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City Council Unanimously Passes Resolution Prioritizing Bicycle Infrastructure Improvements in the City of San Diego to Enhance Public Safety

By now you may have heard the news from last Tueday about the unanimous City Council vote on the Resolution prioritizing bicycle infrastructure improvements to enhance public safety that got some excellent coverage on Fox 5. The Fox 5 coverage included an accurate visual depiction of how our riders have to play a dangerous game of frogger in order to navigate the various freeway ramps that litter our city.

First, a thank you. We want to thank Councilmember Lorie Zapf for rising up and pushing the issue. We reached out to her after David Ortiz died in her District last year. We encourage you to contact Councilmember Zapf and the other Councilmembers (Alvarez, Gloria, Kersey, Lightner, Sherman), who voted on this resolution to thank them as well. Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer and Marti Emerald were not present last Tuesday.

After our first meeting with Councilmember Zapf's staff, we presented the case on why the I-805 and I-5 ramps on Balboa Avenue (and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard) needed to be redesigned. Councilmember Zapf, as chair of the Land Use & Housing Subcommittee agreed to prepare a resolution addressing our concerns. The original draft (.doc) that was sent to the City Attorney for review contained this paragraph which was then removed prior to being voted upon at the Land Use & Housing subcommittee and then later at the full City Council meeting.

WHEREAS, our San Diego community has experienced too many instances of bicycle related collisions in the public right-of-way.  In high risk conflict areas for cyclists, such as the heavily traveled I-805 and I-5 freeway interchanges, the City should utilize all methods for increased safety such as shared lane markings known as “sharrows” on narrow roadways without bike lanes, innovative pavement markings such as bright color bike lanes for better visibility by motorists, and to maintain pavement surfaces to acceptable conditions, AND

Without this specificity included, we felt that the resolution didn't really have anything tying the resolution to actual change or project implementation. Our main concern that we raised in January was the deadly design of the freeway on/off ramps along Balboa Avenue and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard - language that was struck out by the City Attorney's office. The resolution that was voted upon last Tuesday did have some good language which indicated that Councilmember Zapf and her staff was paying attention to what we write about here especially as part of our "Foto Friday" series, but the resolution by and large missed the point we were trying to raise about the freeway ramps.

However, we do realize that we are fortunate to have a very supportive and encouraging City Council championing our mission to create a livable San Diego while supporting our goals to implement world-class bicycle infrastructure in order to make our vision a reality. While elected officials elsewhere make asinine statements about bicycling and then backpedal when cornered, we're lucky to have elected representatives who apparently were just waiting to be asked to support our mission.

While the resolution was being discussed, Councilmember Alvarez pointed out out that a Capital Improvement Programs with up to $40 million in funding could be applied to some bicycle projects around the city. He asked that Ed Clancy, the City's new Programs Manager for Bicycle Initiatives to get some projects implemented quickly. Clancy stated that he'd been meeting with us and other transportation and built environment advocacy groups on this issue in order to do just that. Councilmember Alvarez also restated his desire to see some national experts come down to San Diego and see through some actual projects built. The archived transcript and video of last Tuesday's Council session is available at the City of San Diego's website for your perusal.

Council President Todd Gloria ended the discussion item by stating the following offering some perspective (edited from the transcript for readability):

The last time you came, we asked for you to keep coming back.  This is how you will make forward progress. I want to thank you Ms. Zapf for her leadership on this issue. The fact that city council is discussing this is change. When I first got on the Council over four years ago, there weren't too many members on the council talking about biking. Ms. Zapf I appreciate your interest in this issue. With regard to the concerns about whether or not we are making forward progress, I think I may see a bit of perspective. I recognize the frustration.

This isn't about a nice weekend jaunt for most of you. This is your means of commuting and your means of commuting is not safe. I understand exactly where the comments are coming from. That said, in my first term, there were no sharrows in the city of San Diego. We got over that hoop and now there are hundreds across the city. We had no bike corrals almost a  year ago and now we have four. They're all in my district. You need a couple in yours. They are worth getting. We have a bike sharing program that's on deck and we'll start, I believe, this summer. The mayor has championed Ciclovia or CicloSDias as he likes to call it. And I believe that's on deck for later this year. Additionally, probably most importantly, is that we are having the conversation and moving forward with a number of regional bike projects. Two, particularly in my district. One of the uptown area and the other in the north park city area. And as Ms. Zapf mentioned, that's going to be difficult stuff but I'm there with you. I'm willing to consider road diets. I'm willing to eliminate parking to make space for bikes. We're willing to do that difficult work but you can't just be on twitter, you can't just be on facebook and you can't just yell at people who are supportive of you. You need to be at those community meetings advocating for bikes. Because I promise you the other side will be there as well.

