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Painted lines are not enough

However you felt about the Cardiff Rail Trail controversy, it is now a done deal.

The bike path will run along Highway 101. And though I gagged at some of the spin coming from the side that won — the ironic suggestion that it was about saving nature when, in the big picture, it was more about perpetuating the car-centric status quo — I’m glad it’s over.

The City Council voted to put the trail along Highway 101, and that’s OK.

Now what we need to do is make sure we get the design part of it right.

The 101 design plan shown at the City Council meeting does not yet look sufficient or safe!

The Encinitas City Council, along with the Traffic and Public Safety Commission, needs to review the plan very carefully in order to figure out exactly where the car and bike lanes need to go.

The reason I tended to favor the San Elijo alignment was because there’s more room there to fit a safe bike path.

Yes, it can probably be done along the 101, but it’s going to take some clever design work.

Patting ourselves on the back and saying, “Yay, we’re making a bike path” is not nearly enough. In the end, if your child and grandma don’t feel safe using it, then the whole thing will have been a waste of money and time. The result of that would just be people continuing to drive their cars.

Yes, in the end, if the design fails to get people out of cars and onto bikes, then it will have failed completely.

The problem is that bike paths that run along highways and other streets, stuck on there like afterthoughts, separated from traffic by mere painted lines — those are not safe bike paths at all.

A Cardiff woman was killed on Highway 101 in Carlsbad recently on this very kind of bike path, and she wasn’t the first. With drivers texting the way they do now, cyclists are in real danger.

Anyone who bikes in the sharrows lane on the 101 in Leuacadia knows this.

Anyone who bikes on the 101 in Carlsbad knows this.

I know these routes intimately, and when you hear a car coming up fast from behind, you pray it’s not a texter or a drunk driver.

This is why my wife and daughters refuse to bike on the 101: they’re afraid to. And rightfully so.

A safe bike path needs to be separated from the road by, at the very least, a curb.

Ideally, it’s off the road completely, but when that’s not possible (such as in the 101 plan), then a guard rail barrier is best (like the one that’s there now, south of Swami’s, on the west side of the highway, separating the highway from the walking path.

Yes, let’s get used to the idea: major bike paths need to be protected, in some way, from traffic. Otherwise, people will not feel safe using them, and more people will be killed. A mere painted line is a dangerous substitute.

It’s also important to remember that the bicyclists who will use this trail are not the spandex racers in packs you see on weekends. Those racer cyclists are great, but they have different needs and different speeds, a completely different agenda.

They don’t mind being on the highway, and they have little to do with the transportation cyclists who are helping to save the world by running errands on their bikes.

I’m talking about regular people of all ages getting to the store or the Coaster station or the beach.

That’s something that will represent real, local progress in the fight against carbon-generated global warming.

Lastly, this all goes for the bike paths being planned as part of the Leucadia Streetscape, too. Encinitas needs to be a leader on this issue, not a follower. Let’s get it right.

Darius Degher is a Leucadia resident.

1 comment

Carl Pope April 12, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Absolutely agree 100%. Unless you actually ride existing bike paths, you don’t know how rough, filled with debris and potholes and unsafe they are. A curbed bike lane would definitely get more use, and maybe save a life.

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