Speeding toward a safer Highway 1 experience 

San Mateo County plans to make a stretch of Highway 1 between Half Moon Bay and Devil’s Slide safer for bikers and pedestrians and less congested for drivers — a project that could eventually end up lowering the speed limit.

The two-lane highway has a number of popular crossing points for bicyclists and pedestrians, as at Surfer’s Beach in El Granada, but little or no shoulder. Cars tend to whiz along at high speeds even when passing through unincorporated communities, and traffic gets bad on sunny days, said assistant county manager David Holland. The situation has led to a number of accidents over the years.

Changes being considered include putting up signs that indicate where towns begin. Another fix would involve narrowing lanes and adding curbs, roundabouts or roadside shrubs that would induce drivers to slow down, said Joshua Meyer, community planning programs director for the Local Government Commission, a nonprofit hired by San Mateo County to design the road fixes.

While changing speed limits might seem like an easier way to protect pedestrians and bikers, the law makes that difficult, Meyer said.

“Basically, the rate at which 85 percent of drivers are driving is in general one of the main factors in setting what the speed will be. You can’t just suddenly change it,” said Meyer.

In other words, only if drivers slow down can the limit be changed. Meyer said the county hopes changes in road conditions could eventually allow the speed limit to be lowered to 40 mph or less.

Many of the members of the public, however, have said the solution lies in improvements to trails alongside the road rather than to the road itself.

“There is really a lot of talk about trying to create a continuous trail all the way from Half Moon Bay to Pacifica that would run parallel, but not actually on the highway,” Meyer said.

A report on road conditions and possible fixes is expected to be completed by September. Road alterations could begin a year or two after that and would be paid for by the California Department of Transportation, said Steve Monowitz, interim deputy director of the county’s planning and building department.


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Niko Kyriakou

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