So let's keep the focus on where we're at. A lot has happened. It may not feel that way especially when your livelihood and safety is at stake. You have a mayor who is outspokenly in favor of biking and I appreciate that the mayor's leadership on this has been remarkable.

You have a Council who through this vote just will signal its support and to Mr. Alvarez's point the question is less about what more funds we can put in for bike infrastructure but the funds that are going to road repairs and making sure whatever roads are capable of handling a bike lane actually receive a bike  lane when it is paved. And that's something that I think is incumbent upon Mr. Clancy and his role to look at those lists and figure out where that's done. It's not additional money, it's just a can of paint down the street to provide that safety. It can be just that simple.
I think this is the council, all of you already know is passionate about infrastructure, biking is part of our neighborhood infrastructure. We're making progress, you've seen it with sharrows and bike corrals. You're gonna see it with bike sharing and CicloSDia, with these mobility projects in my council district and elsewhere. By the way the two in my district have a price tag of roughly $2 million just for design. So getting to Ms.Zapf point, that's not even building anything but that's money that's there. It's budgeted and it is in there and it will be there when the time comes. With this resolution today, I hope we're not just designing this stuff but we're going to build it. When the City Council for the City of San Diego weighs in what I expect will be unanimously a signal will be sent both to the mayor's office and SANDAG that there better be money for these bike projects. Once the community finishes its dialog, determine what streets it wants to paint these Class I bike lanes on and let's just get the job done. Everyone wants to see this happen and that's what this vote is about today.

Randy Van Vleck of the City Heights Community Development Corporation asked Brian Genovese of the City's new Multi-Modal Division what this resolution symbolized and he responded,

The resolution is symbolic in the sense that it commits the City to emphasize the need for bicycle infrastructure. The gesture is important because it creates awareness and a commitment by council to back the Mayor’s agenda. TEO is already taking steps at implementation through re-striping efforts in conjunction with the overlay program (low hanging fruit).
So now that the wheels have gotten moving, we've got to keep moving. Thank you to everyone who sent in your emails and phone calls and showed up in person of support for the resolution. We encourage you to send in your thanks to City Council members and get involved in whatever way you can. Because we're certainly not going to be the world's best city for bicycling if only a tiny handful of people keep showing up to speak up for a livable San Diego.

Bike Lanes in San Diego - Some Updates

Below are a few updates on bike lanes that are scheduled to be striped.

Ruffin Road Bike Lanes- The Project Manager overseeing the striping of bike lanes, Gaetano Martedi responded via email stating the following:

“The bicycle and vehicular loops have been installed. Final approval and inspection of the loops by the City is ongoing. I anticipate striping to be performed in January”

When I asked the reason for the delay as the lanes were supposed to have been striped in August, he responded,

“We had added additional loops and DLC’s to the project to meet current MUTCD and City standards. Due to the added work we needed to attain additional funding for the striping.”

A Senior Engineer with the City of San Diego, Abi Palaseyed, did confirm that the Ruffin Road bike lanes would be striped and ready for use by January 2012.

Balboa Ave/Tierrasanta Blvd Bike Lane - Bike lanes are finally coming to Balboa Avenue! Below is a map showing the 13.5 miles of bike lanes that will be striped beginning in February 2012 according to City Engineer Abi Palaseyed. The City is currently awaiting a Caltrans encroachment permit.

Balboa Ave/Tierrasanta Blvd Bike Lanes will be striped in February, 2012

Jamacha Boulevard Bike Lane - After what seems like an eternity, cyclists can finally ride in comfort along Jamacha Boulevard.

Jamacha Boulevard. Photo by Philip Erdelsky

For previous coverage on Jamacha Boulevard please read this post and this one.

Skyline Drive Bike Lanes - On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved $1.1 million for construction to improve Skyline Drive . This council action paves the way for traffic calming improvements such as sidewalk pop-outs and raised medians, as well as street lights, pedestrian and bike enhancements, and signal modifications along Skyline Drive from 58th Street to Cardiff Street. Bike lanes will be striped from Greenlawn Drive to Cardiff Street. Construction is scheduled to begin in early next year and end in the summer.

