Close Santa Cruz Highway 9 for cyclists only?

California State Route 9 is the main route for the small mountain communities that dot the San Lorenzo River valley in Santa Cruz County. This narrow, twisty two lane route also is a favorite for local road cyclists.

The Street Smarts Santa Cruz column in the Sentinel printed this proposal for Highway 9.

Road Closed

[Because] Highway 9 between Felton and Paradise Park [is] very narrow and twisty … and a safe bike lane is needed up lower San Lorenzo Valley. Has there been any consideration of making Highway 9 between Felton and Paradise Park a one-way road and officially moving vehicle traffic on Highway 9 for this area onto [other nearby roads]?

Then the bike path could be on one half of what is now Highway 9 between Felton and Paradise Park. At age 77, I’m not a bicyclist, but biking is great exercise and good for the environment.

Reader response to the proposal has mostly been dismissive, but compare against this proposal People Power Santa Cruz published in their newsletter in 2005.

Highway 9 was poorly designed to begin with. It is a curvy, narrow, and dangerous road, suffering from landslides on a regular basis and is expensive to maintain.

For these reasons, Cal-Trans would would be happy to close the middle section of Highway 9 to automobiles at Henry Cowell State Park, where there are no homes. This would provide a wonderful opportunity to create a few miles of bicycle / horse / pedestrian paths.

Though Cal-Trans realizes that closing this particular section of Highway 9 makes sense, there is perceived political support to keep it open…so they do. Year after year, Cal-Trans spends our tax dollars to keep this section of road open that should have been closed years ago.

The sensible alternative for motorists to get between Santa Cruz and communities like Felton and Boulder Creek is Graham Hill Road, which is much straighter and is not subject to frequent landslides.

Let’s persuade Cal-Trans to do the right thing for the environment, for recreation, for local businesses, and to save our tax dollars. If we draft a closure plan and demonstrate support for the plan, we can close Highway 9 to through automobile traffic. Imagine cruising along on your bike or strolling through the redwoods overlooking the San Lorenzo River, with no danger of being hit by a car and no automobile noise or fumes. Having such a recreational amenity would also benefit area residents
and businesses

In 2010, Caltrans indeed closed the portion of Highway 9 that passes through Henry Cowell State Park for four months in a $500,000 project to stabilize the road and prevent future washouts. My “road closed” photo above was shot during this project, and riding the lower San Lorenzo Valley on Highway 9 was like heaven on earth as long as you knew how to bypass the construction zone.

Paradise Park, incidentally, will be served by the new Pogonip Multiuse Trail scheduled for opening in March 2013. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk railroad right of way also serves as a popular, de facto bike path for many people who travel between Santa Cruz and Felton, California.

You can see the full Street Smarts response in the Sentinel.


  1. I am not clued in on the road conditions and the periodic hazards associated with that segment of Highway 9 because I have never traveled along it (bike or auto).

    I think the idea to close that Highway 9 segment to motorists, and only allow persons to travel along it by foot or using a non-motorized vehicle is a reasonable one. I would support if it questions as to who would pay for the maintenance of that segment of the highway was answered. Would the segment be dedicated to the State Parks as parkland or would Caltrans retain ownership of that segment and use taxpayer dollars to maintain this roadway segment, one that the People Power Santa Cruz has insinuated been historically afflicted by landslides?

    Food for thought.

  2. As Kristen said, the question about who will retain the responsibility of upkeep remains. If the land is prone to landslides, then it’s even more dangerous to people than to cars. Without regular upkeep from a government agency, then the road will quickly become unusable to anyone and the investments made in building it will have gone to waste.

  3. hwy 9 just collapsed south of Felton and it will be hugely expensive to replace and maintain.

    Great opportunity to revisit this

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