The Coast News Group
Community Commentary

‘Sharrows’: Getting to the heart of the matter

I’m writing in response to the letter by Lynn and Russell Marr regarding changes to Highway 101 in Leucadia (Jan. 4, 2013). 

The Marrs claim that the public has had too little voice in the matter. They go as far as threatening the new Council with a comparison to Jerome Stocks. This struck me as highly theatrical, and I was amused by it, but my concerns with their letter lie elsewhere.

My concern is that they are attempting to squelch an important opportunity, to defend an outmoded way of thinking. Here are some thoughts on what I see as the true heart of the matter: bicycling in Encinitas.

When my family and I read about the new sharrows/lane-diet project, which will facilitate cycling on Highway 101, we were elated. We were almost giddy about the prospect of being able to cycle around Leucadia without fear of getting run over or “doored.”

While I agree that if such changes are going to be included in the 101 Streetscape project, then perhaps everything should be done at the same time, I feel that approach only holds if the Streetscape project is going to be started within six months.

If the Streetscape project is going to be delayed for years, as I suspect it will, then this current project of sharrows and lane diet is absolutely necessary. I lived in Europe (Sweden) for a long time. My wife and I rode our bicycles to work every day, along with thousands of other people. There was even bicycle traffic. Imagine that!

I guarantee that if you experienced it, you would never be willing to exchange it for automobile traffic. The weather sucked. We rode anyway. In sleet, freezing rain, drizzle, wind, snow, ice. It was a boon for our health. It was ecological. It reduced dependence on foreign oil. It ameliorated traffic congestion. Most amazingly, I discovered that cycling generates a true sense of wellbeing. When you get on a bike, you’re a kid again. You breathe. You smile. Life is great.

Here in Southern California, cycling and the promotion of it are no-brainers.

Many of us are overweight; we have issues with air quality; we’re often stressed out; and traffic is a perpetual problem. Here in Encinitas, we should be progressive in encouraging cycling. We should strive to be a model for the rest of Southern California. By the way, I’m not referring to the kind of cyclists who come out in packs on the weekends wearing fancy outfits, the ones who the Marrs seem to think only travel in one direction.

These racing cyclists are great, and I love to see them, but what I’m talking about is cycling instead of driving, for day-to-day transportation. This is what Encinitas should be striving towards.

While the Marrs seem to think we should implement cycling improvements only as they are demanded by cycling groups, I feel that we need to be proactive. My daughter is 20 years old, and she would love to cycle around Encinitas in order to run errands and get to public transportation. But she’s uncomfortable with the safety aspects of cycling on Highway 101. She has a point.

I bike there often, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

The Marrs mention traffic issues and their effects on emergency response times. I would suggest that if more elderly people cycled for daily errands, there would be less need for emergency response vehicles accessing them, because there would be fewer heart attacks and strokes. Again, I think of Sweden: one would see old people on bicycles all the time. Believe me: seeing a pack of gray-haired ladies cycling along with big smiles on their faces is a heart-warming experience indeed.

We need to encourage cycling, not stifle it. It’s one of the plainest no-brainers out there. Our goals should be to get people out of their cars and onto bicycles whenever it’s possible to do so. The only way that’s going to happen is if motorists are inconvenienced. Yes, this is unfortunate, but it’s the only way change is likely to take place. That’s the way we comfortable Western World people are.

If gas prices are low, we buy big stupid cars. When gas prices go up, we buy smaller, more ecological ones. It’s the same with cycling. People will not leave their cars unless they’re inconvenienced enough to do so.

And clearly it’s worth the inconvenience. If drivers on Highway 101 are slowed down, that’s good. Only then will they wake up, smell the coffee, and buy a bike. In my case, complaints motorists may have about being inconvenienced fall on deaf ears. It’s the motorists who are inconveniencing us cyclists, reducing our quality of life, our quality of air.

It’s time we started caring less about motorists and started caring more about cyclists. It’s time we started deemphasizing the automobile. Here in Encinitas, it’s a no-brainer, especially now that we have a city council with insight and potentially progressive values.

Darius Degher is a Leucadia resident.



vaterfair February 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm

i love living in the U.S. everything is so polarized. now it’s cars against cycles and the cars are evil. hey, i’m in a walker; tell me to get a bike

Travis Newhouse January 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Excellent, Darius!! I agree 100%.

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