Bikes: The proposed project will add bike lanes along a section of the PCH in Malibu. Courtesy image

By Hans Laetz / Special to the Daily Press

Caltrans officials on Tuesday, June 28, revealed plans to paint bike lanes along 16 miles of Pacific Coast Highway — from Malibu Lagoon to the Ventura County Line — and said they might remove up to 2,171 parking spaces along the highway to wedge the bike lanes in.

In response, Malibu officials voiced frustration that only vague plans were released by the state, about a plan to fundamentally redesign what is essentially Malibu’s main street. Malibu Mayor Paul Grisanti complained during the meeting that the state engineers could not answer basic questions, like if cyclists would be ticketed for riding in traffic lanes if the bike lanes were built.

California Coastal Commission and coastal parks officials were not at the meeting, leading participants to wonder how that state agency feels about a fellow state agency radically altering beach access.

On Wednesday, Caltrans officials said they had been told that morning by Coastal Commission officials that they would have to pull Coastal permits if they wanted to eliminate any parking. The Coastal Commission enforces a Malibu Local Coastal Program, or LCP, that prohibits the removal of coastal-access parking, except in the instance of public safety concerns, and requires parking losses to be mitigated.

The word “mitigation” was not mentioned by Caltrans officials Tuesday night, when Caltrans engineer Jane Yu released charts showing where the 2,171 PCH-side parking places might get eliminated as Caltrans repaves 16 miles of the highway from the center of Malibu up to the north.

The charts showed Caltrans may eliminate 180 parking places near Malibu Lagoon, Malibu Bluffs Park and Pepperdine University; 168 parking places near Corral Beach and Latigo Beach; and 216 parking places near Paradise Cove and the Escondido Falls trailhead.

The state is also considering removing 37 roadside parking places at Zuma Beach, 118 parking places near Broad Beach, 432 places above Broad Beach, and hundreds more near popular state beaches along the northern end of Malibu.

But Caltrans officials said they did not know how many parking places in those areas would not be obliterated by the bike lane concept. And at the meeting, there was no information about how parks agencies like the Mountains Resource Conservation Authority, California State Parks or the California Coastal Commission might feel about that.

Bike lanes are classified into various “classes” or “levels” to indicate different features. Class I bikeways are bike paths completely separate from roadways. Class II bikeways are striped on roadways alongside the lanes where vehicles travel. Class III bikeways are streets where vehicles are asked to “share the road” with cyclists, using symbols nicknamed “sharrows” painted down the middle of traffic lanes. Class IV bikeways, also called protected bike lanes, are buffered from streets with curbs, bollards or parking lanes separating cyclists from vehicular traffic.

According to a Caltrans flier, the agency is proposing Class II bikeways.

Bicyclists at the Tuesday hearing were unable to get answers about buffer zones that they want between the proposed bike lanes and any parking places that might remain along PCH. Some bicyclists told Caltrans they not only want a buffer next to the parked cars, but a buffer next to the highway lanes itself.

Larry Abele, a member of the board of directors at Bike Ventura, said he wanted bike lanes to have buffers next to any parked cars, “but I would also like to see a buffer, but actually on the traffic side where the speed limit exceeds 35 miles an hour.”

Wait a minute, said Malibu Mayor Paul Grisanti. 

“People who want us to have Level IV bike lanes everywhere don’t seem to have any relationship to the reality of the roadway easement that we have. It’s distressing that people will criticize space on the basis of us not having an extra 50 feet of width so that we could have everything,” he said, “unless there is some plan to buy an extra 50 feet that I seem to have missed.”

Grisanti wanted to know from Caltrans if bike lanes on the side of PCH would mean that bicyclists would be required to ride in them, and not in the 50- or 55-mile-an-hour traffic.

Caltrans official Lupe Tamayo tried to answer. 

“It would be based on the vehicle code.  So whatever the vehicle code — whatever the California vehicle code states, then if it states that there is a dedicated bike lane and you are riding in the No. 2 two lane and you get cited, then … I don’t know what the rules might be for that,” Tamayo said.

That left Grisanti puzzled.  

“How can you design a road if you don’t know what the rules are?” he asked.

One bicyclist asked why Caltrans is talking about building bike lanes in western Malibu, when it is eastern Malibu that he said is most dangerous.

Tamayo said she would have to check with other Caltrans officials to answer that one.

Published in partnership with KBUU News.