The difficult evolution of the 101 bike lane continues

On Behalf of | May 23, 2024 | Firm News, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Personal Injury

The 5.7-mile stretch of Coast Highway 101 that runs from Leucadia down to Solana Beach has undergone major renovations in several different phases. Initial bike lane segments were installed, including on both sides of the highway south of Chesterfield Drive, in 2020 after a series of harrowing bike injuries, including bike advocate Roberta Walker’s 2018 crash on 101 near Phoebe Street.

Admirable goals to begin with

The idea began as a vision to preserve and revitalize the North Coast Highway 101 Corridor back in 2008. The project aimed to improve drainage and pedestrian, bicycle and road safety along the stretch of Highway 101. Safety improvements included lowering the speed limit for motorized vehicles from 45 to 35 mph. The goal was to beautify the cities and allow greater access to the beaches.

The bike lane controversy

Despite the good intentions, the resulting bike lane changes in the initial phases have been very controversial due to a series of injuries and deaths, with two fatal collisions in a 17-day span in 2022. Acknowledging a 233% increase in collisions involving bikes and e-bikes since 2019, local governments in Carlsbad and Encinitas declared states of emergency to implement needed changes. Local law enforcement has also conducted bicycle safety workshops.

Tragically, controversy erupted once again in 2024 when a father of four was found shortly after midnight on March 16 with fatal injuries near the entrance to the protected bike lane. He was not wearing a helmet. The crash, which involved no one else, occured where the road slopes downward from Solana Beach with San Elijo Lagoon on one side and Cardiff State Beach parking lot across the street.

This death re-ignited criticism of the city’s 2019 decision to create the Class IV separated bikeway section between Solana Beach and Cardiff, which some believe has created a more dangerous riding experience. The lanes were installed on both sides of the highway south of Cardiff’s Chesterfield Drive in 2020.

While many praise the new lane, some bike advocates, including Olympic cyclist Shaun Wallace, argued that the plastic bollards (pylons) and wheel stops (curbs) put in as a barrier between vehicle traffic and cyclists. Some wanted these replaced with painted lanes, as is the case with several other parts of the bike lane on 101.

On the Facebook page “Encinitas: PLEASE Restore Safety in Cardiff,” which has more than 1,300 followers, some members called for the bollards and stops removal, while others said they should stay.

Critics said the barriers prevent them from exiting the bike lanes into vehicle lanes when they want to quickly pass a slower cyclist or avoid pedestrians or other hazards. Still, many others believe the cycling experience is greatly improved and much safer. It is a great bike lane with fabulous views.

Looking Ahead

A lot of work has been done on this project, all with the best of intentions. A new phase began in March 2024, and construction of Leucadia Streetscape Segment C between Jupiter Street and La Costa Avenue is estimated to be completed in Spring 2025.

Many of the staff at Coast Law Group LLP are avid cyclists and enthusiastically support local government’s efforts to improve bike safety in the area. Several of us bike to work every day and rely on the route to get to our office, which is on Highway 101 in downtown Encinitas.