Balboa Station Plan: Does it solve the mobility issues around Balboa Ave station?

As anyone that has ridden along the Rose Canyon Bike Path or in the UTC area knows, SANDAG is in the process of extending the Mid-Coast Trolley from Old Town to UCSD and UTC area. The potential of this $2.1 billion investment can only fully be realized by enhancing the accessibility of the stations to surrounding neighborhoods. The City of San Diego is currently drafting a planning document for the area around the Balboa Avenue Station. Eventually, the plan will be voted on by San Diego’s City Council. (The current draft plan is can be read here and the image below shows the area being included in the plan.)

Currently, the area depends on a very autocentric roadway design. The proximity of Interstate 5 and on-ramps and off-ramps into the area bring high speed traffic directly into the plan area. The northbound I-5 exit onto Mission Bay Drive encourages drivers to maintain freeway speeds into Pacific Beach. Despite high volume of bicycle traffic, Mission Bay Drive has no bicycle lanes. Rose Creek Bicycle Path is an alternative to this high speed road but the utility of this path is constrained by a narrow path, lack of lighting and frequent homeless encampments. Despite most businesses in the area having large parking lots, Mission Bay Drive allows free street parking.  Traveling east of mission bay drive on Balboa Avenue, cyclists contend with high speed traffic, high speed interchanges with Morena Boulevard and an uphill climb into the Clairemont neighborhood. In short, the current conditions need improvement and are a barrier to area residents trying to access Mission Bay, the beach areas, and generally traversing the intersection of Balboa Avenue and I-5 / Morena Boulevard.

Challenge for Bicyclist (Garnet/Balboa Ave Intersection with Morena Blvd)

While the draft Balboa station does not fix all of these issues, it does attempt to make improvements.

For non-bicycle specific infrastructure, the plan supports the elimination of free rights and other high speed conditions in the below examples.  

  • Removal of freeway style ramp eastbound Balboa Ave to Morena Blvd ramp
  • Changing an I-5 off ramp onto Balboa Ave to a signalized (albeit widened) off ramp
  • Add a a traffic signal at westbound Balboa Ave & Morena ramps and remove free right turn ramps

Recommended Bicycle specific infrastructure

  • Enhance Rose Creek Path
  • Class II bike lanes on Mission Bay Drive
  • Class II bike lanes from Santa Fe st to Moraga St (width permitting)
  • Class II bike lanes on Bunker Hill road
  • Class III (Sharrows) on Garnet from Mt Soledad Road to Santa Fe Street
  • Class IV (cycletrack) on Santa Fe Street (Purpose of this cycletrack appears to allow cyclists to access Rose Canyon and points north since Santa Fe is recommended to be southbound only in the plan)
  • Class IV (cycletrack) Morena Blvd (west side) from Gesner to Balboa Station

Overall, the plan recommends a lot of improvements that will help bicyclists. As a frequent commuter through the area, I am excited about the bike lanes on Mission Bay Drive. The current state requires a bicyclist to control the lane with honking, hostile motorists. Removing some automobile parking for a bike lane is needed to create high quality, safe bike lane.

So for the bicyclist commuting north/south through the area, this plan provides improvements. However, it does not appear that this plan does anything to slow freeway traffic from I-5 as it exits from I-5 northbound. This should be corrected as it is a major hazard.

Biking to and through the plan area from Pacific Beach will remain a challenge. Grand and Garnet Avenues are the only roads that travel over Rose Creek. In the draft plan, sharrows (class III) are recommended on Garnet to reach the station area. The Pacific Beach Planning Group is not happy with that recommendation. The PB planning group calls the recommended sharrows “unacceptable.”

A pedestrian/bicyclist bridge crossing I-5 from Bunker Hill St is proposed in the plan. This would provide a stress-free route for bicyclists to access the trolley station. The PB planning group asked for the plan to include the pedestrian/bicycle bridge over I-5 in the earliest phase. However, a funding source and commitment needs to identified. Since it helps the City of San Diego reach both Climate Action Plan goals and maximize the investment in the expanded trolley, this project should be a high priority for the city.

The city is still looking for feedback on its plan. Please ask the city to prioritize safe bicycle routes (including the I-5 bridge!) in the plan. Provide feedback to city of San Diego planning department, Michael Prinz, Senior Planner, Planning Department,  Another option to give feedback is the city provided website. As you probably suspect, not everyone wants bicycles accommodated. Don’t allow the below comment represent your views and dilute the potential great improvements that could be implemented.

