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Is the Pacific Coast Highway Going to Rumble?

UPDATE:  Due to anticipated high turnout, the SCCRTC Bicycle Committee is looking for an alternative meeting location.  Please contact the RTC at [email protected] for the meeting location.

Nothing can quite compare to rumble strips when it comes to ruining a beautiful bicycle ride.  Adventure Cycling and the League have previously written about rumble strips and the difficulties they pose to cyclists.  We were very happy to see the Federal Highway Administration revise their May 2011 guidance that would have promoted rumble strip installation on many rural roads and even some urban roads across America.

Touring Cyclists on Highway 1

So, it was a bit of a shock when we heard from Adventure Cycling and League members that the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) is planning to install rumble strips on a portion of the Highway 1 between Davenport and Santa Cruz.  Highway 1 – also known as the Pacific Coast Highway – is part of one of the most active bicycle touring routes in the country and a major draw for international tourism.

To its credit, CalTrans has one of the best rumble strip policies when it comes to accommodating bicyclists.  So we did some research and found out the following:

  • This 11-mile section has been identified as a high collision area, including at least one bicycle fatality.  Rumble strips are the proposed safety improvement to address run-off-the-road and head-on crash incidents.
  • CalTrans policy only allows rumble strips where there will be more than five feet of shoulder clearance for cyclists.  CalTrans data indicate that the shoulder width in this area is approximately eight feet, though this has been disputed by local cyclists and regional transportation planners.
  • This is a “candidate project” that will not go to construction for another 18-24 months and includes both center-line and shoulder rumbles.  CalTrans has committed to working with local cyclists, and presumably following their policy, as project planning progresses.
  • The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission has received over 70 contacts on this issue.  The SCCRTC is working with CalTrans to ensure accurate shoulder width data and has requested the collision data justifying the need for rumble strips.  The SCCRTC Bicycle Committee will be discussing the project at their April 9 meeting.

While we recognize the safety benefits for motorists under certain conditions, we are concerned about their use on Highway 1.  The League and Adventure Cycling will be submitting letters to CalTrans respectfully requesting that:

  • CalTrans not install rumble strips on Highway 1 at this time.
  • CalTrans work to provide a five-foot wide road shoulder on Highway 1 clear of sand and other debris while still accommodating parked vehicles and ocean access for residents and visitors.
  • CalTrans continue to work with cyclists to ensure that Highway 1 remains one of the country’s premier bicycling routes.

We encourage local cyclists to speak out on this issue (reference the three points above as a start).  Here are some ways you can make sure CalTrans hears your voice:

Contact CalTrans District 5

Jim Shivers
District 5 Public Information Officer
Phone: 805.549.3237
Email: [email protected]

Richard Krumholz
District 5 Director
Email: [email protected]

Attend the SCCRTC Bicycle Committee Meeting

Monday, April 9 at 6:30pm
Regional Transportation Commission Conference Room
1523 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz (above Chef Works)

As we learn more, look for updates to this blog.

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