Last Monday, the update to the 2002 Bicycle Master Plan passed with unanimous support from the City Council. This plan to build an additional 595 miles of bicycle facilities nearly doubles the city’s existing 510 miles* of facilities and further demonstrated our council’s growing commitment to bicycling.
During public comment, two of our proposed requests were included in the motion made by Council Member (and current mayoral candidate) David Alvarez and amended by Council Member Sherri Lightner. Our request to create a Bicycle Advisory Committee to ensure the implementation of the plan was also supported by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition (SDCBC). Our request to remove the Coastal Rail Trail alignments from Rose and Roselle Canyons was not supported by the SDCBC but was supported by the community that this alignment affected: the Friends of Rose Canyon, the University Community Planning Group and Council Member Lightner whose district includes University City. Council Member Lightner spoke to not only preserving the city’s limited remaining open space but to also saving the city the huge financial and environmental expenses of building in Rose and Roselle Canyons – an amendment that was accepted by Alvarez and the rest of the council.
Melissa Garcia, Senior Planner at the City of San Diego, presented the item for council consideration by stating that the goal of the plan was to “create a city where bicycling is a choice.” The goal to promote “environmental quality, public health and recreation and mobility benefits” were also mentioned. The purpose of the plan, Garcia stated, was to “maximize spending choices for implementation.”
The original Bicycle Master Plan was adopted by the City Council over a decade ago in 2002. The update to the 2002 Bicycle Master Plan was prepared by Alta Planning + Design for the City of San Diego and begins with this promising statement in its introduction:
“…the updated plan provides direction for expanding the existing bikeway network, connecting gaps, addressing constrained areas, improving intersections, providing for greater local and regional connectivity, and encouraging more residents to bicycle more often.”
Since 2002, most of the facilities built have been incredible and award-winning (such as the bike path around Lake Murray and Miramar Reservoir), but not effective in meeting the needs of everyday San Diegans by connecting neighborhoods to ensure daily riding in a way that is safe and comfortable. In the two years since the plan was updated, the plan went through respectable community feedback and input. Is the plan the best that it can be for current and future riders? The plan is incredibly promising and it should give everyone cause to celebrate. But a good plan alone will not transform our city. The important lesson from the last Monday’s vote is that the political will is unanimous and the way forward is to ensure that this plan actually gets implemented with the efforts of a Bicycle Advisory Committee.
What will this committee do and who will it be composed of? That depends on what the City Attorney proposes to the City Council, but we’d like to have council staff, city staff, advocates and community members (including high school and college students) be active representatives. This committee will ensure that facilities get built and that the group doesn’t become yet another layer of bureaucracy inhibiting the implementation of the bicycle plan. We’d like to see all facilities implemented with complete transparency.
In this year alone, our council members have demonstrated incredible leadership. Interim Mayor Todd Gloria was the first to lead on the issue. Gloria has been very receptive to feedback, ideas, and has demonstrated a willingness to lead in a way that has not been seen before in San Diego. Council member and Land Use and Housing Chair Lorie Zapf’s Council Resolution has provided us with much needed leverage to ensure accountability from the city staff in implementing bicycle infrastructure in the city. We have also learned how to listen to communities (such as the Friends of Rose Canyon) that seek us out and explain their concerns. Our success in transforming this city into a world-class city for bicycling depends on meeting the needs of our current ridership and being open and receptive to the feedback we receive from potential riders.
The next steps are not only to create the Bicycle Advisory Committee, but also to ensure that the plan is implemented. How will that happen? That will be the work for BikeSD’s second year. Thank you for joining us on the ride.
Uptown Planners is the community group that represents the neighborhoods of Bankers Hill, Hillcrest, Mission Hills and University Heights. They serve in an advisory capacity to the city of San Diego on all land use issues and development projects.
In the 1960s and 70s, the city of San Diego adopted policies to establish community planning groups. Their role was to:
provide citizens with an opportunity for involvement in advising the City Council, the Planning Commission, and other decision-makers on development projects, general or community plan amendments, rezonings and public facilities. The recommendations of the planning groups are integral components of the planning process, and are highly regarded by the City Council and by staff.
As we mentioned earlier this year with regard to why involvement at the community group level was important.
