Encinitas leaders expedite bike-lane installation on 101 in Leucadia

Clearly designated 5-foot-wide bicycle lanes could be installed within a few months on Highway 101 through the northern Encinitas community of Leucadia as a result of City Council action Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The council voted 4-0 to direct its staff to come up with a plan for temporary safety measures on the 2 1/2- mile strip of coastal highway through Leucadia, including restriping of the roadway to clearly delineate where cyclists can ride separately from automobile traffic. Another option could be installing stop signs north of Leucadia Boulevard, though Mayor Catherine Blakespear vigorously opposed that idea.

The action came in the aftermath of a collision on 101 between a motor vehicle and cyclist Saturday, Dec. 8, in which community activist Roberta Walker was thrown from her bike and severely injured.

“We need to have an interim improvement plan that includes a bike lane, that gets the bikes away from the cars, so the cars and the bicycles are not together in the same lane on Highway 101,” Blakespear said.

Walker sustained head and spinal injuries for which she has been undergoing multiple surgeries at an area hospital, according to a blog updating her condition. Friends monitoring the situation said in Wednesday’s meeting that Walker was in a medically-induced coma while she is being operated on.

The executive director of the nonprofit Cardiff 101 Main Street, Walker has been an advocate for improving bicyclist and pedestrian safety in the city.

“It’s just difficult to come to grips with and grasp. It’s an extremely sad moment,” Councilman Joe Mosca said.

The week before, he said, he had encountered Walker at an event and she showed him her new bike.

“I want to do anything and everything I can do in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen again on our streets in our city,” he said. “We need to do everything possible.”

The incident came amid the city’s efforts to revamp the northern section of Highway 101 through its Leucadia Streetscape Project, the culmination of plans debated for years.

A month ago, the council approved the project, which calls for shrinking the highway’s through-lanes from two in each direction to one and the installation of traffic roundabouts at at least four intersections. The plan also would create clearly delineated parking spaces, sidewalks and bicycle paths.

Construction of the full $30 million project, which requires cooperation from multiple governmental agencies, probably would not begin until late next year, at the earliest.

Now, the highway through Leucadia has some bike lanes striped along some segments of the roadway, but not along the whole length. Some segments lacking bike paths display what are called “sharrows” imprinted in the righthand lanes to indicate they are to shared between motorists and bicycle riders.

“I feel that the sharrows in Leucadia with the speeds that we have give that false sense of security. ... I don’t think the sharrows work,” Blackspear said.

Councilman Tony Kranz and newly elected Councilwoman Jody Hubbard expressed concern that embarking on an interim approach could bog down the primary streetscape project.

That concern was echoed during the nearly two-hour discussion by many of the 23 members of the public who spoke to the council, motivated by the weekend incident. Others urged immediate action.

“There will be another accident,” Leucadia resident and cyclist Jeremy Kron said. “Tomorrow morning, tomorrow, create that bike lane, reassert that bike lane ... because this is a massive abuse of sharrows.”

“The sharrows concept was not meant to be on coast highway. ... You can’t mix cyclists and people going 40 and 50 mph.”

City administrators said the road can be fully outfitted with wide bike lanes on both sides of the highway without reviews and approvals by the North San Diego County Transit District, the California Coastal Commission and other involved agencies.

The staff is expected to bring back the interim plan as well as an update on the progress of the streetscape project at the council’s Jan. 9 meeting.

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