Some in Arroyo Grande call it “the Paulding curve.” It’s a short section of East Branch Street that twists out of the downtown Village area toward Paulding Middle School.
It’s a narrow, heavily traveled route shared by pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, but lacks a sidewalk or signage to alert drivers to share the road.
From 2005 through 2011, there were seven collisions between drivers and cyclists in the area, four of which involved school-age children, according to Arroyo Grande police. There were no fatalities, but the exact nature of injuries was not immediately available.
“It’s dangerous,” Arroyo Grande resident Patty Welsh said of the curve. “Right now ... I get in my car to come down to the Village because I won’t walk out there.”
A project to widen the road and add signs identifying the route as one used by cyclists is the top priority in an updated bicycle and trails plan approved unanimously by the Arroyo Grande City Council last week.
The plan identifies bike and pedestrian routes through the city and proposes improvements to increase safety and convenience for cyclists and to create a better network of bike routes.
Having an updated plan also gives the city a chance to qualify for grants to fund the projects; no city funding is available at this time. The projects could total more than $2.5 million.
“We believe it does a variety of good things, including encouraging active transportation and recreation in your community,” said Mike Boswell, a member of the San Luis Obispo County Bicycle Coalition’s board of directors, to Arroyo Grande council members July 10.
At a public workshop in Arroyo Grande earlier this year, several people told a city consultant that poor road conditions prevent them from bicycling more.
They suggested Arroyo Grande create better connections between parks, schools and neighborhoods; better bike lanes on Oak Park Boulevard; and improved connections between the east and west sides of the city.
Some of the areas included in the plan are heavily used by recreational cyclists, while others could be more conducive to cross-town commuters or school children.
A total of 10 projects were proposed in the plan, but one — a costly suggestion to build a pedestrian bridge over Highway 101 — likely won’t happen. Instead, council members asked the idea be replaced with a proposal to work with Grover Beach and Pismo Beach to improve Oak Park Boulevard and provide bike lanes in both directions.
The bike plan proposes a variety of improvements, from installing “bike route” signs to striping roadways to create dedicated bike lanes on city streets including parts of Fair Oaks Avenue, West Branch Street and Tally Ho Road. A roundabout is also proposed for the intersection of East Branch Street, Huasna and Corbett Canyon roads.
Oceano Elementary teacher Jim DeCecco frequently takes members of a school “bike posse” for rides to Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Shop in the Village. To get there, students ride down Fair Oaks Avenue past Arroyo Grande High — a busy route without a shoulder on the south side.
“In most cases it is illegal to ride on the sidewalks yet there’s no safe place to squeeze novice boys and girls to go down Fair Oaks Avenue, so we ride on the sidewalk,” DeCecco said.
The plan proposes to install some “share the road” signs and study whether additional land can be acquired on the north side of the road to widen it and add bike lanes.
The Village is also a popular hangout and thoroughfare for cyclists.
Currently, East Branch Street is a narrow route without any markings indentifying it as a bike route. The city said it hopes at some point to add markings on the road and signs to make drivers more aware of cyclists.
Over the past year, the city has made improvements to parts of Elm Street, Fair Oaks Avenue and El Camino Real to provide a restricted bike lane on the roadway, and to build a separate bicycle path on Castillo Del Mar east of Valley Road to Orchard Road.
Project funds came from federal transportation grants and a state grant through the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Plans would close gaps in county paths
Arroyo Grande’s bicycle plan covers the city’s streets, but efforts are under way to close some gaps in San Luis Obispo County’s current network of bicycling and pedestrian paths.
The San Luis Obispo County Bicycle Coalition is advocating for the completion of paths, including the Bob Jones Trail, connecting San Luis Obispo to Avila Beach; the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail, connecting San Miguel to Santa Margarita and Pismo Beach to San Luis Obispo; and the North Coast path, connecting Cayucos to Morro Bay.
Recently, one San Luis Obispo resident has taken some bold steps in an effort to get county officials moving on the De Anza trail.
Eric Meyer, a member of the bicycle coalition, noticed when a few properties came up for sale in Edna Valley along the route. He has since purchased one property and is in escrow on another two parcels, and said he hopes the county will now buy the land.
In April, the county parks commission recommended the Board of Supervisors use the parks department’s public facility fee fund or other funds to buy the three properties for about $445,000. Supervisors will consider the recommendation Aug. 21.
“It’s a very unusual offer,” Deputy Parks Director Curtis Black said. However, supervisors will have to weigh the request against other recommended uses for park facility funds.
“There are a lot of competing projects,” he said.