San Rafael, CA – Following the successful use of speed reduction methods on a popular paved multiuse pathway, Marin County Parks plans to use the same technology to improve safety on unpaved fire roads and trails on Marin County Open Space District lands.
A ranger talks to a Sheriff's deputy about speed control measures in a County open space area.
Starting in April, Parks will implement laser technology of LIDAR devices to record speeds of open space users on fire roads and trails that have generated the most complaints about unsafe conditions related to speed. LIDAR, short for Light Detection and Ranging, employs narrow laser pulses that are more accurate in calculating speeds than the more commonly known RADAR readings.
As part of its Share the Path initiative, Parks has used LIDAR and other speed-reduction measures on the Mill Valley-Sausalito Multiuse Pathway. The initiative launched in May 2015 as a partnership between the County of Marin, the City of Mill Valley and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition. While the partners were working to improve safety on the path, a serious accident between a cyclist and pedestrians in September 2014 underscored the need for immediate action.
“Since then, Parks has seen a decline in user complaints and incidents tied to bike rider speeds on that path, which we see as a sign that the Share the Path effort has been successful,” said Pat O’Brien, Interim Director of Marin County Parks. “It’s gone very well. For years we’ve had concerns expressed to us about safety on unpaved roads and trails, so we think it’s natural to use a proven program in our open spaces. I wish to emphasize that the great majority of bike riders respect safety when they ride on the Open Space trails.”
One goal of Parks’ Road and Trail Management Plan, which was approved in December 2014, is to improve visitor experience and visitor safety for all users, including hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians. Marin County Open Space District Land use regulations mandate a 15 mph speed limit on its roads and trails (5 mph when passing and around blind corners), but rangers have not had an accurate tool to measure speed. Although injury collisions between open space users are extremely rare, uneasiness about safety still exists with some preserve visitors. Deputies from the Marin County Sheriff’s Office will begin using LIDAR and RADAR devices within open space preserves in April. For 25 years, Parks has contracted a deputy to patrol open spaces and assist ranger staff with enforcement tasks. In October 2015, Parks brought on a second deputy to enhance stewardship of open space preserves by expanding staff capacity to patrol, conduct search and rescue, and other specialized activities. The two LIDAR devices cost $4,986 and were paid with the use of Measure A funds to address speeding on paved and unpaved paths.
“This new measure will augment our current efforts to address violations and hopefully lead to a safer and more enjoyable experience for visitors,” said Ari Golan, Acting Parks and Open Space Superintendent. “We’re doing our best to ensure safety concerns are not a deterrent to residents and visitors who want to explore the beauty of Marin.”