Plans in works for Encinitas' first 'Cyclovia'

The temporary closure of Coast Highway 101 for the annual Encinitas Holiday Parade might be extended several hours longer next year to accommodate the city's first-ever "Cyclovia" event.

"For those who haven't heard of a cyclovia event, it's an open streets type of event where you basically shut down a road to motor vehicle traffic for a certain period of time and you open it up to bicyclists, rollerbladers ... basically, any alternative mode of transportation," Traffic and Public Safety Commissioner Brian Grover said May 14 as he described the proposal to his fellow commissioners.

The town of Bogota, Colombia, is credited with coining the name back in the 1970s when it started hosting car-free Sunday events, but the concept has since spread to other parts of the world. The San Diego County Bike Coalition has recently held a series of open-streets events in the city of San Diego and in Chula Vista, Grover noted.

Cyclovia events are simple in nature. People are invited by organizers to show up on their bikes or skateboards and ride joyfully about on the car-free roadway.

"There's not a lot of programming that goes into it," Grover said. "You kind of utilize the energy on those streets, so in PB, for example, they did it on Garnet Avenue (one of the main roadways of the Pacific Beach neighborhood)."

Grover has been working informally with two members of the city's Environmental Commission on the tentative plans for an Encinitas Cyclovia event. At the May 14 meeting, his fellow traffic commissioners unanimously agreed to put an official stamp on his efforts, voting to designate him and Commissioner Christine Simokat as representatives to a new ad-hoc committee.

The committee, which will also include two Environmental Commission members, will be tasked with planning what's hoped to become an annual event.

Grover is proposing doing the first one as a pilot project in December 2019. It would occur on the same day, but hours earlier than the city's famed Holiday Parade, an event that draws thousands of people to the downtown on a Saturday evening in early December. Grover said the plan would be to end the car-free event in the late afternoon, and then allow vehicles to enter the area to set up for the parade.

He said he's wanted Encinitas to host a car-free streets event for several years, but the sticking point has always been the road-closure issue.

"The city is very sensitive to street closures," he said, noting that city officials limit how many road closures are permitted each year on Coast Highway.

The solution that he's working out with the downtown merchants group is to piggyback onto an existing road closure "so we don't create a new event with a new road closure," he said.

His fellow commissioners said they liked the idea, but wondered who will pay for the extra policing that will be required for the road closure. Grover said that because the event promotes cycling, there likely will be grant funds available. There's also the option of making it a city-sponsored event where the policing costs are paid by the city, he said.

--Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune

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