Commentary: Walkable Del Mar

According to our Community Plan and state law, pedestrians have the right of way. Ha! The law is clear but the Community Plan is a little more nuanced—no sidewalks, no street lights, low speed limits, serpentine streets, all envision a pedestrian-oriented, semi-rural, neighbor-friendly, small town atmosphere. Drivers get many clues that these streets belong equally to locals who walk, talk, and catch up with neighbors there.  And a big thank you to the 80% of local drivers who do respect pedestrian rights to safe walking.


But then there are the 20 percenters who think walkers just get in their way. STOP signs are a nuisance. Speed limits are only suggestive. Most of the 20’s drive powerful cars that can get them from speed bump to speed bump to STOP signs, saving a few seconds each time and getting to their ultimate destination, maybe 47 seconds sooner. Glaring at walkers who have the audacity to saunter side by side, forcing these self important 20%’s to wait for oncoming vehicles. In recent years an increase in construction vehicle parking has further narrowed street  safe spaces for walkers.The latest addition to our hazardous streets are electric bike drivers, many of whom apparently think speed limits and STOP signs do not apply to them.


Local 20% drivers are only part of this car-centric dilemma. Drivers who use our town as a through- way threaten walkers with even more dangerous behavior. Thousands of cars use our town as a bypass from a jammed Interstate 5 highway. Most of them are in a hurry to get to their destinations with little regard for our pedestrian-oriented Community Plan (which by the way calls for one lane in each direction but there is not enough political courage to implement). STOP signs and traffic lights on Camino Del Mar are chronically abused. Frequent citizen complaints have convinced our City Council to try flashing lights on some of our STOP signs—we shall see.


What to do? More pedestrian safety signs may help a little but that means more visual pollution. Maybe once-a-month intensified enforcement with speeding and reckless driving tickets could signal drivers that we are serious. Maybe some citizen to citizen friendly reminders could help a bit.  We each can monitor our own driving behavior.. Let’s do what we can to protect this unique pedestrian character of our town.


Walkers of the world unite! Take back our streets!