If you are interested in how land use decisions (including decisions involving when and where bicycle infrastructure gets implemented) are made in your individual community and you want to participate in the process of influencing these decisions, i.e. you care about where you are going, then you need to know the way to get there.
As an advocacy organization we understand the importance of civic engagement especially as it relates to the implementation of our own mission. On Tuesday, the Uptown Planners decided to disregard the needs of their own community.
On Tuesday, the Uptown Planners had two main items on their agenda of relevance to bicycling:
1. The SANDAG Uptown Early Action Project
2. The city’s first road diet to be implemented later this year on 4th and 5th Avenue from Laurel to Elm Street.
The meeting room last Tuesday at the Joyce Beers Center was packed (it was standing room only) and most attendees were supporters for both of the above mentioned items on the agenda. Attendees were residents, business representatives and visitors who either regularly visit the Uptown neighborhood or travel through the neighborhoods that are under the purview of the Uptown Planners.
For over a year, SANDAG has been engaging the Uptown community to implement the Uptown Project – one of the projects that is part of SANDAG’s Early Action Plan. This is part of the regional planning agency’s effort to counter the legal challenges they are dealing with in implementing their very car-centric and highway happy 2050 Regional Transportation Plan. For nearly a year, SANDAG representatives have invited and engaged with all groups and constituents that would be affected by and benefit from the Uptown Project. To our knowledge, the Uptown Planners’ representatives didn’t engage in a meaningful way to affect or contribute toward the process.
One message that this process revealed was a deep hunger for a safer, saner and more inviting and humane street network to ride a bicycle on.
On Tuesday evening SANDAG’s Beth Robrahn presented the results of the community engagement and analysis done to date. Despite testimonies from the assembled participants that went on for over an hour with the majority supporting SANDAG’s project which included business representatives, Uptown residents and non-Uptown residents who regularly travel through and stop in Uptown, the Uptown Planners decided to vote on creating a subcommittee to study the project instead of being the representative group they’ve been charged with being. Rather than listening to the community and participating in the process that has been underway since late last year, Uptown Planners chose to ignore the process and their community’s needs.
Nationally, the trends show that 18-39 years olds are ditching driving and and instead opting to use other modes of travel such as bicycling, walking or taking transit. According to the Census Bureau, over 50% of Uptown’s residents are under 40 years of age.
This trend of wanting choices is reflected in San Diego where in the last six years, San Diegan’s hunger for options has been revealed in the extraordinary growth of low car households.
National trends, local realities or even the community voices were irrelevant to the Uptown Planners because they voted to not support or endorse the SANDAG Uptown Bike Corridor Project. Uptown Planners chose to ignore the community they were tasked with representing.
The second item was presented by city staff for the Uptown Planners’ informational purposes and the issue was not open for a vote by the board. The good news is that by the end of the year, 4th and 5th Avenue will be leaner and less terrifying to ride on. Buffered bike lanes (buffered with paint) will be implemented on 4th and 5th Avenue from Elm to Laurel Streets.
When the Uptown Planners meeting minutes are posted, we will update this post and post the names of the individuals who voted to support studying the project instead of supporting it. We will also post our thoughts on the next steps that we need to take. But for now, if you live in the Uptown neighborhoods (Bankers Hill, Hillcrest, Mission Hills and University Heights.)- email your Council representative and interim mayor, Todd Gloria [email@example.com], to express your dissatisfaction with the Uptown Planners unwillingness to listen to their own community.
As Walt Chambers likes to say, San Diego’s future is being tried out in Uptown first.
Two big projects will be voted on by the Uptown Planners tonight: the SANDAG Uptown alignments, and the city’s first road diet which is being proposed for 4th and 5th Avenue (pdf link to agenda).
Since the city council voted to unanimously approve the bike share program, city staff at the transportation department have started to work to implement bike routes to key destinations in the urban core communities that bike share users would want to reach: such as Balboa Park, the Embarcadero, the new Central library and the downtown ballpark. Rather than becoming a bike friendly city first before starting a bike share program, San Diego has decided to innovate by implementing its bike friendliness in a more counter-intuitive way.
This evening city staff will be presenting plans to put 4th and 5th Avenue between Laurel and Elm Street on a diet. The city plans on removing on vehicle travel lane and replacing it with a buffered bike lane. These two streets are prime for the city’s first road diet given their overbuilt capacity of three lanes.
