REGION — Solana Beach and Encinitas rank high among the cities in the region in terms of walkability, though achieving the feat has been no walk in the park.
The coastal cities ranked second and third respectively on Circulate San Diego’s Regional Walk Scorecard, which measures what the county’s 18 cities are doing to improve walkability of their streets, outpaced only by National City in the South Bay.
Officials with Circulate San Diego, formerly known as Walk San Diego, said both Solana Beach and Encinitas have taken significant actions to make their network of streets and infrastructure more friendly to pedestrians, cyclists and other modes of transportation.
“They are really models for other cities in the region,” said Kathleen Ferrier, Circulate San Diego’s director of advocacy and the report’s lead author.
Solana Beach moved up from fourth place in last year’s report, in large part due to the completion of improvements along Coast Highway 101 and a General Plan update and community active transportation strategy, as well as high rate of walking and low number of collisions involving walkers.
Encinitas achieved the No. 3 ranking due to its series of traffic calming projects, including recent improvements along La Costa Avenue and Vulcan Avenue, its recently completed safe routes to school plan and citywide pedestrian education program. The report also cites Downtown Encinitas’ grid network and access to transit as factors that help maintain a high rate of walking.
The scorecard grades cities between zero and 100 based on four major criteria that are broken down into smaller criteria for each section: the status of walking in the city, the projects implemented, the policies in place or in the works and walkability ratings by volunteers who use BestWALK smart phone application developed by the organization.
Of the four scoring categories, two are worth a maximum of 35 points — walking status and projects completed — one is worth 20 — policies in the works or in place — and one is worth 10 — field data from the smart phone app.
National City received the highest score, 66.6; Solana Beach received a 59.9 and Encinitas received a 58.3.
In the case of Encinitas, its advancements in walkability have not come without controversy. The vote to approve the re-striping of La Costa Avenue was divided, and the city council majorities complete streets initiatives have been met with opposition from a New Encinitas activist who says the proposals would choke vehicle traffic.
Ferrier said that Encinitas is not alone, and that a number of cities have seen their pedestrian and active transportation plans met with pushback from motorists.
“People aren’t necessarily thinking safety; they are thinking convenience and costs first, so change is not always easy,” Ferrier said. “So it is important to give cities the boost they need to make these tougher decisions to get the infrastructure in place to make it safer for people walking and biking.”
While achieving a perfect score is unlikely (cities would have to have sidewalks on every street, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure at every intersection and no fatalities over the course of five years), the scores show that even the more pedestrian-friendly cities still have work to do.
“Certainly when the top scores we are seeing are in the mid-60s, and there is still a gap between No. 1 and No. 12, it does indicate there is room for growth,” Ferrier said.
To view the full report visit Circulate San Diego’s website at http://circulatesd.nationbuilder.com/