The University of California Pavement Research Center at UC Davis will help in the search for “effective and affordable ways to make cycling a smoother experience along a recently paved section of Highway 1 in northern San Luis Obispo County,” Caltrans said in a news release Tuesday.
“We’re looking for innovative solutions and are hopeful that this investigation will lead to both short- and long-term improvements,” said Tim Gubbins, director of Caltrans District 5. “Caltrans plans to work closely with the local cycling community and UC experts as we sort this out.”
Bicyclists say the recent resurfacing from Cambria to the Monterey County line has made the popular scenic route rough and unsafe. There have been numerous reports of the larger-than-usual rocks used in the 20-mile “chip sealing” job pelting cyclists and vehicles.
The cyclists also launched a petition drive online and in person. As of Tuesday morning, there were more than 850 signatures on the online petition. Most signers are Californians, but others are from Canada, Spain, Belgium, the United Kingdom and states across the U.S. Some comments were highly critical, calling the resurfacing a “big mistake,” a “travesty,” “unacceptable” and “a disgrace.”
Caltrans officials say the UC Davis researchers are developing a plan to examine conditions and offer recommendations to improve the road for cyclists and motorists. The investigation also will look at potential improvements to the Caltrans chip-seal program statewide.
In the meantime, Caltrans plans to repair some potholes and continue its stepped-up schedule of machine sweeping the resurfaced highway.
Despite the complaints, “this chip seal was a premium job, meaning we spent more money on this project to ensure the preservation of pavement for this important highway. It was not experimental as some are suggesting,” Caltrans spokes-man Jim Shivers maintained in an email.
“The current condition of the highway is better (especially for vehicles) following this chip-seal highway preservation project. With continued sweeping and some other endeavors we’ll announce soon, we will address the concerns of the cycling community.”
Shivers said internal meetings were held at Caltrans on Friday and Tuesday and an announcement of further steps would be made soon.
Sharon Evans, a Cambria cyclist who’d been working to get Caltrans to return the road to a more bicycle-friendly state, said she was pleased with the Caltrans announcement.
“That is the first hopeful communication we’ve heard, the first tiny shred of hope. That’s exciting,” Evans said. “That’s exactly what we hoped for, to partner with Caltrans and find a solution that works for everybody.”
She said she’d been confident the agency would make things right. “I knew they couldn’t let the highway stay the way it is. They’d have to find a solution.”
She and her husband, Mike Evans, plan to attend a North Coast Advisory Council meeting this evening, and she hopes other cyclists will be there, along with “more representatives of local businesses who are worried about the effects on tourism” from the condition of the highway.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Rabobank, 1070 Main St. in Cambria.
Mike Evans said the rough highway surface has put a crimp in their three-day-a-week bicycling routine.
“We need to keep the pressure on,” he said. “They can do research for a long time.”