La Jolla traffic board hears proposals for protected bikeways

The Coastal Rail Trail project would change bike lanes on a stretch of Gilman Drive in La Jolla to protected bikeways.

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board cycled through discussions of improvements to bikeways in two neighborhoods at its meeting Nov. 18, with both issues being forwarded to the La Jolla Community Planning Association.

Alejandra Gonzalez, a project manager in the San Diego Engineering & Capital Projects Department, presented information on the Coastal Rail Trail, a project that includes La Jolla’s Gilman Drive between La Jolla Village Drive and Interstate 5.

The Coastal Rail Trail, a regional project that started in 2000, aims to “create a multiuse cyclist path that would connect the cities of Oceanside, Carlsbad, Del Mar and San Diego,” Gonzalez said.

She said the goals are to “improve and enhance neighborhood character, improve the quality of life and public health by having more bicycle facilities that are more protected and safer and provide more transportation choices to all kinds of users, not just the more advanced cyclists.”

The Coastal Rail Trail project seeks to improve a stretch of Gilman Drive.
The Coastal Rail Trail project seeks to improve a stretch of Gilman Drive, widening the road and adding protected, uninterrupted bikeways on both sides.

Currently, the Gilman Drive bike path is a Class II bike lane on one or both sides of the road, Gonzalez said.

The bike lanes proposed are Class IV, meaning they “protect cyclists through a raised barrier or separated barrier between the vehicles and the cyclists,” Gonzalez said. As part of the transition to Class IV, the project would install a 3-foot median to separate cyclists and vehicles on both sides.

The bikeways would be in one direction on both sides of Gilman (north on the northbound side and south on the southbound side), with a continuous sidewalk on the southbound side. The project would install sidewalk in the portions where none exists, she said.

Gonzalez said Gilman Drive is to be widened, with “traffic being shifted slightly over toward the embankment to the east” on the portion just north of the interstate. “That will allow for the northbound cycle track” and parking, she said.

The Coastal Rail Trail “will also protect and retain as much street parking as possible and it will also bring in streetlighting improvements,” Gonzalez said.

The project includes traffic signal modifications at the Gilman intersections of Via Alicante and La Jolla Village Drive, which would include a “separate phase” for cyclists “so they don’t have to go at the same time cars are taking a right,” according to Larry Thornburgh of Nasland Engineering, which assisted the city in the design.

The project has obtained a site development permit, and Gonzalez said she expects construction to begin in fall 2021, with anticipated funding from a federal grant.

Serge Issakov, a La Jolla resident and board member of the San Diego Bicycle Club, San Diego Bicycle Coalition and California Association of Bicycling Organizations, said he “is very concerned” about the project.

A similar project in Cardiff has “been a disaster,” Issakov said. “I know of over 20 serious crashes that have occurred there in just a few months. It’s a really big problem.”

He said he’s concerned about a “so-called protected bike lane here on Gilman because it’s on a grade. There are very little, if any, studies on safety with these kinds of facilities on a downhill, where bicyclists easily hit 25 or 30 miles an hour.”

Traffic & Transportation Board Chairman Dave Abrams asked if the city’s planning team conferred with local bicycle organizations in preparation for the project.

Gonzalez said a “lot of organizations were involved, and this was the preferred alignment.”

“I don’t know where you go at this point,” Abrams said. “Serge has some valid arguments.”

Gonzalez said the team would next present the proposal at the December meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, which is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3.

La Jollan Kurt Hoffman said he would like to see protected bikeways added to this stretch of Torrey Pines Road.

In a second discussion of bike lanes, La Jolla resident Kurt Hoffman asked the T&T Board to consider protected bikeways and sidewalks on Torrey Pines Road between “The Throat” — the intersection of Torrey Pines, Hidden Valley Road and La Jolla Parkway — and La Jolla Village Drive.

Hoffman said protected bikeways and sidewalks on the east side of Torrey Pines Road would promote safety against cars traveling up the hill at dangerous speeds.

“I see large groups of cyclists coming up that hill, especially on the weekends,” he said, “and I just wish them luck and pray for them with the traffic coming at 60 to 80 miles an hour at their back.”

He said cars often weave into the currently unprotected bike lane. “The sidewalk stops a third of the way down, and it’s basically a dirt path. The cyclists are at the mercy of the speeding cars.”

Issakov said the stretch of Torrey Pines Road that Hoffman indicated is “an ideal location for a separated bikeway going uphill only,” as the road has only one intersection, at the entrance to Pottery Canyon, with an absence of “turning conflict.”

However, Issakov said, creating a protected bike lane might mean cutting into the hill for space.

Board member Patrick Ryan said protected bikeways might encourage less-skilled bicyclists to use them, as many “don’t feel comfortable unless they’re separated from traffic.”

T&T member Erik Gantzel said he hasn’t biked that stretch of Torrey Pines Road “in a long time, because I feel it’s too dangerous. ...

“I’m 100 percent in favor” of a separated bikeway, he said.

Community Planning Association President Diane Kane said she considers the bike lane discussions to be “of great interest to the future of La Jolla and multi-modal transportation.”

Kane said she has instituted an ad-hoc committee that is “looking at pedestrian and car access in and out of The Village. Part of our charge is to look at Torrey Pines Road and the entrance into La Jolla along that road.”

“It has been pointed out to me that it’s a very wide right of way,” Kane said of the road, with “room for trees, which would be definitely traffic calming because they restrict the driver’s side view.”

Kane, a “retired bicyclist and … bicycle guru at Caltrans [California Department of Transportation] in Los Angeles for 20 years,” said she agrees that a protected bike lane going uphill is a good idea.

“I’m very supportive of any efforts to modify [road conditions] so they are safe and compatible with the adjacent land uses,” Kane said.

Abrams asked Issakov and Hoffman to confer with Kane and the subcommittee about plans for the road.

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16. ◆