Peaceful, Neighborhood Greenways or Efficient, Connected Cycletracks? North Park-Mid-City Wants It All!
by Tyler Bergin
Two Wednesdays ago SANDAG held the first Community Advisory Group meeting to address the North Park – Mid-City Regional Bike Corridor Project. In attendance at the City Heights Wellness Center were District 9 City Council Member Marti Emerald, multiple Active Transportation Planners from SANDAG, Community Advisory Group Members and members of the general public. Project Manager, Bridget Enderle, explained that the purpose of this first meeting was to reach out to the community in order to brainstorm, help identify opportunities and facilitate broad community involvement in the planning process.
According to Enderle, SANDAG is getting serious about providing more transportation options for San Diego residents. While existing bike infrastructure projects such as the San Diego River Trail and the Bayshore Bikeway are more recreation-oriented, the focus of the North Park Mid-City Project (as well as the Uptown Project) is to encourage more cycling for everyday trips to work, school, shopping, etc. Enderle identified the following preliminary draft project goals:
- Provide safe, efficient and attractive bicycling environment
- Improve access to destinations – schools, transit, commercial centers
- Enhance pedestrian experience
- Build on community planning efforts
- Support place-making and economic vitality
The SANDAG Project Team identified areas within Greater North Park – Mid-City that they think provide the biggest benefits and possibility of getting more people biking. A map was distributed with streets highlighted to indicate high traffic destinations and others highlighted to indicate proposed urban bikeways. Three preliminary corridors were presented as possible routes: Meade Ave Corridor, Howard/Orange Ave Corridor and Landis St Corridor. The audience was quick to note that all three are East/West routes and the presentation lacked any major North/South connectors.
Most everyone agreed that safety is one of the main issues in getting more people riding and that routes need to connect to key destinations. Beryl Forman, of the El Cajon Business Improvement District, suggested that the project “should be a balance between comfortable side streets and main streets”. Scott Kessler, Executive Director of the Adams Ave Business Association, agreed that we shouldn’t limit ourselves. “We need a comprehensive grid. People don’t want to ride a mile south to take a bike route.” BikeSD’s own Samantha Ollinger stated, “cyclists should not be treated as second class citizens. They should be given the same rights as other modes of transportation.” Other community members gave more specific input such as the use of alternate, direct routes like El Cajon Blvd rather than the meandering side streets found in the eastern portion of the proposed Orange/Howard Corridor. Further suggestions included the use of canyons and the creation of linear parks and roundabouts to promote traffic calming and livable streets for the entire community.
Council Member Emerald called on the community to “think big” and “think different”.
“We’ve had a change of administration and now have a very good working relationship. Why don’t we take streets that were designed a hundred years ago and realign them to today’s use? These are new times. Development going forward is higher density, transit-oriented developments. How do we make those neighborhoods as livable and as moveable as possible?”
Overall, the mood during the meeting seemed cautiously optimistic. Various attendees reminded the SANDAG Project Team of previous infrastructure projects that had reached the planning phase, only to be shelved prior to the construction phase. When asked about funding, Bridget Enderle assured the public that, “We are working on rough cost estimates and have funding for the planning phase. We’re looking to get construction dollars from the SANDAG board of directors. This is a project that actually will get implemented.”
While the SANDAG Project Team plans to have something built within the next three years, they have outlined the next steps toward implementation of the project. The next meeting to address existing conditions within the corridor is scheduled to take place this spring followed by two meetings/community workshops on alignment and design alternatives, and preferred design in the summer and fall.