Balboa Ave Station's poor access for bikes and pedestrians

Little hope for MidCoast and Balboa Transit Station

Balboa Ave Station's poor access for bikes and pedestriansThe City of San Diego's Balboa Specific Plan is going to the San Diego Planning Commission tomorrow at 9:00 AM, Thursday, December 13, at Council Chambers, 12th Floor, City Administration Bldg., 202 C Street, San Diego CA 92101. It will then be heard at City Council next month.

BikeSD does not support The Balboa Specific Plan (full plan PDF is found here) because it lacks any vision for an ecologically-friendly gateway into the Pacific Beach community. BikeSD does support the diverse community members who are advocating for a better plan that does not aim towards a car-centric future for this station or this community.

This area of San Diego is receiving a $2.2 billion dollar investment as one of the nation’s thirteen 'EcoDistrict Communities' yet the City fails to support this vision in its design of Balboa Transit Station's with limited access from across Interstate 5 from the west, Pacific Beach.

Any transit station is only successful if it addresses the last mile connection between where residents live and the transit services they're ultimately seek to use. Despite a gap between Mid-Coast and Bay that is less than a mile, the Balboa Specific Plan presents no real solution for getting active commuters safely across the I-5 freeway. This will severely lower the use of this new station.

The new station design accommodates car and truck access well, with ample parking lots. But for transit riders who approach the station on foot, by bike, wheelchair, or micro-mobility devices, all that's provided is a 4-foot wide path across Balboa Avenue. To be successful, this station needs a bigger, first-class multi-use path.

Making matters worse, the small bridge provided in the Plan leads riders and walkers into the mess of a vehicle-congested intersection at Garnet Ave. and Mission Bay Drive. This is substandard, terrible planning.

BikeSD says it's time to listen to the residents. They are asking for a multi-use bridge over the I-5 to safely connect all transit users to their homes, to the beach, to Mission Bay, and to the businesses in Pacific Beach. They're asking for a design that lets these residents enjoy their last mile along the waterfront, visiting a local coffee shop, or just getting some fresh air before their next task in life.

We need the proposed bridge (or tunnel) across the I-5 to be in the plan and to be prioritized. It can be done and should be done ASAP. The plan should also include Class IV bike lanes on Garnet Ave. and Mission Bay Drive, dedicated bike signalization, and protected intersections.

This station will open and soon and it is exciting for our region to have a beautiful new transit line, but if we cannot accommodate these eco-friendly commuters, then we have failed in the process.

And it's also critical that MTS be part of this discussion. Large buses into and out of Pacific Beach is not the answer - innovative small autonomous shuttles will support this movement in a better way and I hope SANDAG and MTS can pilot such a program.

BikeSD urges biking, walking, and scooting advocates to go to the Planning Commission and speak for adding better mult-use access to the new station, especially from the western (Pacific Beach) approach.


Cover slide of the Gilman Drive road diet presentation, November 2018, by Judi Tentor

Gilman Drive (La Jolla) buffered bike lane update

Cover slide of the Gilman Drive road diet presentation, November 2018, by Judi Tentor
Cover slide of the Gilman Drive sewer line re-striping presentation, November 2018

A four-lane road, Gilman Drive in La Jolla near the Univ. of California San Diego (UCSD), recently had new sewer lines installed. A stretch of this newly-repaved road was mere weeks away from getting re-striped when BikeSD mobilized to have the speed limit reduced and buffered bike lanes added.

BikeSD Executive Director Judi Tentor quickly assembled a Powerpoint and made a presentation to the University City Planning Group (UCPG) to show the many ways a road diet would improve the Gilman Drive corridor for all users. The Planning Group was enthusiastic about everything in Judi's presentation, though UCSD felt it could only contribute improved lane striping (in the form of buffered bike lanes rather than a full lane/parking removal as part of their sewer line replacement.) Still, it was the most suppportive community planning group reaction Judi ever attended.

