ENCINITAS, Calif. (KGTV) - The Encinitas City Council hopes that a compromise on a controversial bike safety plan will be able to satisfy casual cyclists who feel Coast Highway is not safe, as well as sport cyclists who like being able to zip along current the bike lanes.
The route through the Cardiff community between Encinitas and Solana Beach is believed to be the most frequently ridden corridor for bicyclists in San Diego County.
The debate began when the city began looking at replacing the current bike lanes with "protected" bike lanes. These will use curbs and bollard posts to separate the lanes from vehicle traffic.
City Councilmember Kellie Shay Hinze believes this plan will make the area safer for commuters, beach-goers, and families who would prefer a safe option to ride bikes over driving. Furthermore, she believes there will be environmental benefits, as well.
"If residents are able to access this beach on foot or by bike, then we free up parking spaces for people that might be coming from farther away and we reduce the congestion that we generate as a city on our roads," Hinze said.
However, avid sport cyclists believe protected bike lanes are more dangerous.
"That is a trap to a cyclist going fast," said cyclist Karl Rudnick. "I would never ride in that."
Rudnick explained that funneling all cyclists into lanes divided from the road by curbs and railings gives cyclists who are riding at high speeds nowhere to go when attempting to pass by slower riders. He was surprised to hear that there were safety concerns along that portion of Coast Highway.
"It was a real eye opener to realize that there's a lot of people who don't ride their bikes who find that stretch very dangerous- the very stretch that I consider the safest, most beautiful stretch in the county," said Rudnick.
Rudnick and Hinze both support the compromise plan. While the city will move forward with the protected lanes, it will also paint "sharrows" in the #2 lane of the highway. These indicate to drivers that cyclists have equal right of way to use that lane of traffic. There will also be signage to let drivers know cyclists have legal access to the highway. This is part of an education process to allay fears that many drivers do not know what sharrows indicate.
City staff are still working on the specific plans and there is currently no timetable for installation.