Comprehensive strategy unveiled for bicycle, pedestrian improvements in Solana Beach


Solana Beach unveiled its first Comprehensive Active Transportation Strategy, or CATS, program study during the June 24 City Council meeting.

The CATS plan lays the foundation for bicycle and pedestrian improvements within Solana Beach for the next 15 years. The goal is to make active transportation an easier and more attractive way to travel. “Active transportation” is defined as any self-propelled mode of travel, such as cycling or walking.

“I’m grateful that we’re going to have this study for the next 15 years,” said Mayor Lesa Heebner. “It will help to leverage that money that we spent through SANDAG to get many, many more millions of dollars, we’re hoping, for all of these projects to enhance our community.”

Solana Beach received a $136,000 grant from SANDAG in 2013 to prepare the plan, which identifies opportunities to improve bicycle and pedestrian networks to increase neighborhood connectivity and enhance safety for riders and walkers.

The city hired Chen Ryan Associates, a San Diego-based transportation planning and engineering firm, which kicked off the master plan process in spring 2013.

The city engaged the community throughout the process.

“It was a pretty extensive outreach,” said Dr. Sherry Ryan, principal of Chen Ryan Associates.

Chen Ryan Associates developed and maintained the project website, organized a project working group and held two community workshops. In addition, the consultant worked with Circulate San Diego to survey the community in-person and online.

They collected 395 surveys, which captured impressions of existing facilities and opinions about potential new facilities. Circulate San Diego also gave presentations at Earl Warren Middle School and Solana Vista Elementary School.

Using community feedback, Chen Ryan Associates identified a list of segments to consider for traffic-calming and pedestrian improvement projects, prioritized the segments, and developed improvement concepts for the highest priority focus areas.

While assessing the community’s needs, Chen Ryan Associates obtained manual bicycle and pedestrian counts at 35 locations throughout the city. Based on the information collected, it was determined that the greatest tendency for active transportation is south of Lomas Santa Fe Drive and west of Highway 101. This area had the highest rates of both pedestrians and bicyclists and the second-highest rate of transit commuters.

The consultant also found that the city’s bicycle facilities total a little more than 9 miles. Sidewalks total about 28 miles, and roads total nearly 55 miles.

The plan’s proposed bicycle network is more than 27 miles. The pedestrian and traffic- calming focus areas consist of nearly 21 miles of designated pedestrian corridors.

Combining the bicycle network and pedestrian/traffic-calming corridors, the consultant created a high priority project area list to reflect the top 20 projects. San Diego-based engineering firm KOA Corporation helped Chen Ryan Associates develop conceptual designs and specific recommendations for high-priority segments, including traffic circles, crosswalks and more.

“We do have one proposal per segment,” said City Engineer Mo Sammak. “I’m not saying we’re going to use all of those, but they are very good guidelines for staff, in the next 15 years, actually, to start their analysis and start getting the details of the engineering for each one of those projects.”

The consultant also recommended supporting programs to strengthen the safety and awareness of walking and cycling in Solana Beach. These programs would educate the community, encourage cycling and walking, enforce rules and evaluate the effectiveness of the projects.

Some suggestions were hiring an active transportation coordinator, celebrating Walk to School Day and Walk to School Week, and continuing to support BikeWalkSolana’s events. BikeWalkSolana is a local community group that advocates for better and safer bicycling and walking facilities, and promotes cycling and walking in Solana Beach.

In a unanimous vote, the council certified the environmental document, which was prepared by consulting firm RECON Environmental Inc., and adopted the plan.

“We drive our own destiny from this point on,” Sammak said.

The newly adopted plan makes the city eligible for grant funding for new projects and programs.

“We really hope for the city that this work will help you pursue grant funding,” Ryan said. “It will definitely position you really well for state of California and SANDAG funding for active transportation capital grants.”

Before the council’s vote, it had been more than 20 years since the city last adopted a comprehensive bicycle master plan.

Solana Beach adopted a bicycle master plan in 1993 and adopted amendments in 1996 and 2005. The city previously did not have an adopted pedestrian master plan.