After the presentation at UCPG, BikeSD received tentative support for a change of striping from staff at UCSD. So BikeSD worked with San Diego city staff engineer Brian Genovese to get revised striping plans for Gilman Drive that include new buffered bike lanes. These drawings were completed in early December and sent to UCSD for use in the university's Gilman Drive re-striping coming later this month. BikeSD and all the UC area cyclists are hopeful about seeing this improved striping get used when UCSD closes up the sewer line project.

What remains, however, is a full set of safety improvements for bikes and scooters along the Gilman Dr corridor. In principle, UCSD says it supports narrowing the lanes, reducing traffic speeds, and a fully protected bike facility along Gilman Drive. It will be interesting to see whether this will translate to future UCSD explicit calls for making the most of this corridor. BikeSD looks forward to partnering with UCSD, the UCPG, and CalTrans in expanding safety and access for all users along the entire Gilman Dr. corridor.


Normal Street Promenade before and after photo. Left side shows University at Normal St as currently configured in 2018. On the left, a rendering in 2016 of the promenade.

Normal Street Promenade Workshop Seeks Biker Input on January 24

Normal Street Promenade before and after
The image at right is a 2016 artist's rendering by KTU+A of a potential configuration of a new Normal Street. It isn't the current design under consideration but merely a sketch.

 

Hillcrest could have a new urban park-like ‘promenade' by the year 2020, if Councilmember Chris Ward’s plan for the Normal Street Promenade meet with success. The Normal Street Promendade (2016 sketches shown above) will piggyback onto SANDAG's Eastern Hillcrest Bikeway Project (Phase 2) through this corridor in order to take advantage of the street redesign SANDAG will do for the bike lanes. BikeSD has offered qualified support for this new Normal Street pedestrian and biking promenade — but we want all BikeSD members to come to the community meetings where the fate of the Promenade and its SANDAG bikeways will be determined.

The Promenade project is on a relatively quick timeline, faster than most City projects of this nature. There will be two community input “workshops” held on Tuesdays, January 24 and February 19, 2019, at Joyce Beers Hall (3700 Vermont St). These workshops will be followed by a vote at the March 5 Uptown Planners board meeting. In addition, the Normal St. Promenade project is being accelerated by Chris Ward’s office by asking San Diego Dept. of Street Design engineers to be attend both the workshops. The hope is that this will reduce the ‘friction’ that SANDAG infrastructure projects usually encounter at San Diego’s DSD when the city’s engineers don’t understand changes to street design.

One concern for Uptown bike advocates is the additional delay to the Eastern Hillcrest Bikeway Phase 2 (EHB) created by allowing time for a new Promenade design. As BikeSD board member Jeff Kucharski (@JeffKucharski_) noted, SANDAG is already pushing back the expected completion date for EHB by 3-6 months to accommodate this new Normal Street Promenade design. Jeff also notes that nominal support from Hillcrest organizations like Hillcrest Business Association can turn into dismantling of bike lanes. “In 2015, HBA publicly advocated for 'Transform Hillcrest' while privately gutting the University Ave bike lanes. It's easy to see a similar scenario happening here when the Promenade hits headwinds,” he said.

It’s critical that BikeSD's biking, scooter, and mobility advocates attend the workshops and Uptown board meeting to make sure the proposed 2-way cycle track and other enhancements remain the centerpiece of the new design. And to press both SANDAG and CM Ward’s office to ensure that the Eastern Hillcrest Bikeways are not excessively delayed in the process of designing this Promenade. The January 24 and February 19 community workshops also offer an opportunity for BikeSD members to also speak up for mid-speed infrastructure within the Hillcrest community, so we’ll be sending out notices to BikeSD members with details about the workshop next month.


Add yourself to the BikeSD mailing list. To get updates on Uptown bikeway projects like the Normal Street Promenade above, check the box for "Uptown" on our sign-up form here: https://bikesd.org/add-mailing-list/


Cover slide of the Gilman Drive road diet presentation, November 2018, by Judi Tentor

Is it time to ditch the phrase "Road Diet"?

A four-lane road, Gilman Drive in La Jolla near the Univ. of California San Diego (UCSD), recently had new sewer lines installed. A stretch of this newly-repaved road was three weeks away from getting re-striped when BikeSD mobilized to have the speed limit reduced and buffered bike lanes added.

