Coachella Valley Safer Bike Route Alternatives at Locales of Fatal Bike Accidents

by Richard Fox Author, enCYCLEpedia Southern California

While bike lanes are always welcome on roadways, they don’t guarantee cyclists’ safety, especially on high-speed boulevards where they are not sufficiently separated from traffic lanes. All too often distracted or impaired motorists swerve into the lanes and collide with cyclists with disastrous consequences. In the Coachella Valley of the Southern California desert, cyclists that have the need for speed have no good off road options compared to other metro areas, and are relegated to ride on these dangerous byways.  The CV Link regional trail, when completed, will help improve that situation.

More casual cyclists, like those who ride our enCYCLEpedia offerings, can enjoy a much safer alternative in this region. Many of the valley’s sidewalks have been designated as bike paths and are a delight to ride on, with beautiful landscaping, and in the areas with large gated communities, long uninterrupted stretches. There’s no reason for a casual cyclist to risk being hit by a speeding car on the 55-mph boulevards when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk bike path adjacent. However, bike paths come with their own set of hazards, and cyclists must ride defensively, using extreme care at every crossing of a road or driveway. Attention to obstacles is also important, especially in unfamiliar territory, and although sprinklers can be refreshing on a hot day, they can also make the path slippery in places. Helmets are also still highly recommended on any bike path.

I just added a new ride, RM3, to the enCYCLEpedia family of rides, comprised of 10+ miles of beautifully landscaped sidewalk loops around the Mission Hills Country Club area of north Rancho Mirage. Along that route alone there have been 3 fatal bicycle accidents in the adjacent roadways in recent years. That inspired me to look up other fatal bike accidents to see whether there were alternate off-road paths adjacent or safer routes nearby. Not to say that the victims would have selected to ride on sidewalk paths versus the roadways, but it illustrates that for the casual cyclist, safer options are available. I hope and pray that no additional incidents occur in the future; enough is enough. Following are some of the reported fatal accidents since 2007 where safer alternatives exist:

Too many ghost bikes have been installed around the valley, like this one for William Campbell.

March 25, 2019:  Alberta snowbird Paul Jackson, 67, riding along the Hwy 111 shoulder near Cook in Indian Wells, crashed into a parked minivan. What resembles a bike lane is actually just a wide shoulder with parking allowed. Sidewalk bike trails run along both sides of Hwy 111 (enCYCLE ride IW1). Bike riding on the sidewalk paths are “functionally allowed” in Indian wells (i.e. cops will not hassle well behaved cyclists). The city removed the Bike Route signs along the south sidewalk path a few years ago, most likely for liability reasons. Extending the CV Link regional path through Indian Wells would get a lot of cyclists off both the roads and sidewalks, but the city has banned CV Link within its boundaries.

Indian Wells Hwy 111 south sidewalk path was formerly a signed bike trail, as shown below, but the city un-designated it. The shoulder along Hwy 111 is not a designated bike lane and parking is allowed.

March 23, 2019: This is not the Coachella Valley, but is a nearby Riverside County enCYCLE  ride used as illustration:  Family man and outdoorsman Brian Sabel, 52, was the victim of an early morning hit-and-run in an ample bike lane along beautiful and historic Victoria Avenue in Riverside. This road is very popular with road cyclists and seems like a safe place to ride.  However, enCYCLE ride R2 uses the adjacent paved Rosanna Scott Bike Trail instead, which is much safer.

The bike lanes along Riverside’s historic Victoria Ave are very popular with cyclists.
The lesser-used Rosanna Scott Bike Trail adjacent is a safer alternative.

December 13, 2018:  William Campbell, 32, a local avid cyclist, was struck in the Ramon Road bike lane near Rattler in Rancho Mirage. New enCYCLE ride RM3 is along a wide sidewalk path adjacent to the bike lane, although the path does not continue east past Los Alamos.

William’s memorial is adjacent to the Ramon Rd bike lane he was hit in. A nice sidewalk path makes a safer alternative through here.

May 14, 2018: Diana Lynn Young, 61, was struck in the bike lane of Country Club Drive in front of the Marriott Desert Springs resort in Palm Desert where she worked. enCYCLE rides RM1, RM2 and PD1 all use the beautifully landscaped sidewalk bike paths available on both sides of Country Club through there.  They continue for miles in both directions.  I sometimes rode in the bike lanes through here to get a good sprint going, until this incident.

The beautiful sidewalk paths surrounding and into Desert Willow Golf Course (shown here) make a safer more scenic alternative to riding along Country Club.

April 2, 2018:  BC Snowbird Peter Harvey, 74, was hit in the bike lane on Bob Hope Drive near Ginger Rogers in Rancho Mirage.  New enCYCLE ride RM3 is along the pretty designated bike/golf cart path along the west side of Bob Hope between Gerald Ford and Dinah Shore.

A typical sidewalk bike path in this area. This is actually around the corner on Gerald Ford.

June 26, 2017:  Larry Lee Ortner, 81, hit a parked landscaping truck when gliding down the Avenida Bermudas hill in La Quinta Cove.  While this seems to be a safe road to ride on, always watch out for what is in front of you, even in a bike lane. We prefer to ride both up and down the paved Bear Creek Trail (enCYCLE ride LQ1) in The Cove instead to avoid vehicular traffic and enjoy the great scenery in both directions.