2018 San Diego Bike Plan

2018: Hopefully a year of progress for bicyclists

In 2018, San Diego needs to take another step forward towards becoming a world class bicycling city. While the streets of San Diego have become increasingly bike-friendly, San Diego needs more than incremental changes to meet our safety and climate action goals. Below are a few of the initiatives we will be watching for improvements. If you have other suggestions, please contact us through email ( or twitter (@bikesd).

2018 San Diego Bike Plan

Downtown Mobility Plan

The plan to redesign our auto-centric downtown area was approved in June 2016, but what city council passed was primarily a planning document. Will the final design reflect the world-class, high quality bikeway design that downtown deserves? City staff needs to resist the temptation to accommodate NIMBY street parking concerns that would compromise the bikeway quality and residents’ safety. We hope city staff will continue to work with bicycle advocates to ensure success.

San Diego Downtown Mobility Plan

SANDAG Early Action Programs

SANDAG approved 40 early projects throughout the county in 2013. The stated goal was for projects to be completed within 10 years. As KPBS recently highlighted, SANDAG has consistently postponed project timelines. If new bikeways can be installed in Manhattan in just one year, why do they take several times that in San Diego? In 2018, we will hopefully celebrate the groundbreaking for 1st segments of Uptown Bikeway and North Park-Mid City bikeways. 

Resurfacing & Repurpose

As the Mayor office fulfills his pledge to resurface streets, any street on the city’s bicycle plan should accommodate the facility specified in master plan. While efficient, this resurface/repurpose effort does not allow for a large network of bicycle infrastructure to be built. Also, road diets and the removal of parking require community approval beforehand. The city should remove this unnecessary layer of approval to implement its bicycle master plan and climate action plan (both approved unanimously by city council). While this layer of community approval is unnecessary, it reinforces the need for BikeSD supporters to join your local community planning group.

Community Plan Updates

Every community plan update has a mobility element. Many of San Diego community plans are outdated. BikeSD supporters should advocate for safe bicycling facilities in all community plans. If a bicycle facility is on an approved community plan, it will be easier to advocate for it in the future. Currently the city is working on Barrio Logan, Midway, Old Town, Kearny Mesa, Clairemont, and Mission Valley community plans. (Please let us know if we missed any!!!)

Bicycle Advisory Committee Strategic Implementation Plan

For the past couple of years, a group of appointed volunteers has worked with city staff on implementing the city’s bicycle master plan. As KPBS reported, the plan was delayed after bicycle advocates voiced concerns. City Council should approve an implementation plan that satisfies the advisory committees concerns. (As an aside, the bicycle advisory committee currently has opens positions, interested BikeSD supporters should contact their respective council district offices if interested in joining.)


We don’t believe the storage of private property on public streets is the best use of our precious space.  As of start of 2018, the city has not allowed any bicycle infrastructure that even removed 1 parking spot—even when abundant off-street parking exists. This needs to change! In fact, the city needs to implement a parking management strategy that is more than “more!!”  Start with Donald Shoup’s ideas.

Don't forget to attend our next Bike San Diego Meetup!


When: March 6 at 6pm
Where: Iron Pig Alehouse (Pacific Beach)


We'll be meeting on March 6 in Pacific Beach at Iron Pig Alehouse for an evening of community, conversation, and discussion of Community Planning Groups. Circulate San Diego will be joining BikeSD to discuss how residents can (and should) get involved in local planning groups to help create a world-class city for biking. Doors open at 6, we'll have a presentation and panel discussion at 7, which will be followed up by a social hour.



A response to Hillcrest Business Association’s Campaign against Uptown Bikeway

Hillcrest, San Diego Sign

Our friends at Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) have resumed their social media push to gut San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Uptown bikeway. While tempting to ignore the HBA’s stale talking points, we recognize their prior effectiveness in preventing bike lanes. They successfully lobbied SANDAG to eliminate the planned protected bike lanes on University Ave in western Hillcrest.

Therefore, here is a brief bullet response to HBA's recent social media effort.

