By Dave Schwab
A fender bender on Torrey Pines Road Friday evening occurred when a driver apparently was distracted by several people crossing the road to discuss improvements along the main corridor into La Jolla underscored residents' top concern with the thoroughfare: safety.
About 30 neighbors who live in the area between La Jolla Shores Drive and Girard Avenue turned out for a walking tour and to hear a presentation by a traffic consultant. But they had to settle for a Powerpoint presentation instead because rush-hour road conditions were deemed by the group to be too dangerous.
Residents, however, received a "Walkability Checklist" to rank conditions of corridor pathways traversed by pedestrians and bicyclists. The checklist's first question asked if sidewalks were in place on both sides of the street. The answer was neither.
The second question queried residents as to whether motorists were driving the road at reasonable speeds. They noted motorists frequently exceed Torrey Pines Road's posted 35 mph limit and travel up to 60 mph.
Andy Hamilton, president of Walk San Diego, an organization that helps create safe and walkable communities, met with residents to fill them in on engineering solutions for making the corridor safer and more pedestrian friendly.
The ad hoc group, spearheaded by Sherry Nooravi, has revived the drive to improve, beautify and enhance the safety of the Torrey Pines corridor.
Last July, the City Council approved spending $500,000 in federal funds for preliminary designs on Torrey Pines Road improvements to include everything from bluff stabilization and installing guardrails and sidewalks to enforcing fence standards on public property.
"You need sidewalks on both sides of the street because people live on both sides," Hamilton told neighbors Sept. 3. "Then you need frequent, safe places to cross."
Hamilton talked about what it will take to make Torrey Pines Road "walkable."
"You need to feel a sense of safety from traffic," he said. "You need the convenience of nearby walkable destinations, you need to be able to cross somewhere - it needs to feel like you're welcome there and it has to be attractive."
Asked by one neighbor how much the total cost would be for Torrey Pines Road corridor improvements, architect Robert Thiele, who has been involved with the project for years said, "I'm guessing between $8 million and $10 million including bluff stabilization."
Asked how long it would likely to take to get improvements started, Thiele replied, "Probably another year but once it starts the actual inconvenience period would actually take about one and a half years."
Adele Icaza and Dave Schroedl, residents who could not make it to the neighborhood meeting, both support proposed improvements and say safety is their main concern.
"I'm all for safety measures that can be implemented," said Icaza. "I'm concerned about the tremendous speeds."
"My wife and I used to take our lives into our own hands and literally run across T.P. to get to the Shores and the Cove for our daily walks," said Schroedl. "But now we have a 4-year-old and thus have not done so."
Nooravi stressed the need for the group to follow up with Councilwoman Sherri Lighter, with SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) and to attend community meetings to get their voices heard.
"If we don't keep this movement going with others, it will just drop," she said.