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Opinion: South Coast Highway 101 — Is it a highway or a playway?

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


J Benedict May 26, 2020 at 6:28 pm

I look forward to a mayor in the near future, who thinks things through more thoroughly. This project was way complicated on an already beyond busy Highway – The 101. I feel just horrified for the injured folks.

Lynn Marr May 6, 2020 at 4:02 pm

The City did “plunge ahead,” without listening to public input thoroughly. Like the N101 Streetscam, this is a waste of money. Most of the money is spent on Planning and administrative costs.

Most of our taxpayer dollars are needed for existing infrastructure and staff costs, including rising debt and pension liabilities, not trying to make life miserable for motorists so we, theoretically, will drive less, making us less “car-centric.” That’s a laudable goal, but the vast majority of bicycle riders are not commuting nor doing essential shopping for supplies. I see bicyclists stopping at Pannikin, lined up on the grass, after getting their take-out, sitting side by side, without masks.

Thank you, Julie Thunder. You would be/will be an amazing mayor. We need a fresh start on Council. We already have almost all new heads of departments, and we’re having to hire a new City Manager, we just hired a new City Attorney contractor. I sincerely hope voters we reevaluate, come November.

Terry G May 6, 2020 at 3:08 pm

This past Sunday, I rode my bike up to Encinitas to see how the social-distancing was going on the beaches and street-ends.

On the way north, a slower bike right in the middle of the bike lane refused to pull over to the right for us to pass, and quite frankly, there was maybe just enough room to pass. Now that I think about it — that biker was wise — had I passed on the left and rubbed the wheel against the mini-curbs, very bad things could have happened.

The next north-bound event was a biker in the north-bound bike lane biking south (with his young daughter)… it was nearly impossible to navigate without running into the curbs.

On the way south, it was impossible to figure out whether bikes should or should not be to the right of the mini-curbs. There were walkers there and the signage lacked clarity.

Sheri Armendariz May 6, 2020 at 12:51 pm

Julie~ thank you!
I wrote to the encinitas Mayor and council to take this out immediately. Please everyone write to [email protected]
And wrote not to pursue (force) main bike corridor down Saxony Rd and eventually up little dead end Union St. with proposed walk over/ bike over bridge!!
Also, that Coast hwy 101 not be one lane each way. With I-5 construction will spill over and be grid lock this coming two years.

Jerome May 6, 2020 at 12:49 pm

Scrape it. This was a safe and user-friendly stretch of road which very comfortably accommodated parked cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. Now it den’t .

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