Cycling can save us

We Encinitas Romantics hate the idea of change to our coastal community. We want it to remain a sleepy beach town forever. But Encinitas has already changed. And one of the most grievous aspects of that change is the traffic we have to deal with. There are just too damned many cars.

Fortunately, there may still be hope, as important discussions are afoot. Will there be SANDAG sales tax money to spend? Have we gotten the details of the Leucadia Streetscape right? If we make the right choices about these things, we may still be able to maintain some of our beach town sleepiness by reducing traffic along the coastal strip. Fellow Encinitas Romantics: there is one way to keep things mellow (even “funky”) in the face of increased population.

The answer is bicycles. Yes, bicycles. Investing in smart cycling infrastructure may be the way to save the character of our coastal communities.

I’m not talking about the racers in spandex. They travel at higher speeds, often preferring the roads to bike paths anyway. No, I’m talking about people on bikes as a means of local transportation. I’m talking about mothers with kids running errands on bikes; commuters getting to the Coaster station on bikes; grandmas on bikes; families coming to the coastal specifically for the purpose of cycling to the beach and to restaurants. Think about it. It’s a vision for Encinitas that eases traffic, improves health, and ameliorates climate change. All we need are safe bike paths, and the cyclists will come.

At a recent Streetscape EIR meeting, someone whined about the planned single southbound lane on the 101. “The horror,” he wailed, “traffic will back up.” I say, let it back up! If it does, people will stop using the 101 as a freeway surrogate. This strategy works perfectly in Del Mar. When was the last time you willingly drove through there on your way to San Diego? That’s what we should want for Encinitas, too. People speak adoringly about the Slow Food movement. How about a Slow Streets movement? That’s what Encinitas needs.

Let’s face it. Fossil fuel cars will soon be relics. And public transportation is expensive and political. Bike infrastructure, however, relatively speaking, is dirt-cheap. It takes a proper Scrooge to oppose it. I know it sounds foreign to some folks. (“Don’t Communists ride bikes?”) But a vibrant cycling culture can really transform a community, for the better. We’re talking about less traffic, less air pollution, less noise, less obesity, and less heart disease. There shouldn’t be anything foreign about that.

Also, real bike paths are separated from the road by more than just a painted line. It’s a simple matter of public safety. This is why the Coastal Rail Trail is such a fantastic opportunity, because we might be able to get the bike paths off the road.

Recently, though, a misguided Cardiff group has come out against it (for what seem to be purely NIMBY reasons). Don’t they understand that arguing against bicycles is like arguing against ice cream? Or childhood? I sympathize with their aversion to change. But change for the sake of bikes is good change. Yes, the idea of a fence, which the railroad seems to be demanding, is a drag.

But there needs to be a better long-term solution, anyway, than crossing the tracks and facing a $1000 fine each time. And didn’t I hear something about the fence requirement simply being posts and cables? That wouldn’t be so bad. As for the group’s objection to a lighted bike path, this can be done with low-profile lighting embedded in the path itself, which would keep our dark skies dark.

And you Chamber of Commerce types should consider this: if we get the bike path infrastructure right, we could promote Encinitas as a cycling destination. We could install credit card-operated bike rental systems in the new parking lots being planned. They’d generate income and allow people to leave their cars while they cruised the coast. This would go for out-of-town visitors as well as locals living a few miles inland. Picture families cycling safely along the coast, going from the beach to shops and restaurants in Cardiff, Old Encinitas, and Leucadia.

It would be a boon for local businesses, would be eco-friendly, and would ameliorate our traffic woes. All in one affordable, fell swoop. Instead of tourists cruising the 101 in their SUVs, they’d be on bikes. Isn’t that the kind of vacation you’d want for your own family? Consider Avalon: it’s a car-free oasis, and people cherish it for that reason. Of course, Encinitas can’t be completely car-less, but we could have fewer cars and more bikes.

Lisa Shaffer recently asked what Encinitas should be known for. This is one possibility.

We may no longer be the flower capital of the world, but we could be at the vanguard of smart, eco-centric bike culture. We could be the cycling capital of California.

Darius Degher is a Leucadia resident.

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