Being a new concept in San Diego, many might be understandably upset. Losing anything is an unpleasant feeling. However the Uptown Community Plan last updated in 1988 had the following goals (among others):
• Give highest priority to improving local traffic circulation and enhancing the pedestrian environment
• Route through traffic onto freeways and onto major arterials such as Washington Street.
• Redesign specific access ramps to and from State Route 163 to reduce congestion and traffic hazards.
• Facilitate the use of alternative modes of transportation.
When it came to bicycle facilities the plan called for developing “comprehensive bikeway system which would not only provide a safe connection between neighborhoods, schools and commercial areas, but which would connect with bikeways in neighboring communities and Centre City.”
25 years after the Uptown Plan was adopted, it is safe to say that outside of some sharrow markings on University Avenue and 6th Avenue, the city has done next to nothing to facilitate safe bicycle travel in the Uptown neighborhood. So putting Uptown’s streets on a diet is a welcome change. Hope to see you tonight.
This week is a big week to decide on the preferred corridors for the Uptown Bike Corridor project. See our calendar for details and keep reading.
Last month, San Diegans crowded into the Santa Fe Room at Balboa Park Club to speak up in favor of dedicated bike facilities along key east/west and north south corridors.
If you followed our live updates on twitter, you have learned the results of the meeting, but in light of a big week with regards to the Uptown Bike Corridor – we thought it would be worthwhile to recap the meeting’s results here as we head toward picking the preferred design prior to construction.
At the start of the meeting SANDAG staff reiterated the goals of the Uptown Bike Corridor Project:
Project goals: Increase choices and connect communities. Improve safety for everyone. Build & support community initiatives. Economic Dev.
— BikeSD (@BikeSD) June 13, 2013
This included incorporating some of the best design ideas
During the course of the meeting, the attendees were split into groups to discuss route preferences which included the north/south corridors:
Bachman, 3rd, 4th, and 5th studied to be major North / South routes with combination of dedicated cycle tracks & bike boulevards. — BikeSD (@BikeSD) June 13, 2013
When discussion was centered around the east/west corridor, University Avenue got most of the support:
Discussion breakout groups come back reporting majority support for University Ave as major bikeway in Uptown. #uptownbikes
— BikeSD (@BikeSD) June 13, 2013
Now we head into another big week for the Uptown Bike Corridor Project. This week we will learn what the preferred design is and whether SANDAG heard all of your support for cycle tracks on the east/west corridor that is University Avenue given that the choices to travel east/west are limited in comparison with the north/south options.
Thanks to Walt Chambers from Great Streets San Diego for alerting us to the important meetings that are happening this week:
Change of any sort is always met with resistance. That will be true for the Uptown Bike Facilities. GSSD believes that Uptown deserves the safest, best, and most beautiful bicycle facilities possible. Do it right … or go home.
Cycletrack in Indianapolis, Indiana
If you agree, get out and show your support this week. Show SANDAG and Uptown that you want safe bike lanes to the places you want to go.
Monday July 8th – Uptown Parking District Board Meeting
5:00 PM – Joyce Beers Community Center
SANDAG’s Beth Robrahn will be presenting the Uptown Bike Plan to the Uptown Parking District Board. This board will be mostly concerned about the effect that new bike facilities will have on parking spaces. There is sure to be some discussion about removal of parking spaces.
Tuesday July 9th – Hillcrest Town Council
6:30 – Joyce Beers Community Center
SANDAG’s Beth Robrahn will be presenting to the Hillcrest Town Council. Please come out and give your support to Beth. Hillcrest deserves the best!
Wednesday July 10th – SANDAG Open House – Uptown Bike Plan
5:00 – 8:00 – Balboa Park Club
Come voice your support and give your input. Uptown deserves the best, safest, and most beautiful bike facilities in San Diego!
ALSO – Write Uptown’s City Council Member, Todd Gloria. firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s flood his office with letters of support for the best and safest bike facilities in Uptown.
There was definitely some (metaphorical and real) tears being shed at last month’s meeting over the possible loss of auto parking in the Uptown neighborhoods if this project was constructed well with high quality and world-class bicycle infrastructure. The parking enthusiasts seemed to not have read our own city’s general plan which acknowledges that auto parking isn’t without societal cost as was recently highlighted by Voice of San Diego’s Andrew Keatts:
“The real cost of parking is paid by all of us through higher rents, lower salaries, higher costs of goods and services, or taxes — regardless of how many cars we own or drive.”
