Dozens of bicyclists converged on a county transportation meeting Wednesday morning to ask for help in fixing a North Coast highway that has been rendered all but unusable to cyclists.
Wearing bicyclists’ familiar yellow jackets and black pants, they told the members of the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments — SLOCOG — that recent paving on Highway 1 from north of Cambria to the Monterey County line has created problems for riders and motorists alike.
Caltrans “made a horrible mistake” when it paved the road, said Robert Davis, president of the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club. He said the road is “a rocky, oily, bumpy mess.”
Cyclists have been complaining about this for months and have gathered some attention from smaller agencies. But the Wednesday meeting takes their complaint to a larger stage.
SLOCOG, a regional transit agency, has no jurisdiction over the road. But its members — county supervisors and mayors — represent the residents of all the county’s citizens.
They made it clear to Caltrans representative Larry Newland that they expect the state agency to fix the problem.
Newland made no promises, other than to say that Caltrans would look immediately into filling two potholes on the 25-mile stretch and delve into the larger problem at the state level.“We’re going to address it,” he said. He did not elaborate.
“We don’t have time to go into a lengthy treatise on pavement technology,” he said.
The problem, as the bicyclists and SLOCOG officials outlined it, is the size of the “aggregate” or crushed rocks used in the chip seal repaving.
The aggregate used for this job, completed last year, is twice the size of the rock used before — three-eighths to half-inch diameter compared to one-eighth to quarter-inch diameter.
The larger aggregate is less expensive.
Whatever the size of the rocks, the theory is that automobiles driving on the road will cause the aggregate to tamp down over time.
However, because it has been spread into the bike lanes, the aggregate has rendered those lanes virtually unusable, bicyclists said.
It also has damaged motor vehicles, pinging windshields and hurting paint jobs, they said.
Protesters and board members also raised a larger issue — the effect of the rough road on the tourist economy.
Highway 1 is a big part of the economy in general and North Coast communities in particular, said Art Chapman of Cambria.
Supervisor and board member Bruce Gibson said the county has a thriving bicycle tourism industry. He represents the North Coast on the Board of Supervisors and has been meeting with Caltrans officials.
Others echoed that theme — local bicycle shops, motels, restaurants and other businesses will suffer as the word gets out to bicyclists around the state and country to stay away from this stretch of road, they said.
“The word is spreading,” said bicyclist Jim Murray of Los Osos. “Riders are avoiding this right now.” He said the county can’t wait two or three years for the aggregate to settle.
Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara said it might not settle even then. He said a section of James Way was similarly paved years ago and still has rough patches.
Board members also asked whether the larger aggregate is being used elsewhere in the county. But Newland said he didn’t know.