Save the Hancock Street Bike Lane
Given the photo above, you might be asking, “Save what bike lane? All I see is another poorly-maintained San Diego street.” Well, the City is performing the “Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan Update” for this area, and this wide, auto-oriented stretch of Hancock Street is set to receive a Class II (unbuffered) bike lane as part of the proposed Hancock Transit Corridor:
Hancock Transit Corridor is envisioned as a multiple-use and mixed-use corridor connected to the Washington Street Trolley Station and the historic Mission Brewery, with a diverse mix of residential, office, and retail uses. Residential development, which can include workforce and affordable housing, will activate the area and take advantage of nearby access to trolley service.
Unfortunately, businesses on Hancock have asked the city to remove the planned bike lane, not because any parking will be removed, but in order to *increase* the existing on-street parking. They are proposing a “Hancock Street Safeway” composed of reverse angle parking on both sides of the street, and sharrows, a bike symbol symbolic of token safety gestures.
At this time, we understand the bike lanes have been removed from the Community Plan as it goes to a final City Council vote, as this Planning Department graphic shows
(Update, 06/05/2018 – City staff provided this correction: The City still supports the proposed Class II bike lane, but has been requested by the Smart Growth & Land Use Committee to do further research on whether it would be possible to accommodate both the Class II bike lane and the additional parking desired by the Hancock Street businesses. Planning staff is continuing to look into this with Transportation & Storm Water Department staff. But we still believe that the proposed Class II bike lane best implements the City’s Climate Action Plan goals and best meets the needs of bicyclists in the area.)
More on that below. If you don’t have time to read further, we’re asking you to please email this letter of support for the bike lane to your district council member. Hundreds of emails in opposition have already been sent to the City.
Some background: this segment of Hancock Street runs through a largely industrial zone wedged between two highways (I-5 and Pacific Highway) and two rail lines (the San Diego Trolley and Amtrak/Coaster). You can see the limited options for pedestrians and bicyclists to traverse this area, despite the nearby Washington Street trolley station (shown below) and Old Town Transit Center:
The Midway Pacific-Highway Community Plan Update is an update to the area’s zoning and development plans, and calls for rezoning this area from industrial to very high residential densities, mixed with commercial space:
The Loft2015 apartment building, shown below, is the first example of how this area will be transformed into a mixed-use residential neighborhood adjacent to transit. This means safely accommodating the pedestrians and bicyclists who will be living here, or using nearby transit, or just trying to get through this extremely bike-unfriendly area of San Diego. The Community Plan does propose a cycle track and multi-purpose urban trail along nearby Pacific Highway, but the city has consistently failed to build facilities that require anything more than paint – and the usual lack of funding certainly applies here. Building a cycle track along Pacific Highway would require redesigning high speed on- and off-ramps, and that’s extremely costly.
The community plan’s “Proposed Policies Related to Land Use”, also shown below, explicitly describes why bike lanes are planned for this segment of Hancock: to support connections from housing to nearby transit.
Further, to reduce congestion and parking demand, we need to support travel modes other than just driving.
The Hancock Street Business Association says their Hancock Street Safeway will result in a “safer” Hancock street, and several of the dozens of comments in the community plan preliminary EIR imply that the shared street will be safer for bicyclists than the planned dedicated bike lanes:
Except sharrows aren’t safer than dedicated bike lanes. In fact, the presence of sharrows has been shown to make streets more dangerous to bicyclists than no markings at all, since it provides a false sense of security with symbols largely ignored by drivers. During evening rush hour, Hancock becomes a dangerous alternate route to I-5 for aggressive drivers barreling down the street to the next on-ramp. Dodging speeding two-ton vehicles isn’t safer for bicyclists than riding in separated bike lanes. And while the street would be narrowed under their Safeway proposal (with cars), this would also occur with bike lanes.
The Hancock Street Business Association has made significant progress in removing the bike lanes from the Community Plan. Several HSBA representatives turned out to the April Midway Community Planning Board Meeting, and that board supported the businesses efforts to “explore opportunities to find more parking”. In response to this, City staff reached out to HSBA to discuss options for Traffic Demand Management. Business owners were not willing to consider methods widely used to optimize existing spaces, such as timed parking and/or meters.
Next, a large number of HSBA representatives appeared at an April 26th City Planning Commission meeting and lobbied for more city-subsidized parking. Commissioner James Whalen included a motion for removing the bike lane – after waxing on about his many years of partying at Hancock Street establishment Club Montage (now Spin) and explaining his new “healthier lifestyle”:
Apparently Whalen’s healthier lifestyle doesn’t include biking. The Planning Commission voted to support the HSBA’s request to remove the bike lanes from the Community Plan.
Most recently, the City’s Smart Growth and Land Use committee (Hancock Street is in committee member Lorie Zapf’s district) heard this issue. New BikeSD Executive Director Judi Tentor and board member Nicole Burgess attended the meeting and spoke in support of your riding safety. Partly as a result of these efforts, the Smart Growth and Land Use committee did not support the recommendation for degrading the planned bicycle facility.
Update, 06/05/2018 from City staff: The City still supports the proposed Class II bike lane, but has been requested by the Smart Growth & Land Use Committee to do further research on whether it would be possible to accommodate both the Class II bike lane and the additional parking desired by the Hancock Street businesses. Planning staff is continuing to look into this with Transportation & Storm Water Department staff. But we still believe that the proposed Class II bike lane best implements the City’s Climate Action Plan goals and best meets the needs of bicyclists in the area.
Can we talk about parking? Over the past decade, there have probably been at least a dozen cases in San Diego where preserving or adding street parking has neutered badly-needed bike infrastructure. The Hancock Street Business Association responsible for this most recent example is composed of Vertical Hold Climbing Gym, Culture Shock Dance Center, San Diego Circus Center, Cali-Coast Elite Gymnastics, Bikram Yoga College, and Murphy Construction. Vertical Hold has led the HSBA effort for the City to provide them with more free parking, so let’s compare the off-street parking they provide versus other climbing gyms in San Diego.
Here’s the Vertical Hold Climbing Gym parking lot, which they split with the Circus Center:
It appears to contain approximately one dozen parking spaces. This is the parking lot for Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness near the intersection of I-8 and SR-163:
I would estimate their parking to be at least ten times that of Vertical Hold, with well over 100 spaces. This is the parking lot for Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness in Sorrento Mesa:
This lot is at least 5 times as large as Vertical Hold’s, with well over 50 spaces.
If these other indoor climbing businesses in San Diego are paying for the parking required for their customers, why is the City of San Diego required to subsidize Vertical Hold with free parking, simply because they provide inadequate off-street parking? It’s unfair for bicyclists (many of whom also own vehicles and pay gax taxes) to risk their safety when they pay the same City general fund taxes as drivers that maintain our roads.
Further, the City is attempting to reduce vehicle miles travelled, increase bike and public transit use and improve bike/pedestrian safety. Removing bike lanes to add more free street parking runs counter to these goals. It also sets a terrible precedent for future Community Plan Updates. So we ask the City Council to please
restore retain the Hancock Street Class II bike lanes to in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan Update.