ENCINITAS — Encinitas will receive a report outlining potential interim safety improvements to Coast Highway 101 at its Jan. 9 meeting, but some residents are skeptical over the effectiveness of such measures.
The City Council voted 4-0 on Dec. 12, after an hour of sometimes emotional testimony, to have staff bring back measures requested by Mayor Catherine Blakespear in the wake of the vehicle-versus-truck collision on North Coast Highway 101 that critically injured Cardiff 101 Executive Director Roberta Walker, an avid cyclist.
But many of Walker’s closest friends and colleagues warned the city to focus their efforts on fast-tracking the entire Leucadia Streetscape plan and avoiding a piecemeal approach.
“By creating a temporary bike lane, you create a false sense of safety out there, without doing much to calm the traffic,” said Kellie Shay Hinze, the executive director of Leucadia 101 and Walker’s friend.
Blakespear, shortly after Walker’s injury, announced that she would be bringing forth a request of staff to move forward with several interim changes to North Coast Highway 101, including the lane reduction, temporary roundabouts and a dedicated bike lane to replace the “sharrow” lane that currently exists.
But Blakespear said that staff said that adding roundabouts would require California Coastal Commission approval, which would defeat the immediacy with which she wanted to move forward.
She also expressed concern that streetscape’s final approval would be bogged down by ongoing negotiations with North County Transit District, which has to sign off on use of its right-of-way in order for parts of the project to proceed.
“We need to make the interim changes now that do include the bike lane so we make it safer in the corridor while we proceed with streetscape in the most expeditious manner,” Blakespear said.
Councilman Tony Kranz, who has represented Encinitas on the NCTD board of directors, said that the city’s staff had been making progress with NCTD and should “be looking for ways to accelerate this process.”
But he, like many of the speakers, warned that interim improvements would make the city lose focus on the most important outcome: seeing the streetscape completed.
“I think that it is critical that we not get off track and lose focus and get distracted by interims when we are very close to meeting the conditions and being able to construct and start with the roundabouts, which from my perspective are the most important aspect of the project because they calm traffic,” Kranz said.
Others agreed with Kranz that a bike lane without slowing the traffic down on Coast Highway 101 would lull bikers into a false sense of security.
Brian Grover, who spoke on behalf of the Encinitas Traffic & Public Safety Commission, urged the city to stay on course with the streetscape. The commission passed a resolution Dec. 17 urging the city to move the project forward without delay with no interim measures.
“No interim measures, no quick fixes and no more delays,” Grover said. “This project has been approved by all of you, approved by the Coastal Commission and is nearly shovel ready.
“Tonight we are asking you to shift things to the next gear and turn this sense of urgency into productive movement on the project,” Grover said.
Blakespear, however, countered that not doing anything while the city moved forward with the streetscape was unacceptable in her opinion.
“To me, I think that (doing nothing) is irresponsible,” she said, citing a study that showed Encinitas has had more traffic deaths (10) than homicides (six) over the past 10 years.
On Jan. 9, per the city council’s vote, staff will bring back an interim safety plan, a detailed timeline for the streetscape, a list of members who will be on the committee that negotiates with NCTD and the streetscape will be included as a standing item on each agenda, meaning the council and public will receive a report on its progress every meeting moving forward.