Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear is set to request city staff to devise an “immediate” plan to implement pieces of the Leucadia Streetscape in the wake of an vehicle-vs-bicycle accident that critically injured one of the plan’s biggest advocates.
Blakespear is set to ask city staff at the Dec. 12 City Council meeting to come up with a plan that will install the roundabouts and dedicated bicycle lane called for in the proposed Streetscape project in advance of the project’s other amenities.
The mayor’s announcement comes just days after Cardiff 101 executive director Roberta Walker was critically injured Dec. 8 when a truck hit her while she was cycling on Coast Highway 101 in front of the Leucadia post office near Phoebe Street. Sheriff’s investigators have provided little details about the incident, but said that drugs and alcohol do not appear to be a factor.
Walker, a staunch advocate of bicycle and pedestrian safety, remains in critical condition at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.
“I’m sick over what happened to her,” Blakespear said about Walker. “I’ll be requesting that city staff put together an immediate plan to have the road operate as it will after Leucadia Streetscape is finished. We need a dedicated bike lane there and the roundabouts installed, even if they are only temporary structures.
“The remaining approvals needed for other agencies for drainage, parking in the rail right-of-way and other issues should not hold up the city from building the basic elements of the project to improve safety,” Blakespear said.
The Streetscape project, which the California Coastal Commission approved in October, has been a flash point of controversy in Leucadia, where opponents have launched an aggressive, albeit unsuccessful, campaign to stop it from moving forward.
It calls for the roadway to be narrowed from four lanes to two between La Costa Avenue and Leucadia Blvd, roundabouts to be installed at several intersections and dedicated bike lanes and other pedestrian-friendly amenities.
Opponents have argued that narrowing the traffic lanes would snarl vehicle traffic on one of the city’s biggest thoroughfares and endanger residents during a disaster evacuation, pointing to similar concerns raised in the Camp Fire in Northern California that destroyed the town of Paradise.
They also have railed on the project’s estimated $30 million price tag, arguing that it would siphon dollars from other worthy projects across the city.
Supporters, however, have countered that Coast Highway 101’s outdated design puts pedestrians and cyclists in constant peril, and that narrowing the lanes will deter commuters from using the street to bypass traffic on Interstate 5.
Blakespear has been among the project’s staunchest supporters, appearing at the Oct. 11 Coastal Commission meeting to advocate for its passage.
Opponents of the Streetscape project offered their well wishes to Walker, but offered an alternative solution than moving forward with Streetscape: advancing the completion of the Leucadia segment of the Coastal Rail Trail.
“Members of the Encinitas Residents Coalition share the community’s sadness regarding the bicyclist who was injured in a truck-bicycle accident on Highway 101,” the group wrote in a prepared statement. “We sincerely hope she has a speedy and complete recovery.
“Like all residents we are concerned about safety on Highway 101. Since it is the major route through town and to the beach the road is shared with trucks, cars, bicyclists and pedestrians,” the statement continued. “We believe the best way to improve the safety of that highway is to provide an alternative to bicyclists that is away from cars and delivery trucks. Rather than clogging Highway 101 by dividing it into restricted lanes, it would be faster, easier, less expensive, and much safer to immediately install the proposed rail trail in the railroad right of way, as is being done right now in Cardiff. That solution would provide a truly safe alternative for bicycle riders.”