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Ferry considered for cyclists

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

By the time 2005 rolls around, Lake Tahoe boaters could share the waters with more cyclists.

The California Department of Transportation, while exploring options in bicycle improvements and erosion control on state Highway 89 in the Emerald Bay area, is leaning toward the idea of supporting a bike ferry to transport the two-wheelers.

“We’re trying to bridge the gap between the Tahoe City bike trail and the South Shore,” said Mike Jones, a consultant with Alta Planning + Design. He was addressing the South Shore cycling community Wednesday night in the South Lake Tahoe City Council Chambers.



The firm, contracted to put together the bike study of the dangerous, steep terrain between Cascade Lake to Rubicon Bay, said he envisioned a nonprofit group to operate a pontoon-like ferry like the one that runs across Lake Champlain in Vermont. Another successful bike ferry takes people from San Diego proper to Coronado Island in the southern tip of California.

There was discussion of the Lake Tahoe bike ferry docking in Camp Richardson on the southern end and at Meeks Bay or Sugar Pine Point State Park on the northern side.



Jones compared the option to a bike shuttle operating around Emerald Bay, but bike capacity on the bus racks could fall short of demand.

“It think most people would prefer to be on the water,” Jones told the group.

Caltrans heard ideas and opinions from 16 cyclists and advocates as to how to negotiate the terrain and dangerous conditions of Emerald Bay.

Distance cyclists like Jackie Johnson, who stages the Death Ride for the Alta Alpina Cycling Club with the Alpine Chamber of Commerce, said club members ride around the lake every week in the early morning.

Like other serious cyclists, Johnson advocates any concession made to widening the shoulders — perhaps as narrow as 2 feet — around Emerald Bay.

Marked by hair-raising curves and heavy traffic alongside, the bike lane deteriorates down to six inches in some spots.

“It’s obvious for a lot of cyclists, (that) it is a barrier,” Jones said.

That’s why Caltrans is studying the gamut of options. These also include a Class 1 bike path like the one that meanders through Camp Richardson, a Class 2 bike lane or a combination of all of the above.

However, the steep terrain and limited room on the side of the road may prohibit these two ideas.

City Planner Lisa O’Daly mentioned that widening the road to 2 feet instead of Caltrans’ traditional 10 may help deter traffic from pulling over in the space.

Motorists have taken up the practice in the bike lanes on city roads.

Caltrans Planner Scott Forsythe said the agency is also considering taking away some of the width of the vehicle lane as a way to widen the bike shoulder.

There’s even an idea on the table to close the highway at Emerald Bay at certain hours.

Caltrans plans on running the issues and alternatives through an evaluation matrix to receive an objective feel of what can be done to make it easier for cyclists to get around Emerald Bay.

“Share the road” signs currently dot the highway to alert motorists of their two-wheel counterparts.

Hornblower Cruises, which operates under M.S. Dixie II operator Aramark Corporation, accommodates bicycles on the Meteor, the new high-speed boat that shuttles passengers between the Ski Run Marina and Tahoe City.


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