Joan Marcus-Colvin last heard from her husband via a text message.
“Hi Sweetie. Just finished a meeting. Heading home to ride. Xoxo.”
She knew where he’d probably be. An avid cyclist, John Greg Colvin, a Laguna Beach resident and Irvine business executive, had started bicycling on Pacific Coast Highway near the couple’s beach cottage in North Laguna to prepare for his first Ironman triathlon. He and his wife spoke often about the dangers cyclists faced.
“Especially on PCH,” Marcus-Colvin said.
Now, one month after Colvin died after being struck by a motorist while cycling on that very highway, his wife and friends, joined by relatives of other crash victims, are rallying to remember him by trying to increase bicyclist safety in a town with no designed bicycle lanes and a history of fatalities. City officials say they’re committed to the cause and point to a long list of ongoing efforts.
“Literally, there are four pages of things that we’re working on,” City Manager John Pietig said. “Unfortunately, the solutions are just not going to come easily, but we’re committed to working together to find them.”
Colvin’s supporters want something bigger, and sooner.
“We want what our taxpayer dollars are intended for: public safety,” said Laguna Beach resident Billy Fried, who has formed Liveable Streets Laguna with fellow residents Max Isles and Tamara Hlava to advocate for safer streets.
About 60 people joined Fried and Marcus-Colvin at City Hall last week as they and Cycle Werks owner Paul Deem, an Olympic cyclist whose wife was killed when a car struck her as she was cycling in Newport Beach last year, called for immediate action to make bicyclists in and around Laguna Beach safer.
It was exactly one month after Colvin’s death.
“It’s staggering to imagine that this very place has one of the worst fatality records for bicycles and pedestrians in Southern California,” Marcus-Colvin said. “It is simply unimaginable that the city does not have one dedicated bike lane.”
On Sunday, a large group of bicyclists attended a memorial ride for Deem and Colvin that began at Heisler Park. A memorial for Colvin, a 55-year-old Huntington Beach native, still sits along the east side of PCH near Emerald Bay, where police say a 19-year-old man driving a white Toyota Prius struck Colvin as he cycled about 6:55 p.m on June 17. The man continued driving to El Morro Elementary School, where police stopped him, officials said.
The man has not yet been charged with a crime; police say the investigation is ongoing.
Marcus-Colvin wonders if a traffic signal approved by Caltrans for PCH at Emerald Bay – but rejected by the City Council – would have slowed the driver enough to save her husband’s life. She also wonders if rumble strips on road shoulders could have warned the driver he was drifting out of his lane.
She said she wants to see city officials committed “to creating a compassionate culture around cycling and walking.”
The Colvins, married for 27 years, moved to Laguna Beach about a year ago after the couple’s daughters, Natalie and Shayna, left for college. The girls joined their mom at last week’s rally and cuncil meeting.
Colvin was a senior account executive at EventMover in Irvine. Marcus-Colvin is senior vice president for sales, marketing and design at the New Home Co. and is a longtime home builder.
She told the council last week her home-building experience has showed her the complications of working between multiple jurisdictions, and she knows the city has been working to address traffic safety issues.
“I’m just not sure how many deaths of our beloved husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and children have to happen before we take substantive action,” Marcus-Colvin said.
During the meeting, Pietig described a litany of efforts at the city, county and state level, including a report about traffic, cycling and pedestrian access on Laguna Canyon Road that’s to be presented at the Aug.19 City Council meeting. It’s to begin a conversation about the future of the heavily traveled, crash-prone road.
“We could look at things like pedestrian bridges, all those different things, and we need the public involved,” Pietig said.
Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority also are working with the city on a mobility plan for the area. Caltrans is using a $180,000 grant to pay for most of it.
The city also is experimenting with more crossing guards at PCH and Broadway and elsewhere this summer “when we can come up with the staff for them,” Pietig said.
Caltrans also is scheduled to install a pedestrian-activated crossing signal on Laguna Canyon Road at Laguna College of Art and Design.
Additionally, OCTA is starting to study options for PCH from San Clemente to Los Angeles County and expects to have something for the public to review in about a year.
“Believe me, I understand that planning is frustrating and it takes time,” Pietig said. But “we have to have balance as we move forward to try to solve these problems.”
He encouraged citizens to stay involved.
“You being here tonight is obviously evidence that you’re as concerned as we are,” Pietig said.
Colvin is among several pedestrians and cyclists killed in and near Laguna Beach in recent months. Among the recent deaths: Regan Hess, 48, died May 21 after he was struck by a car while crossing PCH near Mountain Road about 10:29 p.m. Nina Fitzpatrick, 22, of Costa Mesa, died in April after being struck by a car as she walked in a crosswalk on Laguna Canyon Road near Laguna College of Arts and Design, where she was a student. Dwight Dene Palmer, 55, of Mission Viejo, died July 14 after a vehicle struck him as he rode his motorcyle on PCH near Reef Point Drive.
And last August, lawyer Debra Healy Deem died after she was struck by a minivan as she cycled on PCH near Newport Coast Drive.
Like Colvin, she was wearing a helmet and was an experienced cyclist.
“My sister was a highly qualified bicyclist,” said Deem’s sister, Nancy Zeff, of Boulder, Colo. “She rode 150 to 200 miles a week.”
Pietig noted at the July 15 City Council meeting that motorists aren’t always to blame for crashes. Cellphones and increasingly mobile office and social worlds has led to more distracted pedestrans, not just motorists. He said it’s important people understand that “just because you’re in the crosswalk, doesn’t mean that you’re safe,” Pietig said.
In Deem’s crash, investigators and prosecutors spent months reviewing the crash before the driver was charged. Robert James Anderson, 84, of Irvine, is scheduled to begin trial Aug. 4 on a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge. Prosecutors believe Anderson made an unsafe lane change that led to the crash.
Zeff plans to attend every minute of the trial and is trying to rally cycling supporters to attend as well.
She has been corresponding with Marcus-Colvin since learning of her husband’s death.
But, she said, “It’s not like I can offer her much solace,” Zeff said.