Scenic Bear Creek Trail in La Quinta Cove.

February 7, 2015: Todd Barajas, 52, was struck while riding late at night on Hovley Lane near Corporate Way, where there is no bike lane. However, there is an ample sidewalk path along the north side of the road. This is an alternate route to Country Club when riding enCYCLE ride RM2.

January 6, 2015:  Rose Peters, 73, a cycling enthusiast who’d ridden cross country several times and was using a hand-cycle because of hip replacements, was broadsided while riding in the Hwy 74 bike lane in Palm Desert by a vehicle turning left onto Mesa View, which is one of the routes to The Living Desert.  enCYCLE’s ride in that area (RM2) uses Hwy 74’s frontage road and corresponding paths rather than busy Hwy 74, but that still involves side street crossings that require extra caution because of turning vehicles.

There are a lot of less-busy options than Hwy 74 to ride to Palm Desert’s Living Desert.

November 30, 2012: Corey Holley, 38, was struck along South Palm Canyon at Palmera (near Stein Mart). This road is not safe.  Much better alternatives now exist along South Belardo Rd to the west between downtown and South Palm Springs, or through the Deepwell District (enCYCLE rides PS1, PS2).

Paths like the new CV Linker near Demuth Park and other new infrastructure provide more and more options to stay off dangerous roadways in Palm Springs.

June 2, 2012: Gerald Weiss, 52, a well respected physician and family man, was hit on very dangerous Fred Waring Drive west of Eldorado, in traffic lanes after dark. Indian Wells lost a lawsuit because the road was determined to be unsafe, and as a result erected signs banning bikes along there. It’s not an enCYCLE recommended stretch because the sidewalk alongside Fred Waring between Eldorado and Cook is narrow, though it still is rideable. We detour south, down Class II Eldorado to the 111 sidewalk paths, and back up on the Cook sidewalk path to avoid this stretch that CV Link would otherwise bridge if not banned in Indian Wells (rides IW1, RM2).

From the Eldorado Bridge, showing where CV Link would be an alternative to the dangerous stretch of Fred Waring Dr where bikes are banned, in the background.

April 8, 2012:  Donald McCluskey, 49, was on Da Vall waiting at the red light to cross south past Ramon in Rancho Mirage when a minivan heading north blew through the red light, was hit by a westbound vehicle on Ramon, and overturned onto McCluskey and the vehicle next to him.  Our new ride RM3 uses the east sidewalk of Da Vall at that location on both sides of Ramon, which would have been out of the line of fire in this case. However, in situations with sudden catastrophic vehicle crashes, cars can just as easily end up on a sidewalk or bike path, so vigilance at all times can’t hurt.

Da Vall sidewalk path near Ramon.

December 4, 2010:  Joseph P. Szymanski, 56, was the victim of a hit-and-run midday while riding westbound in the ample bike lane on 54th between Madison and Jefferson in La Quinta.  It would seem like a safe road to ride on, but I guess not.  We use the pretty landscaped sidewalk along the south side of 54th for enCYCLE ride LQ2, and pay careful attention if sprinklers make the sidewalk wet and slippery.  

Many La Quinta boulevards have ample bike lanes, but we opt for the sidewalk paths alongside them when riding between Old Town and Lake Cahuilla Regional Park, its RV park shown here.

March 7, 2007:  Athlete Kim Raney, 26, on vacation from Washington, fell off her bike and was hit by a truck while riding on Hwy 111 in Cathedral City.  enCYCLE feels Hwy 111 is too dangerous to ride on.  All of our rides that encounter Hwy 111 are either on sidewalk bike trails alongside it, or via alternate routes.  This includes PS1 – PS4, CC1, RM1, and RM2. The CV Link path will add some great alternatives to riding along Hwy 111 for all cyclists, although it is hindered by its boycott by the cities of Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells.

The completed 3-mile section of CV Link in Palm Springs/Cathedral City is a model of things to come.

4 thoughts on “Coachella Valley Safer Bike Route Alternatives at Locales of Fatal Bike Accidents”

  1. Wow, sad but necessary article to alert riders to the dangers and alternative routes…and maybe encourage some further CV route funding… thanks. For sharing…

    Just played round of golf with Muriel and her brother s here… We are both busy with the house project, but life is good – no it’s great!

    Bike with care,

    Cheers Victor

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. This seems to be written for recreational riders who can choose where they wish to ride.
    What are the suggestions for people who use their bicycles for transportation and utility purposes? Scaring them off the roadways and onto glorified sidewalks is no solution for them.

    1. You are absolutely right, this is enCYCLEpedia, SoCal’s source for easy, scenic and safe bike rides, and it was written for the more casual recreational and/or slower speed cyclists in the Coachella Valley who can choose to ride on the roadways or adjacent bike paths. There are no great safe alternatives or suggestions for high speed road riders that exist, also stated. Palm Springs has developed some good separated bike lanes around the city on low speed limit roads, which are much safer than the 6-lane 55 mph boulevards with or without bike lanes around the valley. In the Palm Springs example, I did mention alternate road routes around the dangerous one. CV Link will provide good options to get road bikers onto safer territory, but Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage are banning it, making it a less viable option for long safe rides.

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