Keep focus on complete streets

Now is a great time to be out biking and walking and enjoying our gorgeous weather, town(s) of Encinitas, Cardiff, Leucadia and the neighboring beach cities. Spring is in the air, the flowers are blooming, the ocean is brisk and cool and the promise of summer lies ahead … as well as the promise of a massive amount of vehicular traffic within our coastal corridors.

Thanks to our city council members back in December of 2013 during one of the city’s key “Strategic Planning” meetings held relating to Transportation Planning, an “intent motion” was passed for our city of Encinitas to establish a vision for “Complete Streets” within the city.

“Complete Streets” became a law in 2011 and refers to making roadways, historically and primarily designed for cars, not people, “complete,” for all modes of travel whether by bike, foot or by car. It holds the promise of enabling all modes of travel, not just vehicle mode, on our primary streets.

The Complete Streets California law came about not only due to the rising level of carbon emissions vehicles contribute to the environment (and the need for Climate Action Planning by each city in the nation), but primarily since there are many people who prefer biking and walking to work, school and around town and are unable to do so given the current transportation infrastructure in California.

Add to that, the recreational value and health benefits of exercise, the “Complete Streets” law makes sense in a state overburdened by a vehicle-centric car culture. It’s timely for Encinitas to establish a firm policy and funding for Complete Streets and complete street priority roadways within our city, being a healthy and vibrant, environmentally-oriented culture, not to mention planning for the future and the avoidance of total gridlock in our town, now almost 100 percent built-out and still growing. Thank you city council and our mayor for waking up to the call! Thank you for your determined focus on making our transportation infrastructure a priority and safeguarding public safety.

While some people dislike the idea of sharing the road with cyclists and pedestrians and balk at the talk of “traffic calming,” the plain truth is, it is inevitable and is the way of the world, just go see for yourself.

Our coastal Pacific Ocean jewel bordered by Highway 101, which was once a true “Highway,” is now a mere roadway (with the arrival of Interstate 5) slicing through our coastal beach towns where we are all aiming to live our lives, raise our families, buy local and contribute to the well-being of our beach cities and local merchants.

Drivers zooming through our beach cities instead of on the I-5, and the associated “cut through traffic,” do nothing to add value to our livelihoods and instead pose a threat to our public safety and the economic health and well being of our communities.

These drivers belong on the I-5 and with the Keepsandiego.org freeway widening plan now in the works for the I-5, all the more reason we need to protect our local Highway 101 from high speed travel and I-5 traffic jams spillover effects.

Complete Streets do just this. Not just here on Highway 101, but elsewhere as well on major roadways, arterials, north/south and east/west collector roads. Now is the time to re-claim our roadways for multi-modal travel per state law.

With the complete streets focus put on the backburner by our city up until now, thankfully, the City Council directed the Traffic & Public Safety Commission last week (March 23) to recommend an “interim policy” for complete streets in Encinitas; we can only hope this time in earnest.

Looking forward not back, it’s time that we protect our local citizens, children, visitors and future generations from being run down and overtaken by vehicular traffic in Encinitas, Cardiff and Leucadia and especially along the coastline.

Just look around us and see the exciting roadway changes taking place now in Del Mar, Solana Beach, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Long Beach, Santa Barbara and elsewhere where citizen safety is prioritized and traffic calming is being prioritized by city leaders and staff.

Let’s keep our city council and mayor focused on this important “interim” effort and funding of same, until which time the city of Encinitas Active Transportation Plan, General Plan, North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape Plan, Circulation Element and other lengthy plans and documents actually get finalized.

It will be years, if not decades, before we see any real improvements, which are why this interim policy is so importantly needed, needs to be approved and put into motion.

Quality of life, public safety, the outdoors and health and recreation are some of the core values we all cherish in our coastal beach towns and we need to ensure our elected officials recognize this and do the right thing, now, before it’s too late.

No more talk — it’s time for action.

We need to act now while property taxes are up, building is booming, the population is growing and the need is ever increasing for enhanced public safety and complete streets in Encinitas.

Calming the traffic speeds, narrowing the traffic lanes, and using mere paint to help us to achieve a successful Interim Complete Streets Policy today on key north/south and east/west roadways in beautiful Encinitas, Cardiff and Leucadia will be key to our continued sustainability and quality of life.

Let’s focus on encouraging the public to get out and enjoy what we have here- a beautiful coastal environment, without fear of being run-down in the process.

Elena Thompson is co-founder of BikeWalkEncinitas.org and a Leucadia resident.

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