PCH bike improvements debated at workshop

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Cycling enthusiasts from both in and outside Malibu gave input Saturday on bike route improvements to Pacific Coast Highway in west Malibu to be paid for with a $900,000 federal grant.

By Jimy Tallal / Special to The Malibu Times

The first of two public workshops was held at City Hall on Saturday to get input from cyclists on the design of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) Bicycle Route Improvement Project. The project?s goal is to improve the existing bike route and promote safety for all modes of travel between the western city limit and Busch Drive.

Malibu has become a popular destination for cyclists in recent years due to its scenic views and hospitable weather. But conflicts between motorists and cyclists have been on the rise as greater numbers of cyclists attempt to share the road on busy PCH. Cyclists have complained that motorists drive too close to cyclists, while many motorists complain that cyclists do not follow the rules of the road, often running red lights and making the road more dangerous for both. Because of its narrow width, some have asked whether PCH can ever be compatible with both cyclists and motorists.

In 2010, the city?s Public Works Department received a $900,000 federal highway safety improvement grant from Caltrans for the project. The city is required to contribute 10 percent of the grant amount for a total of nearly $1 million. The original grant specified bike route improvements from Trancas Canyon Road to the city limits, but that has since been extended to Busch Drive in order to include the Zuma Beach area.

Chris Frost, chair of the Public Safety Commission, said that he and many other cyclists requested the city to include the portion of PCH next to Zuma Beach because that?s where cyclists feel the most safety issues occur.

The bike route improvements will take place only within the Caltrans right-of-way areas, which generally extend for 100 feet across PCH and include the road shoulders.

The workshop was attended by more than two dozen people, not only Malibu cycling enthusiasts and residents, but many from cycling organizations throughout the Los Angeles area who regularly ride on PCH.

?This section of PCH was chosen as a start,? said Elizabeth Shavelson, public works analyst for the city. ?The eastern end of Malibu will be much more complicated.?

Alta Planning & Design and Willdan Engineering of Anaheim have been collecting data on Malibu. Brett Hondorp, principal with Alta, explained that the focus of the project would be on physical improvements that could be made on the Caltrans right-of-way. He said the shoulders of PCH used by cyclists are also used in Malibu for parking, driveways, garbage cans, bus stops, drainage, scenic view areas and disabled vehicles.

Other safety considerations for cyclists in Malibu include traffic speeds, traffic volume, debris, parking for beach access, unpaved areas of shoulder, intersections and limited sight distances.

Hondorp told attendees that his organization?s ?design toolbox? for improving the bike route would include ensuring the bike lanes were as wide as possible, using detailed drawings of PCH lane and shoulder measurements all along the eight miles or so of the project. He said the road could be restriped or repainted wherever possible to allow more room for bicycles.

In addition, Alta will consider areas where a hatched painted buffer area can be put between the bike shoulder and car lanes. The company will also mark conflict areas with signs and paint and improve shoulder conditions by removing debris.

The breakout session of the workshop asked participants to look at detailed aerial photos of sections of PCH, and write down what needed to be considered for the bike route in each one. Many of the suggestions included simple things like making sure Caltrans kept the vegetation trimmed back enough so that cyclists had visibility.

The second input session was scheduled for Wed., April 4 at 6 p.m. at Malibu City Hall.