1) This is not a “bikeway to nowhere.” The planned protected lanes on 4th & 5th will take bicyclist from Downtown to Hillcrest. This will connect to planned improvements past the hospitals to Bachmann and into Mission Valley. If anything, HBA lobbying reduced the utility of the network by creating a hole in the network on University in 2015.  

2) The HBA appears to be claiming the segment from 4th/5th to 3rd on Washington St is unsafe. If HBA is claiming  these blocks of Washington St are unsafe, SANDAG and the city should take action to remedy this problem. However, back in 2014, the HBA believed Washington was a preferred alternative to planned route on University. After they successfully created a hole in network on University, they believe Washington St is dangerous.  

3) While the HBA focuses on parking losses of about 16 spaces in the Hillcrest core, they neglect to mention the hundreds of empty spaces  SANDAG identified in a single Hillcrest garage. The also neglect to mention the 4th & 5th cycletracks will create 55 additional spaces throughout the length of the route.

4) The HBA has taken a recent Voice of San Diego story out context. One traffic engineer did express concern that mode share goals were “not based on anything.” However, if you read the city’s Climate Action Plan, the basis for the mode share is clearly articulated in the appendix. The entire plan identifies the reduction in greenhouse gases for each strategy identified to reach the city’s goal of eliminating half of all greenhouse gases. Thankfully, this policy was written by  environmental policy wonks, not traffic engineers. The VOSD story simply highlights the internal struggle of city staff to buy into the new city policy.  

5) The HBA has stated that bike lanes harm businesses. This is simply not based on facts. Even our local San Diego Union Tribune concluded, “Bike lanes, even when they displace parking spots, make little impact on the numbers of customers for local businesses”.

6) In July 2016, the Hillcrest Business Association attempted to stall the Uptown Bikeway by preventing the environmental approval at a SANDAG board meeting. Former City Councilmember Todd Gloria remarked  any further gaps in the planned  bikeway would just cause opponents to attack the remaining segments in Mission Hills, Old town and Eastern Hillcrest. Gloria’s  assertion that bikeway opponents (led by HBA) will never be satisfied has been confirmed by the HBA renewed social media push.  

As Hillcrest Business Association mobilizes its significant resources to pressure Councilmember Chris Ward ( ) and Mayor Kevin Faulconer ( ), please thank these elected officials for supporting safe streets in Hillcrest. (Include BikeSD on your communications, Or if you prefer twitter for communication, @ChrisWardD3  and @Kevin_Faulconer (still, include us @bikesd).

UC San Diego's Bike Un-Share

After racking up more than 1000 free rides per day, the new (but unauthorized) Ofo bike share system was removed by UC San Diego officials last month. Despite the obvious demand for bike share, and a four-year-old UCSD undergraduate report describing a bike sharing system for campus, officials pulled the plug on the program.

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 3.24.03 PM

Ofo’s “insurance policies did not meet campus requirements when reviewed by UCSD Risk Services”, according to UCSD Marketing and Communications Director Laura Margoni.  In addition, a UCSD police officer explained that no procedure for maintaining or repairing Ofo bikes existed.

Dumping 300 bikes on campus meant Ofo was using the same business model disruption method as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.  Had these sharing economy companies waited for permission from officials - who were often unwilling or unable to comprehend the need for such services - they wouldn’t have succeeded.  Similarly, Ofo demonstrated the large demand for bike share at UCSD by bypassing campus rules set by administrators who disregarded years of requests for such a program.  After the bikes were removed, UCSD Transportation Services Marketing Manager Curt Lutz said:

“It is my understanding that the impression left by the OFO experience was that there is likely demand for a well implemented bike share program that has a sustainable funding model or to be piloted for trial of competitive models.”

Wasn’t this demand communicated to UCSD by the undergraduate report four years earlier, by multiple students and employees, and in employee parking and sustainability surveys?  And while most municipalities have worked out agreements with unauthorized sharing services, UCSD instead removed a bike share system that cost nothing to install, with no official communication about its replacement.  (Meanwhile every temporary parking lot closure is announced to campus.)  Mr. Lutz again:

“We have been working on a review (internally and with cooperation of SANDAG staff) of bike share vendors, technologies and programs for the past several months to evaluate moving forward with an RFP or RFI (Request for Proposal/Information). UC Riverside and UCLA are just launching programs with two of the prospective vendors offering different technologies.  At this time we believe that there is value in monitoring these implementations as part of our process. We are currently working with campus Procurement to scope options for bike share services including business models like OFO.”

