Cambria’s Slabtown Rollers are trying to rock boats in Sacramento to mitigate hazards created by a Caltrans’ contractor’s “chip-seal” paving job which left 3/8- to 1-inch sized rocks on Highway 1, including shoulder heavily used by bicyclists.
The group is insisting that Caltrans should repave the highway before June — not just for the Rollers’ own interests, but for the national and international cycling groups that arrive for excursions along picturesque Highway 1.
At a Slabtown Rollers business meeting last week, they discussed assertive tactics they have or plan to launch.
Their efforts date back at least to Dec. 7, when Rollers took county Supervisor Bruce Gibson on a tour of the bike path north of Cambria. “We just happened to have a bike in our truck, so Bruce rolled up his pant leg, got on the bike and rode 100 yards up and back and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never seen a road this bad,’” according to Rollers vice president Sharon Jordan-Evans.
On Dec. 24, the Rollers’ online petition went live (www.fixhwy1.com) and on Jan. 9 the group petitioned the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) and received unanimous support. A strongly worded letter was sent to Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty by SLOCOG, making him aware that $6.7 million in tourist revenue could be lost to North Coast communities if the appalling condition of the bike paths is not corrected.
Rick Pfannkuche, proprietor of the Redwood Café, has been hosting visiting motorcycle clubs for 14 years. The bikers always stop for breakfast — sometimes 50 or more at a time. If they decide to forego the road north of Cambria due to how rough it now is, that could cost Pfannkuche. “If the Harley Davidson and other biker groups don’t come, it could cost me five or six hundred dollars per group,” he estimated.
On Jan. 22, the Rollers hired Sacramento political consultant Tom Fulks (at $1,500 per month) to help work through the labyrinth of bureaucracies and to ultimately apply pressure on Caltrans.
“They have all the energy they need,” Fulks said Monday, Feb. 18. “They have a great cause. They just need to know how to do it. I am more like a tutor.
“Getting Caltrans to do something is like turning a battleship,” Fulks said. He is also working with state Senator William Monning and Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, enlisting them to use their political positions to convince Caltrans the job must be done by June 1.
Caltrans District 5 spokesperson Jim Shivers said Tuesday, Feb. 19, that “at this point, we don’t have anything new to report until such time as UC Davis has seen enough of the highway to make a strong and hopefully successful recommendation as to what we’ll do out there.
“We’re continuing to coordinate information with supervisor Gibson’s office, with the bicycle groups, and the North Coast Advisory group,” Shivers said. He added that there is “no timetable” for when UC Davis engineers will survey the road and make their assessment. “We want the recommendations to be done in an unhurried way,” he added.
In response to Shivers’ comments, Jordan-Evans state, “Absolutely we need a timetable. Members of the SLOCOG board referred to this as an economic emergency. For Caltrans to be somewhat lackadaisical about this is incredibly frustrating.
“Without a firm date for a fix, motorcycling clubs, custom car tours, bicycle groups, are not going to come unless the road is OK,” Jordan-Evans explained. She said any wanting more information on the Slabtown Rollers can call 927-1432.
Follow John FitzRandolph on Twitter at @johnfitz44.