North Park Residents: Now is the perfect time to advocate for change

The post below was written by BikeSD volunteer and member, Tyler Bergin.

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Today, the North Park Planning Committee will vote on approving the installation of two new bike corrals and the city’s first parklet. While the implementation of these cycling amenities in North Park would be a great start, more needs to be done in order to transform this up-and-coming neighborhood into THE MOST bike and pedestrian friendly neighborhood in San Diego. As many of you are probably aware, North Park was recently named the thirteenth best hipster neighborhood in the U.S. by Forbes. Whether the news made you giddy or nauseous, the fact is that this kind of national attention has brought this wonderful neighborhood into the spotlight locally as well. City and community officials now have their sights focused on North Park in order to decide how to gain more national attention and use this burgeoning hipster destination to the city’s financial advantage.

Now is the perfect time to advocate for change. Recent studies have shown that the installation of bike lanes in New York and Portland have had a positive affect on the local economies. According to an NBC News article, sales at businesses along New York’s Ninth Avenue increased as much as 49 percent after installing bike lanes. As Martha Roskowski of Bikes Belong puts it “When people travel by bike, they tend to eat, shop and play more locally.” With this type of information available and our newly elected mayor’s focus on public safety, arts and culture, jobs, small business, neighborhoods and environment/livability, it would seem that placing dedicated bike facilities along the major thoroughfares in North Park would be a no-brainer. This, however, is not the case.

Plenty of parking for cars at the North Park Parking Garage.

While automobiles are given almost exclusive right-of-way on our city’s streets, the bicycle is left to fend for itself. Two tons of steel versus twenty pounds of aluminum; we all know which is the winner. To add insult to injury, not only are cars given exclusive right-of-way to drive on these streets, they are also given exclusive right to sit motionless on the side of these streets while bicycles are meant to be chained to a few randomly placed bike racks, not in the street, but on the sidewalk where bikes are not permitted to be ridden! One could make the argument that there are far more cars driven into North Park and removing parking from one side of the street in order to make space install bike lanes would create a huge deficiency, but this argument is invalid. At the corner of North Park Way and 30th Street sits a 388-space parking garage that four years after opening was, according to city redevelopment project manager Michael Lengyel, “generally at less than 50 percent capacity.” What better way to put this fourteen million dollar parking garage to good use and recuperate some of this cost than by removing on-street parking!

Green bike lanes with protective barrier
New York City’s Protected Bike Lanes

So what exactly should be done in order to improve cycling infrastructure in North Park? There are three streets that could be immediately improved. Bike lanes and/or cycle tracks should be installed on both University Avenue and 30th Street. These can be simple bike lanes such as the ones that currently exist on Utah Street (perfect example of bikes being pushed onto side streets instead of main thoroughfares) or green protected bike lanes such as those that exist in New York, Portland and Chicago. Transforming the two main avenues in North Park into bike-friendly “complete streets” would establish North Park as THE bike friendly destination in San Diego.

The third street that could benefit is Ray Street between University Ave and North Park Way. As the location of the Ray Street Art and Culture District, this segment could be paved and turned into a fully bike and pedestrian street by completely removing access to cars. This would be the first of its kind in San Diego and follow the success of cities such as Barcelona, Spain and Curitiba, Brazil. Additionally, it would make a great location for a new bike corral.

As Councilman David Alvarez stated at BikeSD’s launch party back in September, planning groups and city council have the power to make changes, but they need to know what changes the community desires to implement. There is an old saying “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Let’s make sure that wheel is spoked and attached to a bicycle.

North Park today: Ripe for change.

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