Nearly 100 U.S. campuses had bike share systems in 2010, including UC Irvine.  UC Berkeley will implement Bay Area Bike Share shortly - without monitoring UCLA and UCR.  Yet UCSD still needs to monitor these programs before issuing a Request for Information?  Encouragingly, Margoni states that a bike share pilot will roll out at UCSD this fall.

A bike share program is important to UC San Diego for a number of reasons.  The freeway-like roads (or stroads) surrounding campus make conditions too dangerous for many off-campus residents to commute by bike:

  • Genesee Avenue on the north side of campus is 6+ lanes of 60 MPH+ traffic just inches from riders (here’s audio of a KPBS reporter attempting to bike it).  
  • The $105 million dollar Genesee Ave bridge being built over I-5 will be 10 car lanes wide, yet there wasn’t enough room for a protected bike lane.  
  • La Jolla Village Drive is also 6+ lanes of 50 MPH+ traffic, with pedestrians being hit and killed on its curving, high-speed I-5 on-ramps.  
  • Gilman Drive is 4+ lanes of 60 MPH+ traffic, with aggressive drivers often veering into the bike lane to cut into the I-5 south onramp queue.  

As a result of the above, many commuters use SDMTS bus routes that take them to the Gilman Transit Center, on the south side of campus.  This a 15-30 minute walk to many buildings on the vast UCSD campus, and bike share would address this first/last-mile problem of public transit.  UCSD does offer a useful shuttle system, but if you miss one it’s still faster to walk.

Some students do use the limited bike racks (two) on MTS buses, but they are vulnerable to the massive bike theft problem on campus.  Bike lockers would offer increased security but these do not exist at UCSD, despite my requests for installation several years ago.       

While biking could shorten the long walk times between buildings, it is actually against the rules to ride a bike on either of the main north-south campus routes, from 8:30 AM to 5 PM.  As a result, students frequently receive costly tickets simply for biking to class.  As this report from CirculateSD suggests, why not simply create dedicated bike lanes on these routes and elsewhere on campus?  BikeSD covered San Diego State’s new bike lanes back in 2011:

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 3.24.12 PM

Instead, the Grove Path bike lane was installed for a short segment between the two main north-south UCSD pedestrian-only routes. Pedestrians often use the bike-only Grove Path lane, and are not cited for doing so.

Since bike share helps solve the last-mile problem of public transit, UCSD’s removal of Ofo contradicts the university’s attempts to increase the number of commuters using alternative transportation to campus. Proclaiming “Sustainability is in our DNA”, UCSD’s 2008 Climate Action Plan seeks to decrease the number of solo-driver commuters from 49% to 39% by 2018, via increased biking, walking, and public transit usage.  Transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in California, and San Diego faces severe coastal impacts from a predicted 10-foot sea level rise by the end of the century:

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 3.24.20 PM

However, since its Climate Action Plan was announced, UC San Diego has taken the following actions with respect to transit:

  • Terminated its free bus zone program for students and employees (employees can receive an EcoPass discount)
  • Removed a free bike share program
  • Endangered bicyclists on Expedition Way and Voight Drive, by adding street parking to these narrow, hilly roads
  • Supported the $6.5 billion dollar widening of I-5 in North County - which includes no bus routes servicing campus
  • Announced the construction of three new parking garages on campus, despite the Mid-Coast Trolley’s arrival in 2021

UCSD’s goal of reducing single occupancy commuters is shared by the UC Office of the President (UCOP), which publishes an annual report outlining mode share rates and reduction goals:

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 3.24.31 PM

However, UCSD’s mode share numbers above are for all commuters entering campus, including students - not employees, as the report indicates.  Since the university has no way to distinguish students from employees in its semi-annual counts, the employee single occupancy vehicle number shown above is incorrect (a commuter mode share survey was recently launched to address this misrepresentation), and skewed downward by the large number of students using public transit. Students voted overwhelmingly to pay a quarterly fee for discounted bus service after the free bus zone was killed, and the MTS 201/202 Super Loop has the highest ridership per revenue hour in San Diego’s bus system.  