Eastern Planning Group Approves Plans to Make University Avenue more Bike Friendly

At their monthly Board meeting last Tuesday, the Eastern Planning Group approved plans to make University Avenue between 54th and 68th Streets more bike friendly, more transit friendly and more pedestrian friendly.

The University Avenue Mobility Study that began in November 2010 concluded with a plan to make this segment of University Avenue a true Complete Street that will be inviting to all its road users. The city's consultants, Darnell & Associates, will now work on preparing a cost estimate that will be presented to City Council next month for approval. Once City Council approves the cost estimate, actual construction will begin.

The biggest change to happen along this stretch of University Avenue will be the elimination of free right turns at 54th Street. This is in alignment with the new Caltrans policy update to their Highway Design Manual that will be implemented later this year. Free right turns make city streets more like freeways with off-ramps and on-ramps. A right turn on red can happen at any intersection even on regular 4-way intersections. The Highway Design Manual is the key guidance document that is used to develop Caltrans projects as well as local streets and roads. In light of the upcoming changes, free right hand turns throughout the state will soon be a relic of an auto-centric and dangerous past.

Thanks to Larry Hogue for helping articulate the difference between free right turns and right turn on red.

Share your comments tonight to make University Avenue more bike friendly

For the past year and a half, the City of San Diego has been working with a Mobility Working Group comprised of residents, business owners, advocates and other citizens to improve the section of University Avenue between 54th and 68th Streets. As a result of nearly a year's worth of work with this Working Group, the city is now ready to present solutions on how University Avenue can be improved. This is where you can play a part in making the eastern most section of University Avenue better for bicyclists. The Eastern Planning Group Meeting will be held at:

Eastern Planning Group Meeting

When: Tuesday (today) Oct 11, 2011
Time: 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM
Where: Holy Spirit Catholic Church - Parish Hall
2725 55th Street, San Diego, CA 92105

The goal is to prepare University Avenue for the year 2030 and ensure that all modes of transportation can move effectively. Along this corridor, bicycling traffic is expected to increase by 25%, automobile traffic is expected to go up by 24%.

The section between 54th to 68th Street is broken into five sections. Existing conditions are as follows:

54th to 58th Street

54th to 58th Street - Existing Conditions
54th to 58th Street - Existing Conditions (diagram)

58th to 60th Street

58th to 60th Streets - Existing Conditions
58th to 60th Streets - Existing Conditions
58th to 60th Streets - Existing Conditions (diagram)

60th to College Avenue

60th to College Avenue - Existing Conditions
60th to College Avenue - Existing Conditions (diagram)

College Avenue to Aragon Drive

College Avenue to Aragon Drive - Existing Conditions
College Avenue to Aragon Drive - Existing Conditions
College Avenue to Aragon Drive - Existing Conditions (diagram)

Aragon Drive to 68th Street

Aragon Drive to 68th Street - Existing Conditions
Aragon Drive to 68th Street - Existing Conditions
Aragon Drive to 68th Street - Existing Conditions (diagram)

The goals is to improve mobility for:
• Pedestrians
• Bicycles
• Transit
• Vehicles

During the last eleven years, there have been 129 collisions reported at 54th and University - the study's starting point. At this intersection, 17 bicyclists and 40 pedestrians have been killed making 54th and University Avenue one of the most dangerous intersections in San Diego. Part of the University Mobility Study's goals include making the 54th and University intersection safer for all users. This includes borrowing lessons learned from the neighboring city of La Mesa.

In La Mesa, the intersection of University Avenue and Yale was dangerous for years. But by implementing a road diet which included adding bike lanes, curb extensions to shorten crossing for pedestrians and reducing travel and turn lanes, the city of La Mesa was able improve mobility for all its road users at that intersection.

To continue the good work completed by the City of La Mesa, the Working Group voted for options that would make University Avenue aesthetically more pleasing and more inviting to all its users. To support these recommendations, your comments are needed tonight at the Eastern Planning Group meeting.

Below is what the new reconfigured sections of University Avenue will look like:

54th to College Avenue:

54th to College Avenue (now with bike lane)

Other sections of University also placed a priority on bicycling as a mode of transportation which is in line with the vision for "Great Streets" of Mid-City which is,

“to re-establish the major streets as great boulevards where vehicular circulation complements, rather than dominates, other activities, such as strolling, shopping, living and working.”