La Costa Avenue to get bike and walking lane

ENCINITAS — A stretch of La Costa Avenue known for being unfriendly to pedestrians and cyclists is getting a makeover, though the decision to do it was not unanimous.

The City Council on Feb. 25 voted 3-2 to restripe La Costa between Interstate 5 and Coast Highway with bike paths in both directions and a pedestrian lane on the south side of the street, narrowing the driving lanes in both directions to 11 feet. The configuration will cost the city about $9,000 because it will require crews to grind off the center median line and move it to accommodate the new striping.

Lisa Shaffer, Tony Kranz and Catherine Blakespear voted in support of the configuration, which Shaffer shaped during the council meeting as a compromise between two options that were competing for the council’s approval, one supported by residents and the other supported by staff.

While the staff report largely focuses on the bike paths, the impetus of the project has been pedestrian safety.

“This is really a pedestrian project masquerading as a bicycle project,” said Brian Grover, the president of Bike-Walk Encinitas and a newly appointed member to the traffic commission.

Residents along La Costa Avenue have asked the city for some pedestrian relief on the street since August, when they filed a petition requesting that something be done. The Traffic and Public Safety Commission in November endorsed a plan that would narrow the driving lanes to 11 feet and put a walking path on the north side of the street, to the right of the bike path.

The city’s traffic engineering staff raised several objections to the proposal, which they said would cause drivers to illegally cross the median line in an effort to avoid hitting cyclists, who would have to share a much narrower cross section of road than in the past.

Staff’s plan would have created two three-foot pedestrian buffers adjacent to the traffic lanes and two five-foot bike paths on the far side of the buffers.

Proponents of the plan adopted by the commission said narrowing the traffic lanes would force cars to slow down on the street, which by itself would improve conditions for pedestrians, which in staff’s plan would have been forced to walk adjacent to the cars, putting them at risk.

At the council meeting, Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Councilman Mark Muir voted against the measure, expressing concern that Shaffer’s plan had not been properly analyzed by staff and that the council should not be planning on the fly.

“We shouldn’t be planning from the dais,” Muir said.

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