It should be noted that UCSD has taken some positive steps regarding alternative transportation, including the well-intentioned Grove Path above, and planning for Class II (unprotected) bike lanes on a short segment of Gilman Drive and the new Voight and Gilman bridges.  UCSD is contributing at least $1.2 million to the Gilman Drive bridge, which will provider a calmer east-side route to campus. UCSD also provided 1.6% of the funding for the Genesee/I-5 project, which will include a bike path connecting campus to the Sorrento Valley Amtrak station.  Yet many of the projects identified in the 2012 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Planning Study still have not begun, nor has funding been identified.

Further, UCSD’s alternative transportation spending is constrained by its limited sources, which are parking and ticket revenue.  (UCOP goals for increasing alternative transit usage aren’t backed by significant funding.)  And employee parking permit fees don’t come close to paying for the $100 million-plus cost of multiple new parking garages planned for campus (Torrey Pines North Living/Learning Neighborhood, Mesa Nuevos and Osler). Given the rapid rise of ride-sharing services like Uber/Lyft, does it make sense for the university to continue building costly parking garages?  As ride share systems test flat-fee pool programs, new and inexpensive options will exist for automobile commuters to skip vehicle storage on campus.    

If sustainability is truly in UC San Diego’s DNA, it should be leading state efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.  Removing a free bike share system that complements public transit isn’t leadership, nor is it consistent with UCSD’s sustainability claims.

Will Councilmember Ward Prevent Additional Delays and New Holes to the Uptown Bikeway Project?

UPDATE: After subsequent conversations with SANDAG, Councilmember Chris Ward has committed his support to the original construction phasing.   This will allow the entire protected bikeways on 4th and 5th Ave to be completed as planned.  Construction of this segment is planned to start in 2018.    BikeSD would like to thank Councilmember Ward for the continued support of Uptown Bikeways.

Recently we learned that Councilmember Chris Ward had made a request to delay the protected bicycle lane on Fifth Ave between University and Washington from the 1st construction phase to the 3rd construction phase in the Uptown Bikeway project. This would delay the implementation by 3 years. BikeSD Executive Director Sam Ollinger and Board President Jeff Kucharski met with Councilmember Ward and his staff earlier this week to discuss this issue. BikeSD asked for Councilmember Ward to reconsider his request. Below is the follow-up email to his office summarizing our meeting and discussion.  

Dear Councilmember Ward and Ms. Bailey,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with representatives of BikeSD. As we discussed we wanted to follow up with you over email on a few items:

  1. Since the Uptown Bikeway is part of the Early Action Projects that the SANDAG committed to completing within 10 years when they voted to adopt the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan back in 2011, it is important that no additional delays or gaps be created in the network. The project has had both unprecedented community outreach and feedback (>100 stakeholder meetings). It received environmental clearance in July 2016. Any further delays or gaps in the network will only delay the project's construction and establish a terrible precedent for future bikeway projects in the region.

  2. Fourth
    Fourth and Fifth Avenue Proposed Alignments. Image source: SANDAG

    Here is a map showing the construction phasing of the Uptown Bikeway project. As we mentioned in person, delaying the Fifth Avenue segment between Washington Avenue and University Avenue is both unacceptable and unnecessary since it will create a break in the protected bikeway network. The Fourth and Fifth Avenue segments are protected bikeways as you will see here. The planned 3rd phase along Bachmann Place is different style  facility than the Fourth & Fifth protected bike lanes.  As the planned bikeway will rely on sharrows northbound from Washington to Lewis, no purpose will be served by delaying a single section of Fifth ave protected bike lane. Based on SANDAG program budget, the Third phase construction would not begin until 2021, 3 years after the Fourth & Fifth segments' construction began.

  3. Councilmember Ward, as an urban planner, you know the critical importance of mobility and urban development as key tools to attaining the goals the City Council committed to when it adopted the Climate Action Plan. SANDAG's own projections show increased population growth in District 3 and the time to ensure the implementation of a contiguous and safe bikeway network in District 3 is now.
  4. Finally we do want to express our thanks about the good news in the new bike lanes that will be striped along India, Redwood, and Jackson Drive. If you have additional information about the dates when they will be ready - we would love to write about it on the BikeSD blog.

Thank you.  Please feel free to contact us.


Jeff Kucharski, Board Chair, BikeSD

Sam Ollinger, Executive Director, BikeSD

Please help us fight the good fight and sign up to volunteer for the upcoming Bikes and Beer ride on April 8th! We need ride leaders and help at registration. Thank you!