Effort building to add bike lanes in front of Canyon Crest Academy


The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s regional issues subcommittee will be taking a look at a community proposal to add bike lanes on Village Center Loop Road in front of Canyon Crest Academy. Currently, there are no bike lanes on Village Center Loop, where hundreds of students ride to school daily, in addition to local bike commuters.

The city’s transportation department has confirmed that the road qualifies for Class II Bike lanes per the City of San Diego Master Bicycle Plan—it would take a request from the planning board to earn city approval for the bike lane and removal of parking, according to local resident and CCA employee Kris Gotta. Gotta attended the last two planning board meetings in April and May to advocate for the bike lanes and get the issue on a future board agenda.

When the community of Pacific Highlands Ranch was developed, one of the main design goals was to create an active commercial and civic center that would facilitate non-automobile modes of transportation, with “clear, comfortable and direct” pedestrian and bicycle systems. Gotta said she hasn’t been able to figure out why bike lanes were omitted from the road, given that it is home to residences, two large schools, the rec center, the Village shopping center and the future library. “It defies logic, as well as the stated community design goals,” she said.

This year, students in Zac Brown’s Humanities Conservatory class at Canyon Crest Academy studied the issue and conducted a survey about adding bike lanes.

“Bike lanes would be safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and car drivers,” read one survey comment. “For drivers, it is difficult to see bikes sharing the lane, weaving alongside parked cars, or on the sidewalk. Lots of new, inexperienced drivers attend the high schools in the area, increasing the chances of an accident.”

Out of 264 survey respondents, 93.9 % said they supported bike lanes. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed were local residents, 55% were students.

“A dedicated bike lane along Village Center Loop is long overdue” read one comment in support. Read another: “Anything to increase the safety of kids/bikers is great, plus it might reduce car traffic if it is more safe.”

One daily bike commuter in support suggested using some kind of barrier between the bike lane and vehicle traffic. A local dog walker said e-bikes on the sidewalk have become a huge problem and cyclists need a safe space to ride on the road.

At the May meeting, San Diego Police Department’s Northwestern Division Community Relations Officer John Briggs said e-bikes are one of the biggest safety issues in the city right now.

“The accident rate is skyrocketing,” he said. “A lot of the issue with e-bikes is a lack of knowledge about the laws of the road.”

As he noted, the law states that nothing electronic is allowed on the sidewalk and helmets are required. He said toward the end of the school year they started citing students for not wearing helmets or riding on sidewalks but there remains some “pretty flagrant issues” out there.

Most who were opposed to the bike lanes in the CCA survey were concerned about losing the street parking on the road in favor of the bike lanes.

“Almost every spot is used by local residents to park their cars overnight. The proposed plan would leave residents with nowhere to park their cars,” one comment read. “This would definitely result in community backlash.”

Planning board member Michelle Strauss, a parent of a student who bikes to school, recommended that the item go to the subcommittee first to start the discussion given that there are several factors that need to be considered as they come up with a solution: “We certainly need some kind of improvement.”

In the survey comments, one resident of Airoso, the residential community located just before Village Center dead-ends commented that the road should have been much wider to accommodate the growth planned in the area and that the loop should finally be closed: “If you are trying your hand at civic activism, maybe focus on the bigger picture,” they wrote the students. “Push to get the loop completed which will address the underlying issue which is the convoluted traffic pattern that causes dangerous behavior.”

The planning board has been advocating for many years to finish the remaining 700-foot segment of road that falls on 21 acres of private property. Community funds are available to build the road, however, the owners have no plans to develop the property. The city would need to acquire the right of way to build the road but negotiations have not been successful.

CCA’s civic-minded Humanities Conservatory was the same group that lobbied hard for a protected pedestrian crossing at Village Center Loop and Highlands Place, the heavily used main entrance to CCA and the entrance to the Village shopping center across the street. The city initially denied a request but, in 2016, the planning board supported the students’ efforts to install a protected left turn signal. Now all four directions of car traffic on the road must stop while the pedestrians are allowed to safely cross. During the morning, lunchtime and after-school, this happens in bulk.

“It took years, but it was a huge win for student safety,” said Gotta, who is hoping for a similar win with the bike lane.