Some streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea feel barely wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic and parked cars. That can make even the quiet city feel treacherous for bicyclists – something City Council hopes to change.
Mayor Jason Burnett is appointing ad hoc committee members who will develop a game plan for moving four bike path projects forward.
The number-one priority is improving the windy road behind the Carmel Mission, from Rio Road to Monte Verde Street, where Carmel River Elementary School is located.
Safer access to school is a priority for councilwoman Victoria Beach, who’s also a parent of a River School student and, according to Burnett, a shoo-in as chair of the ad hoc committee. She sees improved bike paths as essential in connectivity for the whole area. “Carmel happens to be a keystone geography,” she says. “We’re kind of the hubcap.”
The current projects came after the city applied in 2011 and 2012 for $150,000 in transportation planning grants from the California Department of Transportation, but was rejected.
“We’re not necessarily going back to Caltrans,” Burnett says.
The city has about $190,000 in its budget to contribute to bike path-related improvements. Granting agencies such the California Coastal Conservancy, which is at work on a 1,200-mile trail from Mexico to Oregon, are other potential funding sources.
After the Caltrans rejection, Burnett and Beach asked planners at the Transportation Agency for Monterey County to help map out projects. TAMC’s report, expected to be released within a month, will lay the foundation for the ad hoc committee to begin soliciting public input and applying for funding to develop more detailed plans.
One possibility near the mission: changing Dolores Street to one-way and putting in a landscaping strip to separate cyclists from cars.
“Kids leaving River School are riding past queued-up cars,” TAMC Planner Ariana Green says. “They could easily get doored or hit.”
Using the existing roadway is the low-cost option, Green says, but she’s also looking at a route off the street that would cut across Mission Ranch property. That would require an easement.
“What the city comes up with could be completely different than what we’ve laid out, but this is a starting point,” she says. She recommends the city conduct a traffic circulation study near Mission Ranch to help the ad hoc committee with the next steps.
Other projects in Green’s report: a safer path to Carmel Middle School on Carmel Valley Road, better access to Palo Corona Park, and improving the connection from Monterey to Carmel. That route requires cyclists use dangerous on – and off-ramps to get onto Highway 1 for about a half-mile.
“Getting on or off of Highway 1 is not very comforting to most cyclists,” Velo Club President Matthew Sundt says. “If you’re a 10-year-old going to school, it’s probably not a good idea to try and compete with a car.”
For Beach, the efforts are about getting tourists, kids and older adults out walking and biking safely. “[Some] folks are already comfortable being out on their bikes, with special gear and racing clothes,” she says. For everybody else, she adds, “We’re trying to get rid of the intimidation factor.”