San Diego has been built to solely accommodate automobile traffic to the exclusion of all other modes of travel. This project is providing us with an opportunity to build our way out of our current auto-centric eyesore.
Meanwhile SANDAG staff was quick to point out the “high” cost of implementing cycle tracks in the Uptown neighborhoods. Highlighting the cost of implementing cycle tracks in our older, historically neglected communities without mentioning the costs of projects constructed to accommodate other modes of travel is an omission. Highways, for example, cost far more and come with much worse societal cost – hardly something worth crowing over.
We hope you can make it out to the meetings highlighted by Walt above. If not, email Uptown’s Council representative, Todd Gloria at email@example.com to get your support in writing for separated (from vehicle traffic) world-class bicycle infrastructure.
BikeSD board member Bruce Shank recently sent an email to city staff and District 3’s Todd Gloria describing an incident on Adams Avenue. The email and the response from the Gloria’s office are below.
Subject: Bicycle Conflicts on Adams Ave
Date: 06/10/2013 11:56
From: Bruce Shank
To: Todd Gloria, Tom Landre, Ed Clancy
Cc: Sam Ollinger
Sunday afternoon while I and BikeSD Executive Director, Sam Ollinger, were riding our bicycles on Adams Ave we were nearly forced off the road by a MTS bus. The bus sped up, straddled the center turn lane to pass us, and then immediately cut us off pulling back to the right into a bus stop. His actions forced us to brake and swerve right to avoid a collision becoming pinched between the bus and parked cars. I filed a complaint online via the MTS website.
We are not inexperienced or reckless bicycle riders. We were on an enjoyable Sunday afternoon ride from the Hillcrest Farmers Market to Broke Girls Coffee. Adams Ave is marked with sharrows which are supposed to direct vehicles to share the lane with bicycles. The driver should not have attempted to pass us if he was going to immediately pull into the bus stop. How should we expect regular everyday drivers to heed the meaning of sharrows if our own city buses are so blasé to the road markings?
The sharrows are poorly positioned on Adams Ave compared to where they are placed on Park Blvd, 30th, 6th, and other streets. The sharrows on Adams Ave are placed to the far right in the “door zone” of parked cars. A place on the road that is not safe for bicycles to be riding. Under the current configuration – without a protected or dedicated green lane – the sharrows at a minimum need to be repositioned to a prominent place in the middle of the travel lanes.
At BikeSD we strive for separated protected facilities that are extremely popular with the Dutch and an ever growing list of U.S. cities. They are proven to be safer and thus get more people and families on bicycles as they no longer have to fear the types of interactions from traffic like we experienced. If we are going to use sharrows as an intermediary solution to better dedicated bikeways they should be placed more prudently.
The city should also look into a Public Service Announcement campaign for sharrows and the rights that bicycle riders have to our streets in the absence of dedicated bicycle infrastructure. For idea starters I have attached several pictures; The San Diego MTS bus that nearly ran us off the road, a LA Metro bus for comparison, conceptual designs for dedicated bikeways, and in place dedicated bikeways that de-conflict bus stops.
Your efforts and work do not go unappreciated but we still have a long way to go to become a world class bike friendly city. The safety of vulnerable road users is high on all of our lists. We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to working with you all as we continue to move forward.
Subject: RE: Bicycle Conflicts on Adams Ave
Date: 06/10/2013 17:40
From: Adrian Granda
To: Bruce Shank
Cc: Todd Gloria
Dear Mr. Shank,
Thank you for approaching our office with your concern. We are constantly trying to improve the bike program and cyclist safety so that pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles all feel safe throughout the City. I have forwarded your correspondence to my contacts at MTS to make sure MTS gets this report about the driver. We always seriously consider Bike SD’s input and we support green lanes and proper outreach so that San Diegans are aware of their purpose and function. The Council President is working hard both through SANDAG’s Bike Plan and the City’s Bike Master Plan to provide those biking in our cities with more options by implementing bike paths and corridors on more streets, in addition to enhancing the current bike lanes by making them more visible and wider when appropriate.
Thank you again for you input.