ENCINITAS — A group of more than two dozen people gathered at noon on June 27 for a walk along El Camino Real.
The June 27 walk was not for leisure — the Encinitas City Council and various stakeholders were on what is known as a “walk audit,” a tour of the street to assess how accessible it is for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The information gathered and the subsequent presentation that evening could eventually pave the way for an overhaul of the city’s primary north-south thoroughfare, on which more than 40,000 vehicles travel per day.
“For me, it was an excellent afternoon,” said Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz, who has been a chief advocate for improved bicycle and pedestrian circulation throughout the city. “I looked down at my Fitbit and it said I walked 7,000 steps, and while I was hoping it would get to 10,000 steps, they were all very important steps.”
Currently, the 2-mile stretch between Leucadia and Encinitas boulevards is a hodgepodge of strip shopping centers that don’t connect, and a street profile that ranges from unfriendly to perilous for motorists, city officials said.
Consultant Dan Burden, the director of innovation and inspiration at Blue Zones — a firm that has led several pedestrian-centric street transformations — debriefed the council on the various tools at the city’s disposal to change the street.
“I think you are going to become a model for the entire region, and I’m excited that you are taking these steps,” Burden said.
Some of these suggestions could be implemented quickly, such as colorized bike lanes, setting a target speed along the street of 35 miles per hour and adding mid-block crossings with signals that alert motorists of the presence of pedestrians.
Others, however, would take longer processes and buy-in from property owners along the stretch, including creating pedestrian connections between the various shopping centers, linkages between the centers and neighborhoods, expanding sidewalks for added tree plantings, changing the city code to include more mixed-use designations along El Camino Real and creating incentives for property owners to transform their properties accordingly.
Burden told the council that making the changes would not only make the street safer for non-motorists, but would create a much more inviting destination for shoppers coming on all modes of transportation — which would be a boon for the businesses.
The council members voiced their commitment to addressing some of the short-term issues, such as additions to the city code that would accommodate pedestrian connections of the centers and wider sidewalks as development comes in.