January 10, 2013
Cyclists face a lot of nemeses on the road, from rumble strips to distracted drivers. Another one is bad chip seal. As a periodic driver (and friend of quite a few road engineers), I know the value of this aggregate material and process for covering and preserving roadways -- but only when it's done right. And in California, we have a classic example of when it's done wrong. On a beautiful and important 25+ mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway(PCH), between Cambria and Ragged Point in San Luis Obispo County, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) resurfaced the roadway with big, chunky aggregate (including 3/8" to 1/2" pieces). This causes lots of problems for cyclists; it creates an unstable surface (especially for skinny-tire bikes), masks potholes and other hazards, and results in big piles of the aggregate taking over the shoulder, which forces cyclists into the travel lane. Already, one cyclist has been taken down by this poorly done chip seal, and has suffered a broken hip.
As someone who has ridden the entire Pacific Coast route with my family, and who knows how important the PCH is to locals and to riders worldwide (including as part of Adventure Cycling's most popular route, the Pacific Coast), I am disappointed by Caltrans' erroneous decision to use the larger aggregate. Caltrans can act today to fix this by re-doing the chip seal with smaller aggregate that is cycling-friendly. Along with our California friends, Adventure Cycling has protested to Caltrans, and you can too, through this petition. Even if you don't live in California, it's worth letting Caltrans know how important this route is to cyclists everywhere. Sign the petition today -- and thanks for your interest and help.
Photos: Imagine trying to ride your road bike on this huge chip seal aggregate! Photos by Mike Evans.