By Julie Thunder
Pet Project: Noun. (plural pet projects) A project, activity or goal pursued as a personal favorite, rather than because it is generally accepted as necessary or important.
While other cities are focused on the tough business of managing ever-changing COVID-19 regulations, Encinitas keeps digging holes for itself by diving into yet another controversy over bike lanes.
Mayor Blakespear’s most recent pet project, a new “cycle track” and lane diets installed on South Coast Highway 101, is proving to be a disaster.
In less than three weeks, the new roadway changes appear to have caused four bike accidents. Three of the accidents were 911 calls requiring an ambulance pick up. One of these resulted in head trauma and hospital admittance. Another suffered a broken pelvis.
The health status of the third victim is unknown at this time. The fourth accident is a ten-year-old boy who fell into the #2 traffic lane but suffered only minor injuries thanks to a passerby who quickly redirected car traffic.
At a cost to taxpayers of $800,000, the changes include a cycle track on both sides of the road, a narrowing of the car lanes, and changing the #2 lane into a sharrow (shared bike and car lane). The cycle track is a bikes-only lane, separated from traffic by a segmented asphalt curb with green candlestick bollards.
The curb appears to be the cause of accidents. When a speeding bike wheel rubs up against it, there is little room for correction.
In a September newspaper article, Mayor Blakespear promoted her cycle track by writing, “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.”
She acknowledged that this is a busy highway with speeds that are “regularly 50+ mph” and went on to boast that this project is “within the City’s budget” and would make it safer for children along that stretch.
This pet project of the Mayor’s was unnecessary, poorly planned, and rushed through with little public input. South Coast Highway 101 has not been a known problem area for bike accidents and wasn’t in dire need of repairs.
Members of area cycle clubs begged the Mayor and council to slow the project down and consider safer alternatives, but their suggestions were ignored.
Now that this experiment has been forced upon us, I encourage the City to do the following immediately: (1) Reduce the car speed drastically; (2) Post directions for all users, including fast cyclists, slower bikes, and pedestrians; (3) Immediately develop a public service announcement that establishes the new guidelines for using the highway and get it to citizens of Solana Beach as well as Encinitas.
Let’s hope the City can afford the inevitable lawsuits and that another cycling fatality isn’t in our future.
Julie Thunder is a candidate for Mayor of Encinitas