The proposed County of Santa Clara Special Event Ordinance threatens cycling events! Join us at the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meeting next Tuesday, June 22, to voice your concerns. The item is on the agenda for 10 am, and is located in the BOARD OF SUPERVISORS' CHAMBERS, 70 West Hedding Street, San Jose. Consider reading the agenda and proposed ordinance (scroll down to agenda item #5). If you are not able to join us in person, please email or call your Supervisor (click here for contact info).
SVBC has been active in discussions with the County of Santa Clara regarding this issue for several years, and our position is as follows:
"The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition asks the Board of Supervisors to reject the Special Events Ordinance for County Roads as it currently stands, and to send it back to staff with the request it be simplified, clarified, and made consistent with the California Vehicle code. In particular, the ordinance should include a definition of what constitutes a "Special Event."
We appreciate the efforts of County staff to work with the County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and other members of the bicycling community. We have spent many hours together working on this ordinance, and it is greatly improved from the original. Nevertheless, the current draft ordinance remains poorly worded, confusing, and overreaching. In regard to bicycling, the County has no legal authority, and no legitimate interest, in imposing conditions on bicycle traffic on County roads.
The California Vehicle Code (CVC) allows local government very limited authority to regulate traffic on the road. In particular, the CVC allows local authorities to regulate "processions or assemblages" on the highways, but very few bicycling events constitute a procession or assemblage. Unless a bicycling event constitutes a procession or assemblage, or requires a road closure, local authorities have no legal authority to require a permit, or otherwise regulate such traffic. Such events must be exempt from any permitting or notification requirement by the County. In the past, organizers of such events have voluntarily notified the County of these events in advance, and, to our knowledge, these events have taken place without incident, and without requiring additional County services for years, and in many cases, decades.
The County has failed to articulate the kinds of events it needs to regulate and can lawfully regulate (other than the Tour of California, which is not in dispute). The current draft ordinance is clearly motivated by a desire to appease the residents in the San Antonio Valley, yet County staff has given equivocal and inconsistent responses to whether events such as the Mount Hamilton Challenge and the Devil Mountain Double would be subject to regulation. (For the record, these two events have bicycle riders passing through the San Antonio Valley in small groups over the course of several hours; riders conform to the CVC, and in no way constitute a "procession or assemblage.") Any attempt of the County to regulate those or similar rides is prohibited by the CVC. It cannot be emphasized forcefully enough that such attempts would potentially expose the County to substantial liability.
Therefore, it is essential that any ordinance explicitly exclude bicycling events whose participants are expected to obey the California Vehicle Code from the definition of special event. It is not enough to exempt those events (or those under a certain size) from the permit requirement; if they can be considered special events under the ordinance, the door is still open to later regulation. The County does not have the authority to require permits, or even notification, for such events, and any attempts to regulate them are likely to impair, not enhance, communication with the clubs and other organizations that put them on--exactly the opposite of the County's stated intent."
Bring your helmet to the meeting to let them know we should be heard and counted.
Remember, the meeting is on Tuesday June 22, 2010 at 10:00 AM.