ENCINITAS — There are so few bike lanes along Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia that bicyclists have to pick their poison when traveling through the area.
Bicyclists can either hug the shoulder, making them vulnerable to getting “doored” — a collision when a parked car door opens unexpectedly. Or they can move to the center of the lane and hope motorists behind them are aware of bicyclists’ right to the road.
Often both drivers and bicyclists are unaware of where exactly in the lane those on two wheels should ride. That’s where educational “sharrows” come in.
The sharrow lane markings will be painted on several stretches of Coast Highway 101 next month to remind all that bicyclists can legally occupy the middle of the road in close quarters if there isn’t a bike lane.
“The sharrows are a relatively cheap tool to help bicyclists and cars get along,” said Rob Blough from the city’s traffic engineering division.
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, according to Blough.
Blough said the sharrows fit in nicely with a separate Coast Highway 101 repaving project that’s tentatively scheduled to begin Jan. 15 and expected to last for a week, weather permitting. Several weeks after the repaving is complete, the sharrows are scheduled to be striped on the fresh road.
Blough said traffic delays during the repaving are possible in the mornings, as that’s when the road is most congested. However, he doesn’t expect bottlenecks to be “too severe.”
“One lane will be closed at times on the 101, but traffic should flow OK,” Blough said.
As well as sharrows, there’s more in store for bicyclists.
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. Blough noted the bike lane will be installed at the same time as the sharrows. Both projects should debut in February.
To reinforce bicycle rules, the city is also installing “bicycles may use full lane” signs on preexisting light poles on Highway 101 where bike lanes aren’t in place.
According to Blough, the final costs of the sharrows, bike lane and signage won’t be known for another week or so, because the contracts are still being worked out.
Sgt. Emory Wallace said the Sheriff’s Department will step up patrols along Highway 101 to educate motorists and bicyclists once the sharrows go into effect.
“This is going to be a transition for everyone,” Wallace said.
While drivers and motorists are getting acquainted with the sharrows, for an undetermined amount of time, fines won’t be levied against infractions. But once the grace period passes, any offenses will “be enforced accordingly,” Wallace said.
Wallace noted that bicyclists must stay to the right side of the lane when there isn’t a hazard, which includes parked cars or obstacles in the road. Also, motorists can pass bicyclists in the sharrows, but only if “it’s safe to do so and they aren’t crossing double yellow lines,” Wallace said.
Sharrows have grown in popularity in recent years. They’re currently in Oceanside, and Carlsbad and Solana Beach are poised to add them this year.
Last summer, the Encinitas City Council approved the sharrows and bike lane. Originally, they were slated to be complete in a week or so. But City Manager Gus Vina asked to hold off on implementation until after a Jan. 30 Council meeting that will review the sharrows and bike lane. According to Vina, there’s a small chance Council could tweak plans for the projects at that meeting. Should that happen, he doesn’t want construction crews to redo work that’s already been done.
“We want to avoid any costly consequences,” Vina said.
Brian Grover, chairman of the Encinitas Bicycle and Pedestrian committee, played a key role in the sharrows getting the green light from the city. To celebrate and educate residents about bike lanes and sharrows, Grover said a “fun ride” along Coast Highway 101 is planned at some point in February.
“Bicyclists feared that part of the 101,” Grover said, adding, “this should make the corridor safer for everyone. But we need more outreach to let people know how to react in the sharrows.”
This article was updated from its original posting to reflect new information presented at a Council meeting.