ENCINITAS — Bicyclists breathed a sigh of relief at Wednesday night’s Council meeting.
Under siege, a bike lane and “sharrows” are back on track and will soon debut on Coast Highway 101.
Council voted 5-0 to go ahead with the traffic projects despite objections from the California Coastal Commission.
“Driving down Highway 101 today, something needs to be done ASAP,” Councilman Mark Muir said.
Just last week, the bike lane and sharrows — markings that remind cyclists and motorists to share the road — were scheduled to move forward. But the work unexpectedly came to a grinding halt.
On Jan. 23, city staff received a letter from the Coastal Commission stating that proper permits hadn’t been filed for the projects. In turn, city staff argued that Encinitas is exempt from the permits.
Still, staff recommended Council hold off the bike lane for fear of the Coastal Commission imposing penalties, which range from a cease-and-desist order to fining the city $6,000 a day for a project that doesn’t come into compliance.
There were 30 public speakers at the meeting. Most urged Council to fight the Coastal Commission.
“Are we going to have the California Coastal Commission to be responsible for our biking and traffic safety in this city, or are you the elected representatives going to assume that responsibility?” asked Charlie Marvin.
Marvin said he’s cycled for 38 years on the Highway 101 corridor in Leucadia. The stretch is known for being among the most dangerous for bicyclists in the county. Because there isn’t much room for bicyclists in the lanes, he said there’s a greater likelihood of getting “doored” — a collision when a parked car door opens unexpectedly.
Other speakers cited the death of a cyclist several years ago in Leucadia on Coast Highway 101 as proof of just how unsafe the road is for those on bikes.
Bicyclists have promoted sharrow markings as a way to reduce collisions. Painted onto the ground, the sharrows are a reminder to all that bicyclists can legally occupy the middle of the road in the absence of a bike lane in close quarters.
Sharrows will be installed on the southbound lane of Highway 101 from La Costa Avenue to A Street, and also from D Street to K Street. Respectively, bicyclists and motorists going north on Highway 101 should spot sharrows from K Street to D Street, and then from A Street to Leucadia Boulevard. Within these spaces, there will be a sharrow marking in the middle of the lane every 160 feet or so.
The bike line is also designed to improve safety.
A northbound traffic lane just past Leucadia Boulevard is being eliminated to make way for an 8-foot bike lane. Two traffic lanes will merge into one beginning at Jasper Street. About 100 yards beyond that, the bicycle lane will start at Glaucus Street and connect with an existing bike lane at La Costa Avenue
A few at the meeting argued the “lane diet” would result in traffic jams.
“There’s going to be choke points,” Lynn Marr said.
City staff, however, said their analysis shows cutting down to one lane on the stretch wouldn’t have a significant impact on traffic.
In approving the bike lane and sharrows, Council argued that the Coastal Commission handled similar projects in the past differently.
“Coastal Commission I’m sorry but you just can’t change the rules mid-game,” Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer called upon citizens who are in favor of the traffic projects to contact the Coastal Commission’s office in San Diego.
After the vote, Rob Blough from the city’s traffic engineering division said he expected the bike lane and sharrows to be implemented “within the next week.”