La Jolla traffic group revisits ideas for slowing speeding and increasing bike safety on La Jolla Boulevard

A new proposal for La Jolla Boulevard aims to make the city of San Diego's planned addition of bikeways safer for all.
A new proposal for La Jolla Boulevard would make the city of San Diego’s planned addition of bikeways safer for all, says Will Rhatigan of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition.
(Screenshot by Elisabeth Frausto)

One proposal would reduce the speed limit on a southern portion of the boulevard; another would alter a city of San Diego plan for bicycle lanes.


The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board this week discussed speed limit and bikeway proposals aiming to make La Jolla Boulevard safer. The discussions at its Jan. 18 meeting were updates on items the group had heard previously.

Lower speed limit: Revisiting a September T&T discussion, Bird Rock resident Harry Bubbins contended that the 35 mph speed limit on a southern portion of La Jolla Boulevard between Loring and Colima streets is too high and is higher than nearby speed limits.

Bubbins wants the speed limit lowered along that stretch, citing a city of San Diego traffic study from Feb. 23, 2022, that said more than 1,100 cars were speeding there that day.

“Reducing speed can really significantly reduce the amount of fatalities and injuries,” Bubbins said.

Bubbins sent a letter earlier this month to the office of San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, asking for a lower speed limit and noting more than 200 people have signed Bubbins’ petition on agreeing that the speed limit should be reduced.

Bird Rock resident Christina Giorgio said “it is absolutely insane how people drive on that street. … I really hope the creative minds can come together and make it a safer place for those in the community.”

LaCava’s field representative Steve Hadley said if T&T or its parent group, the La Jolla Community Planning Association, “wants to go on record asking for a change in speed limit whenever that is possible,” LaCava would support it.

“Whatever can help … reduce, as close as we can to zero, injuries and fatalities on what is … a major street through La Jolla,” Hadley said.

Bubbins said California Assembly Bill 43, which allows municipalities to reduce a speed limit after traffic studies, can be invoked here.

T&T Chairman Brian Earley read a Jan. 12 email in which city senior traffic engineer Gary Pence wrote “there are portions of AB 43 that have not gone into effect yet that may offer more opportunities to lower speed limits in the future, but we won’t know until the law is fully defined.”

Earley added that Pence said he might do another traffic study.

Pence also wrote in the email, which the La Jolla Light obtained, that “lowering the speed limit below 35 mph between Colima Street and Loring Street would make the speed limit unenforceable.”

Longtime T&T Board member Patrick Ryan said “people tend to drive the speed that they feel safe driving, regardless of the speed signs, unless … the speed signs are enforced.”

Without enforcement, Ryan said, new speed limits would not help. He suggested traffic-calming measures such as adding curb bulb-outs, pedestrian crossings and angled parking to force drivers to slow down.

Will Rhatigan, advocacy director for the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, said that while “slowing traffic speeds is a critical public safety issue,” he agreed with Ryan.

Earley said T&T will wait for the city’s Transportation Engineering Operations Division to respond about further traffic studies.

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board meets Jan. 18 online.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Bikeways: T&T also revisited a city plan presented in October to restripe two portions of Prospect Street and La Jolla Boulevard to include new bicycle lanes.

The plan, which would adjust measurements of the parking, travel and center turn lanes along La Jolla Boulevard and make similar changes on Prospect, drew sharp criticism from avid cyclists and others at its initial presentation, with many saying having narrow bikeways in door-opening zones for parked cars is dangerous.

At the Jan. 18 meeting, Rhatigan presented a draft of a joint letter from T&T and the Bicycle Coalition to LaCava to request a Class IV protected bikeway — which is separated from vehicle traffic by flex posts or another physical barrier — along La Jolla Boulevard between Gravilla Street and Mesa Way.

The letter proposes 8-foot-wide bikeways on both sides of the boulevard with a 3-foot buffer and barrier between the bikeways and parking lanes.

The new design would get rid of center turn lanes, Rhatigan said.

“We want to see the safest bikeways that people of all ages and abilities are comfortable riding on installed everywhere,” Rhatigan said.

He added that the proposed design would help calm traffic. “You give drivers much less room to maneuver, which encourages them to slow down.”

Ryan said the design put forth in the letter is “a pretty simple way” to slow traffic but added that he’d “be concerned that eliminating that turn lane might really choke off traffic,” especially around La Jolla United Methodist Church.

Rhatigan said the bikeways could be narrowed or parking eliminated in busy spots to allow for retention of center turn lanes.

La Jolla resident Ira Parker expressed frustration with what he called “piecemeal” plans for La Jolla Boulevard. Parker headed a 2021 subcommittee to generate ideas for improving pedestrian safety further north on the boulevard through the Barber Tract.

Parker said T&T “should seriously develop a working group … to really study the issue” in a larger sense instead of working on smaller segments of the street with various people.

“Get organized. … Be serious and study all of La Jolla Boulevard,” he said.

Several La Jollans agreed with forming a working group, including frequent cyclist Mike McCormack. “I think there needs to be some more thinking on La Jolla Boulevard,” he said.

Earley said the draft letter and the question of a working group might appear on the agenda of the next T&T meeting for action on Wednesday, Feb. 15. ◆