The Coast News Group
Kellie Shay Hinze
In 2018, Leucadia 101 Main Street Association executive director Kellie Shay Hinze, along with many others, voiced concerns over improving traffic safety during a public comment period at a Dec. 12 Encinitas City Council meeting. Hinze wore a helmet in support of her colleague Roberta Walker. Photo by James Wang
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Encinitas aims to increase safe walking, biking

ENCINITAS — On Dec. 6, the city of Encinitas released a final Active Transportation Plan. The plan’s purpose is to enhance transportation options for pedestrians and bicyclists throughout Encinitas.

In addition, the document presents ways to connect walking and biking pathways with public transit in order to promote more efficient travel through the region as a whole.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said, “Giving residents safe, protected infrastructure to get around outside their cars is critical to meeting our climate action goals and providing an even better city for residents.”

Transportation safety in Encinitas rose to the forefront again this week when Roberta Walker, the executive director of Cardiff 101 Main Street and an advocate for safe biking and walking access, was struck by a truck while riding her bike on Dec. 8. Walker remains in critical condition at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.

Cardiff 101 executive director Roberta Walker speaks at Encinitas City Hall just days before she was struck by a vehicle while riding her bicycle in Leucadia. Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear has expressed a need to improve transportation safety throughout the city. 
Photo by James Wang

The area where the accident occurred, on North Coast Highway 101 near PhoebeStreet, is part of the planned Leucadia Streetscape Project. EncinitasAssociate Planner Geoff Plagemann explained how improvements should increase safety in that corridor, writing, “Components for this project include traffic calming measures and dedicated buffered bike lanes in the area. The StreetscapeProject will enhance the environment for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

The Active Transportation Plan incorporates plans and objectives from related projects — such as Streetscape, the Coastal Rail Trail and the Climate Action Plan — in order to provide an integrated mobility approach that promotes biking and walking as an alternative to driving.

It also presents new transportation options that include nature trails, sidewalks, multi-use paths, buffered bike lanes and more. The plan seeks to improve certain intersections, or crossings, where collisions have been shown to occur.

This year, four pedestrians in Encinitas were killed as a result of vehicle collisions, with three of those accidents attributed to jaywalking outside of crosswalks.

The fatalities and other incidents prompted the Encinitas City Council on Nov. 14 to consider implementing Vision Zero, a street-safety program that aims to eliminate all injuries and fatalities stemming from traffic accidents.

The council voted to send Vision Zero to the Traffic and Public Safety Commission for specific recommendations on how to proceed.

Striking an optimistic note, Blakespear told The Coast News, “We’re seeing great improvements around the city.”

The bike and pedestrian projects that Blakespear said she’s “the most excited about coming online” are the Coastal Rail Trail, the bike and pedestrian lanes under the I-5 freeway at Santa Fe Drive and Encinitas Boulevard, the multi-use path along Manchester Avenue from the freeway west to the visitor center at the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, and the dedicated bike path from the wastewater facility on Manchester over the hill to Birmingham.

She added, “It’s a big city, and a lot remains to be done. Streetscape, for example, will transform how people get around downtown Leucadia. I’m very focused on mobility improvements, and we’re laying the foundation for the next round of projects.”

While the Active Transportation Plan’s first phase lays out options and analysis, the second phase of implementation will require financing and decision-making. Plagemann said that the city is attempting to secure grant funding and has submitted an application to Caltrans. Grant awardees will be announced in spring of 2019.

Part of the implementation plan includes identifying the top 35 projects from the first phase and performing a cost analysis of each one. Community input will help the city to determine which projects to prioritize.

As for what the plan’s overall priorities are, Plagemann wrote that they include making Encinitas “a safer, more equitable, and more environmentally conscious city for everyone, through the improvement of pedestrian and bicycle facilities.” He further noted that pedestrian and bicyclist projects were given equal emphasis throughout the planning process.

Should Encinitas receive the Caltrans grant it applied for, implementation would begin in the fall of 2019 and continue into the summer of 2021, according to Plagemann.

The Active Transportation Plan is one component of the Coastal Mobility and Livability Study, which also looks at how to improve parking in the business districts and provide safe access around and across the rail corridor.

The Coastal Mobility and Livability Study aims to provide a vision for how people in Encinitas can safely, efficiently and enjoyably travel through the city.