The Coast News Group
Photo courtesy of the city of Encinitas.

Encinitas approves buffered bike lanes on South Coast Highway 101

ENCINITAS — A plan to widen bike lanes and narrow travel lanes along South Coast Highway 101 to make it safer for cyclists was recently approved in Encinitas.

The plan includes a buffer zone to separate the bike lane from traffic, along the stretch of road between Chesterfield Drive and the start of Solana Beach. The $500,000 project is designed to better connect Solana Beach and the Cardiff rail trail, and future bicycle facilities to be built with the Leucadia Streetscape project.

The plan is meant to encourage more residents to use their bicycles instead of their cars, which would also thereby reduce emissions.

The project was approved at the Sept. 25 City Council meeting.

More than 30 speakers spoke at the meeting, some, the more casual bike riders, said they were in support of the plan as is, others, the more experienced sport cyclists, said the protected bike lanes would be confining and they wanted sharrows and signage added.

Linda Webb, an avid bike rider for more than 50 years who rides up to 10,000 miles a year, noted flaws in the plan that she said must be addressed and urged the council to vote no.

“Currently there are runners, pedestrians, dogs, car doors, wrong-way riders on this stretch,” Webb said. “Right now we can safely navigate these obstacles by moving out into the lane, once those cars and buffers are there that won’t be possible … Bicycling is not going to work well as a transportation mode when we’re maneuvering in a confined space and having to travel at five miles an hour.”

Another avid cyclist, Dan Marks, said he rides about 5,000 miles a year and said he’d give the plan a “C” grade.

“You certainly cannot mix pedestrians with cyclists, particularly in these areas, because there are a huge number of pedestrians,” he said.

Marks cited the new bike path from the railway undercrossing down to VG Donuts as an example, saying, “There is nothing more dangerous than somebody walking their dog on a leash for a cyclist, you just can’t have it.”

The mayor’s husband, Jeremy Blakespear, spoke on behalf of “would-be” cyclists and urged the council not to be swayed by the “vehicular cyclist special interest group” and go with the proposed plan, as it is safe for cyclists of all ages and abilities.

“The best available evidence shows that protected bike ways not only encourage increased ridership, but in fact improve overall safety,” he said. “The opposition is seeking to nitpick this proposal to death.”

State Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, a former Encinitas city councilwoman, said the northbound bike lane is horrible — she’s almost fallen three times and almost been hit by cars twice. She said she’s excited about the project.

“Let’s not dillydally, let’s not delay,” she told the council.

In council’s deliberation before the vote, they opted to approve the plan with the addition of sharrows, white pavement markings that remind bicyclists and motorists that the lane must be shared, and extra signage indicating cyclists and cars must share the lane.

“Our world continues to change, and I believe we have to change with it,” Deputy Mayor Jody Hubbard said.

Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze admitted that this was not an easy decision for them to make, but ultimately “This project … is the best choice for the most amount of people.”