The Coast News Group
encinitas mayor Catherine Blakespear started her three-year term on the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority Board this month. Courtesy photo
Mayor's Minute

A physically protected bike lane might come to Highway 101 through Cardiff

The City of Encinitas is proposing an exciting protected bike way project, sometimes called a cycle track, on Highway 101 through Cardiff and across the San Elijo Lagoon, from Chesterfield Drive south to the border with Solana Beach.

A cycle track is a physically separated bicycle-exclusive path along a road.

This upgrade is good for many reasons. We are encouraging mode shifting out of cars by creating transportation options, promoting a healthy lifestyle by providing ways to get more exercise and increasing access to the coast and nearby communities. This helps us meet our Climate Action Plan goals too.

The proposal to connect our new 1.3-mile Cardiff Rail Trail to the 1.7-mile Solana Beach Rail Trail with this physically protected path on Highway 101 will be considered by the City Council at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at City Hall. Please come speak!

The project would not remove the two vehicle lanes that travel in each direction and can be done relatively quickly and within the city’s budget.

The idea is to have bicyclists protected by parked cars, candlestick bollards and asphalt wheel stops to prevent a car from entering the bike way. It upgrades the current Class II bike facility (which is striped bike lanes) to a class IV facility (which is physically protected bike lanes).

It’s abundantly clear to many of us who are recreational cyclists that we’d like to feel safe riding kids to school, the beach, dinner, or work. And the typical road infrastructure of painted bike lanes next to speeding traffic doesn’t make us feel safe enough to choose to ride a bike, especially with a child on board.

This perspective is backed up by studies. In May 2019, an article in StreetsBlogUSA Separated Bike Lanes Means Safer Streets, Study Says summarized a study of 12 large metropolises, finding 44 percent fewer deaths in cities with protected and separated bike lanes:

“[R]esearchers found that bike infrastructure, particularly physical barriers that separate bikes from speeding cars as opposed to shared or painted lanes, significantly lowered fatalities in cities that installed them.”

To be fair, there is opposition to the city’s project among some cyclists. For 0.5 percent of the population, the current road striping – paint with no physical separation – works for them to feel comfortable biking to work.

There is also a sizable active sport cycling community and a number of dedicated bicycle road commuters who thoroughly enjoy this section of road. Some of those in opposition live elsewhere and travel through Encinitas on weekends. Many consider this open section of roadway through Cardiff to be one of the nicest in the county.

But for many navigating this section where speeds are regularly 50+ MPH for 20,000 daily car trips, this feels like a risky proposition. So, people choose not to ride.

This decision about our infrastructure must also be viewed though a Climate Action lens. Statewide, we are aiming to reduce car emissions per person by 19 percent in the next 15 years. How can we possibly do that without making other ways of traveling more appealing?

I believe this project is the best choice for the most people, but the reality is that “would be” cyclists can be hard to reach and mobilize.

If you like the proposed idea, please consider writing a supportive email to the City Council at [email protected] or speaking in favor at the City Council meeting where it will be discussed on September 25 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 505 S. Vulcan Ave., Encinitas. Every voice matters!

Catherine Blakespear serves as the mayor in the City of Encinitas and writes a periodic column in the Coast News.