BikeSD had tentative support for this change of striping from staff at UCSD. But after BikeSD's executive director presented plans for a road diet to the local community advisory group, UCSD was upset. They felt BikeSD had pulled a fast one on them by switching from a “re-striping” to a “road diet.” They weren't sure they could or would support a "road diet" on Gilman Drive.

UCSD's reaction isn't surprising to road safety advocates. Very often, when average people — car drivers — hear the phrase "road diet," they have negative reactions. The word "diet" means reducing and restricting. A traditional diet may reduce carbs; a road diet reduces cars. A traditional diet may squeeze down your waistline; a road diet squeezes the room around your car.

While notions like reducing cars and squeezing the roadway appeal to bike and safety advocates, these phrases have no positive connotation to people on a community boards, traffic engineers, or average folks who depend on driving. Simply put: when advocates use the phrase "road diet" we conjure up the wrong imagery in the ears of our listeners.

On top of that, everyone knows: "Diets don't work."

So maybe it's time to ditch the phrase "road diet." And time to ditch the phrase "traffic calming" as well. ("Traffic calming" sounds like a plan to have drivers just settle in and wait out the slow snarl of traffic while meditating. No driver wants to hear about how a street design will slow down, calm, or involve "traffic.")

It's time to adopt better phrasing for this important work.

I'd like to propose a new framework and term: M.O.S.T.

Mobility-
Oriented
Safety
Treatment

We all want to get the MOST out of our roadways.

Just about every element of a road diet is also a treatment to expand the use and users of a road. A roundabout reduces the need for stop signs, allowing better flow through intersections for both cars and bicycles. Buffered mid-speed lanes (aka bike lanes) increase the capacity of a street by accommodating bikes, scooters, and congestion-reducing methods of getting down the street. Bulbouts and curb ramps make traveling on foot or by wheelchair more pleasant and safe, thereby increasing the likelihood for walking (fewer cars), reducing the need for paratransit vehicles (fewer vans), shortening pedestrian crossing times for people at intersections, etc.

Almost every road diet element is also safety-enhancing step. The problem is that the phrase "road diet" fails to capture any notion of increasing safety. 'Diet' inherently sounds like less rather than more. In reality, we're talking about enhancements, not reductions.

MOST is about getting the most out of our road space. MOST street design focuses on maximizing the number of ways people can use a street. Roads which get the MOST design are safer than traditional road layouts. More importantly, a MOST street serves the greatest amount of people -- not just one type of user (typically cars). When we pitch to audiences about bringing the MOST to a street design, we're talking about expanding the road to its greatest, safest capacity.

MOST, as a phrase and a framework, reminds everyone (car drivers, walkers, folks, bikers, scooter users, the disabled, parents with strollers...) that we share a common goal: getting the most value from our shared street space. Who wouldn't want the MOST for their roads?


aerial view of 30th St, San Diego

Right Side Club starts a petition to get bike lanes added to 30th Street

San Diego’s current Bike Master Plan creates an impossible north-south bike lane on 28th Street in North Park and South Park where a canyon and golf course make a bike lane here either impossible or expensive.  Matt Stucky, founder of Right Side Club, says the City should study whether it’s feasible to add a bike lane on 30th Street between Juniper and Redwood when they repave the street after the pipeline replacement. The goal is to find a possible solution that allows for new bike with as little disruption as possible.

Details can be found here: https://rightsideclub.org/2018/10/25/safe-routes-for-all-on-the-right-side-lets-fix-the-citys-bicycle-master-plan/

 

The Change.org petition started by Matt can be found here here: https://www.change.org/p/san-diego-city-councilmember-chris-ward-make-30th-street-in-north-and-south-park-a-safe-street-for-everyone

We encourage everyone to sign up to be a supporter since our ability to get anything done will depend on how many people voice support. Future participation is anticipated, even if it’s only emailing public officials to support a change. If you are interested in helping out or want to send me a message, you can write Right Side Club directly at rightsideclub@gmail.com

Sign the petition to get bike lanes on 30th Street