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Highway 101 to get slower in Encinitas

From 40 mph to 35 mph between Swami’s pedestrian crossing and Chesterfield Drive

How are pedestrians actually accessing the east side of the highway?
How are pedestrians actually accessing the east side of the highway?

Mobility improvements in Encinitas keep drawing more pedestrians and bicyclists to the Coast Highway. A cycle track completed in June brought narrower travel lanes, angled parking, and a protected two-way cycle track on the west side of the road.


To enhance safety, city officials say it's time to minimize the speed difference between vehicles and bicyclists. The Encinitas City Council last week voted unanimously to lower the speed limit on South Coast Highway 101 between Swami’s Pedestrian Crossing and Chesterfield Drive from 40 mph to 35 mph.


And more reductions for the 101 corridor are on the horizon. 


The affected 1.35 mile stretch of highway is sandwiched between two slower zones. Just south is a 35 mph speed limit which increases to 40 mph throughout the segment then drops to 30 mph to the north, according to Jill Bankston, the city's director of engineering.


The average daily traffic along the faster section is 20,700, which the city considers unsafe for the high volume of bicyclists and pedestrians. A report said there's a lack of pedestrian facilities on the east side, where there are no contiguous sidewalks.


Speed limits are set based on the speed at which 85 percent of motor vehicles are traveling at or below. The city can lower the speed an additional five miles per hour after identifying the 85th percentile, which was 42. They rounded to 40, then made it 35 because of factors like pedestrian and bicycle traffic.


Speed limits are re-evaluated periodically, but changes made to the roadway can hasten the process, Bankston said.


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Critics argued the road is already safe. There have been 23 accidents on the road between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2022 – about half the statewide rate for similar roads in 2020.


"Many residents think this is  really about making it easier to install pedestrian-activated signals at Verdi in the future," said Scott Campbell.


At a meeting of the mobility & traffic safety commission on August 14, Campbell questioned why the report called out the east side of 101 for a high volume of pedestrians. "Has there ever been a pedestrian on the east side of 101? Ever? I don't think so.


How are pedestrians actually accessing the east side of 101? From Swami's – or from Chesterfield? They're just not there, so this is kind of bogus."


The high volume of pedestrians and bicyclists was used to justify a hasty survey to support the speed change, he claimed, but officials said they followed state standards in conducting the July 13 survey. 


More speed reductions are likely to follow when a new state law, AB 43, kicks in next year. When that happens, the council will be allowed to utilize their safety corridor option on 20 percent of the roads in the city. Traffic safety commissioners said it's safe to assume 101 will be one of those, so pretty much all of its segments will see another five- mile reduction.


Several locals said they support reduced speed limits, which they said would bring consistency to the road and make it safer.  


"This is not a highway anymore," said Michael von Neumann. "This is a city street."

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How are pedestrians actually accessing the east side of the highway?
How are pedestrians actually accessing the east side of the highway?

Mobility improvements in Encinitas keep drawing more pedestrians and bicyclists to the Coast Highway. A cycle track completed in June brought narrower travel lanes, angled parking, and a protected two-way cycle track on the west side of the road.


To enhance safety, city officials say it's time to minimize the speed difference between vehicles and bicyclists. The Encinitas City Council last week voted unanimously to lower the speed limit on South Coast Highway 101 between Swami’s Pedestrian Crossing and Chesterfield Drive from 40 mph to 35 mph.


And more reductions for the 101 corridor are on the horizon. 


The affected 1.35 mile stretch of highway is sandwiched between two slower zones. Just south is a 35 mph speed limit which increases to 40 mph throughout the segment then drops to 30 mph to the north, according to Jill Bankston, the city's director of engineering.


The average daily traffic along the faster section is 20,700, which the city considers unsafe for the high volume of bicyclists and pedestrians. A report said there's a lack of pedestrian facilities on the east side, where there are no contiguous sidewalks.


Speed limits are set based on the speed at which 85 percent of motor vehicles are traveling at or below. The city can lower the speed an additional five miles per hour after identifying the 85th percentile, which was 42. They rounded to 40, then made it 35 because of factors like pedestrian and bicycle traffic.


Speed limits are re-evaluated periodically, but changes made to the roadway can hasten the process, Bankston said.


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Critics argued the road is already safe. There have been 23 accidents on the road between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2022 – about half the statewide rate for similar roads in 2020.


"Many residents think this is  really about making it easier to install pedestrian-activated signals at Verdi in the future," said Scott Campbell.


At a meeting of the mobility & traffic safety commission on August 14, Campbell questioned why the report called out the east side of 101 for a high volume of pedestrians. "Has there ever been a pedestrian on the east side of 101? Ever? I don't think so.


How are pedestrians actually accessing the east side of 101? From Swami's – or from Chesterfield? They're just not there, so this is kind of bogus."


The high volume of pedestrians and bicyclists was used to justify a hasty survey to support the speed change, he claimed, but officials said they followed state standards in conducting the July 13 survey. 


More speed reductions are likely to follow when a new state law, AB 43, kicks in next year. When that happens, the council will be allowed to utilize their safety corridor option on 20 percent of the roads in the city. Traffic safety commissioners said it's safe to assume 101 will be one of those, so pretty much all of its segments will see another five- mile reduction.


Several locals said they support reduced speed limits, which they said would bring consistency to the road and make it safer.  


"This is not a highway anymore," said Michael von Neumann. "This is a city street."

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