed -- by drivers, bicyclists or both -- and some incidents saw cars left of the center lane to pass bicycles and others had cyclists left of center to pass, Goering said.
However, there have been only six crashes since August 2015 when parks officials installed new temporary signage in advance of the recently completed signage and striping overhaul, Goering said.
To recognize the permanent signage and road markings now installed at Mount Diablo State Park, representatives from State Parks, the offices of Glazer, Baker and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), local elected officials, bicycling advocates and park users are set to join for a ceremony on Friday.
The public event is scheduled to run from 9:30-11 a.m. at Curry Point on South Gate Road. To learn more, contact Goering at Ryen.Goering@parks.ca.gov or 673-2895 or visit the Mount Diablo State Park website.
And while this summer's project represents a positive change, Kalin contends more improvements must be made to alleviate safety problems at the park.
"The striping signage project was an important step, but not the final solution to safe travel on Mount Diablo," he said. "The solid double lines make clear that passing on blind curves is illegal and unsafe, but more needs to be done to prevent collisions, and educate motorists and cyclists."
Kalin added, "The park needs to place more focus on the prevention and education of weekend motorists who cause most bike-vs.-vehicles collisions and a significant number of near-miss bike-vs.-vehicle collisions on Mount Diablo."