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Encinitas may build two-way protected bike lane near Swami’s

A divided bike lane from Chesterfield Drive now offers Cardiff families a safer way to ride along Coast Highway.
A divided bike lane from Chesterfield Drive southward now offers Cardiff families a safer way to ride along Coast Highway to the beach. A two-way version of this protected pathway is planned on the west side of the highway, northward to the southern edges of Old Encinitas.
(Barbara Henry)

Grant-funded project could link Cardiff’s bike pathway with downtown Encinitas  

A plan is in the works to create a protected bike pathway along Coast Highway 101 from the southern edge of the city’s downtown to Chesterfield Drive, linking it to a similar one that runs south to the city limits.

The new route, which is referred to in city documents as a “cycle track,” would allow Old Encinitas residents to experience something that Cardiff families have been enjoying for months — a more secure way for less-confident cyclists to get to the beach.

There’s one difference, though. The new segment is proposed to be a two-way path, putting both the north- and south-bound bike lanes together along the west side of Coast Highway and placing a barrier between them and the vehicle traffic.

“There are a lot benefits with this in our opinion,” city traffic engineer Abe Bandegan told the City Council Dec. 8, adding that one key benefit is that beach users won’t have to cross the vehicle lanes to make their return trip home. “They can, whenever they like, make a U-turn (in the bike lane area) and go back north.”

South of the Chesterfield, the city installed protected bike lanes on each side of the highway in early 2020. The southbound one is on the west side of the roadway, while the northbound one is on the east side, matching the vehicle directions.

Those new protected bike lanes have been popular with parents of young cyclists, but they were roundly criticized initially by sport cyclists who bike long distances. The new barriers prevented them from exiting the bike lanes and briefly riding into the vehicle lane when they wanted to quickly pass a slower cyclist. The highway now has “sharrow” markers on the pavement in this area, allowing faster cyclists the option of using a full vehicle lane and completely avoiding the sometimes congested, barrier-protected bike lanes.

Bandegan told the council that city officials have learned from this mistake and the new project is proposed to have both protected bike lanes and unprotected ones, so all types of cyclists’ needs are accommodated. They’re able to create space for both protected and unprotected bike lanes, while keeping an existing pedestrian walkway along the west side of the highway because they’re planning to eliminate an unused roadway median and redesign vehicle parking spots to make the angled, he said.

Recreational cyclists use the pedestrian walkway near San Elijo State Beach to avoid vehicle traffic.
(Barbara Henry)

Several avid cyclists told the council they thought having both protected and unprotected bike lanes was a wonderful idea.

“We enthusiastically support this proposal,” Will Rhatigan of the San Diego Bicycle Coalition said.

His only request, he said, was that city officials consider expanding the project slightly northward, so that it covered all of the roughly 1.5-mile stretch from Chesterfield to Coast Highway’s intersection with K Street, instead of stopping slightly short of that point at the pedestrian undercrossing to Santa Fe Drive.

Council members said they fully supported his suggestion, while Bandegan said the city already has received a nearly $640,000 grant to cover most of the Chesterfield to Santa Fe segment and might be able to come up with additional funds to extend the project all the way to K Street.

While most public speakers praised the two-way bike lane proposal, the city’s Mobility and Traffic Safety Commission opposed it this fall, saying that having bikes traveling near each other in opposite directions could cause conflicts.

Council members who voted to support the two-way proposal said that they were more worried about collisions when vehicles cross the bike lanes to turn into driveways along the route. They suggested various measures to slow the cross-over vehicles.

RVs line up along Coast Highway waiting to enter the San Elijo campground.
RVs line up along Coast Highway waiting to enter the San Elijo campground, a situation that’s expected to create some challenges in designing the proposed bike pathway.
(Barbara Henry)

Councilman Tony Kranz also noted that the State Parks system has raised concerns about how the proposed roadway changes might impact the San Elijo campground entrance. RV users need a left-turn pocket in order to make safe U-turns and the campground currently uses part of the edge of the roadway as a lineup spot for vehicles waiting to enter the campground during the busy summer months, he said.

While he said his wife is “super interested” in the project, Kranz added that he wasn’t prepared to back it until the park system’s concerns were resolved.

Bandegan said he will work with parks officials as he fine-tunes his proposed project design. The final design could come back to the council for approval in February and construction could occur next summer, he said.


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