Enthusiast making room for more Encinitas bicyclists
Brian Grover often spots spandex-clad cyclists on expensive bikes pedaling through city streets. He’d like to eventually see more families out there with them.
Grover is the chairman of Bike Walk Encinitas, a group advocating for bike infrastructure for all ages and abilities.
Formed in 2011, the organization was instrumental in bringing about a northbound bike lane that starts near Leucadia Boulevard and Coast Highway 101. It also successfully pushed for “sharrows” — lane markings reminding cyclists and motorists to share the road — along the 101.
Grover counts those as important victories. But he said the long process to gain approval was a reminder of the challenges — legal, financial and otherwise — facing bicycle supporters in Encinitas.
“That was just paint on the ground,” Grover said of the sharrows. “It’s not a 5,000-unit subdivision on the coast. Progress comes slowly and it’s a little frustrating sometimes.”
Beyond sharrows, Grover and other members are in favor of additional bike lanes, cycle racks and a bike path running parallel to the train tracks. And while in the early stages, a bike share program in Encinitas is on Grover’s radar.
Grover said his passion for cycling goes back to building BMX jumps with friends as a youngster growing up in the San Fernando Valley suburbs. In his teens, he frequently biked with his father around the city. That is, until a car hanging a left didn’t see his dad biking and hit him, breaking his leg and knee.
“I later realized that’s one of the main factors in why I’m interested in some of the things I’m interested in,” Grover said.
After the collision, Grover gave up road cycling, moving exclusively to mountain biking.
“With mountain biking, you control your destiny,” Grover said. “You’re running into a rock or you’re falling off a cliff. It’s not someone in a two-ton automobile coming at you at 40 miles per hour by accident.”
Following graduate school, he moved to Leucadia, drawn by the area’s vibe and surf breaks. Because he was within a few miles of work, he picked up a road bike again, eventually changing his tune.
“I figured there has to be a way for bikes and cars to get along,” Grover said.
Through joining the Encinitas Environmental Commission, he became involved in Bike Walk Encinitas in 2011, a fledgling group at the time.
“We needed to elect a chair to formalize the group,” Grover said. “They just picked me.”
“Maybe because I was providing the meeting space?” added Grover, who works as an environmental analyst, with a laugh.
But Howard LaGrange, who oversees bike walk groups across the county, said Grover is being modest.
“I wish we had more Brians — bike riders who are as engaged as he is,” LaGrange said.
One of Grover’s strongest qualities is his ability to rally the community together when cycling infrastructure goes before the council, LaGrange said.
LaGrange went on to say in his opinion Encinitas ranks as a 5 or 6 out of 10 in terms of bike friendliness, and Grover is the man to improve that.
On that note, Grover said while biking infrastructure has been hard won in Encinitas, ever since Bike Walk Encinitas formed, the city has been more receptive to the cause.
For instance, the city asked for the group’s input on aspects of the Leucadia streetscape, a plan calling for roundabouts, bike racks and landscaping on the Leucadia corridor of the 101.
But obtaining funding for bike infrastructure is difficult in Encinitas, Grover believes.
For one, the city doesn’t have an approved housing element, a blueprint outlining growth that will be on the 2016 ballot. Until ratified, it’s tougher to get transportation grant funding from the county, Grover noted. In the meantime, he’s pushing for biking to “climb up the rung of funding importance” in the city.
“Leaders need to see that bicyclists are everywhere in Encinitas, and they aren’t going anywhere,” Grover said.
In the near term, he said the organization wants to educate residents about sharrows, which denote that bicyclists can legally occupy the middle of the road in the absence of a bike lane.
“A lot of bicyclists and motorists don’t know what to do with the sharrows,” Grover said, noting the education phase is about to kick off.
The organization is putting together a public service announcement and will advertise the sharrows with infographics.
And the group is advocating for the coastal rail trail — a citywide path alongside the tracks for pedestrians and cyclists. The trail — construction on which is slated to begin in two years if supported — is all about giving residents of all stripes a safe place to bike.
Ultimately, Grover said he’d like more streets to meet that goal.
“We want to get to the point where a family is comfortable biking to local businesses around the city,” Grover said. “All along they’ve known it’s healthy and good for the environment, but right now don’t feel safe enough to bike in the city.”
Grover is also eyeing starting a bike share program in Encinitas, though he’s still a few months away from disclosing details.
Increasingly popular across the nation, the programs let people rent a bike from a checkout station, ride it wherever and then return it to any of the stations. Typically, bike shares are set up in dense cities, but Grover said Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas may work.
Grover said many believe it’s unrealistic to revamp roads for bike infrastructure given historically car-centric planning. In response, he pointed to Copenhagen, Denmark. The city once favored cars, but made room for cyclists beginning in the 1970s.
“There’s a lesson there,” Grover said.