CCA students support the creation of a new bike path to provide a safe route to school

The Citizens’ Humanities Conservatory at Canyon Crest Academy continues to work to install a new bike lane on Village Center Loop Road to improve safety and mobility in the Pacific Highlands Ranch area. At last month’s Carmel Valley Community Planning Board meeting, CCA students Derya Muezzinoglu, Willa Norville, James Nguyen and Solana Herold shared their latest plans and research with the board.

This isn’t the first time CCA liberal arts students have lobbied to improve civics standards and community safety. In 2016, they successfully lobbied for a protected pedestrian crossing at the heavily trafficked main entrance to CSW and the entrance to the Village Shopping Center across the street. It was a four-year advocacy project.

Currently, there are no bike lanes on Village Center Loop Road, which is used by hundreds of students every day in addition to local commuters on bikes. The students’ proposal would add a bike path there and on one of the main routes to the school at Carmel Valley Road and Edgewood Bend Court.

On these streets, cars often enter the existing buffered bike lane. The group said many young cyclists are too afraid to walk down the street and share it with cars, instead riding on the sidewalk, which poses a risk to pedestrians, especially e-bikes. Students risk being fined because, by law, electronic devices are not allowed on the sidewalk.

“Having a bike lane will allow them to travel safely,” James said.

As part of their research, the students recorded the most frequently used bike paths before and after school, conducted a community survey over the past year, and interviewed a student who was hit by a car while riding his bike.

Pacific Trails Middle School averages 300 cyclists per day, while CCA averages 123 cyclists per day.

The survey found that of 373 responses from students, parents and community members, 93% supported building bike lanes.

“Drivers really drive fast there and if funds are not allocated to traffic regulation and if there is no bicycle path, we will leave these children completely unprotected,” one of the parents’ comments in the survey can be read. Another parent said they stopped letting their children bike to school because it was too dangerous.

“The apartments across the street were mostly in the no category because they like their parking spaces,” Willa said.

Almost every spot on the Village Loop is used by local residents to park their cars overnight. The proposed plan would deprive residents of parking spaces for their cars.

The city’s transportation department has confirmed that the road meets the requirements for Class II bike lanes under the City of San Diego’s Bicycle Master Plan — obtaining city approval to build the bike lane and remove the parking lot would require a planning commission application.

Students attending a planning board meeting at the Carmel Valley Library.

(Karen Billing)

The students are demanding the creation of a class II bicycle path instead of a class I bicycle path, which would occupy the entire section of the road.

“We already have a sidewalk and the road is so busy that it would be impractical for Class 1, even though it would be the safest solution,” Derya said.

Students also have an alternative plan in which a protected lane would run next to the CCA student parking lot on Edgewood Bend Court and along a paved path behind both schools. It could then connect to the park and the new library. Students acknowledged that this plan is more useful to the PTMS and CCA student governments than to the general public – it also disproportionately benefits passengers traveling from Carmel Valley Road compared to Del Mar Heights Road.

Looking ahead, students noted that CCA expects more first-year students next year and that tenant Nuerocrine expects to employ 11,000 workers at the newly completed Aperture Del Mar office complex on Carmel Valley Road, which will attract more commuters.

“Thank you for recognizing that there is a serious problem and not only considering it, but advocating for it,” said Michelle Strauss, chairwoman of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board.

Strauss and fellow board member Adam Fox have been dealing with the issue for at least a year. Strauss has children with CCA and PTMS who, until recently, rode their bikes to school for safety reasons: “Personally, we are involved and concerned about the situation, and we see it every day.”

Strauss said she plans to table the issue at a future meeting to possibly amend the community plan for the transportation department to study available options. He understands that this is a complicated issue – although they heard support from CSW students, they also heard from residents with different opinions.

“We are interested in developing a solution that has a real chance of being implemented, rather than just lying around collecting dust,” Strauss said.

Although all of the CCA students who performed that night are seniors and will move on, CCA humanities teacher Tim Stiven promised that the school will remain committed: “We’re in this for the long haul.”