West Point Loma Blvd. showing cyclists riding on sidewalk, 2019

West Point Loma Blvd bike lanes: still no approval from PCPB

West Point Loma Blvd. showing cyclists riding on sidewalk, 2019

On Thursday night, staff from San Diego's Traffic & Storm Water Division (TSW) presented slides detailing the West Point Loma Blvd bike lane project to the Peninsula Community Planning Board (PCPB). The project encompasses a "road diet" on a 4-lane-wide stretch of West Point Loma Blvd., reconfigured to a 2-car-lane street with a Class 2 bike lane (paint-buffered only) and other traffic calming measures. This was the third presentation since October 2018 made by the city to the Peninsula community board about the West Point Loma Blvd. bike lane project. TSW's slideshow gave PCPB the results of their detailed traffic analysis, parking study data, lane configuration drawings, and Level of Service (LoS) impacts — all of which showed minimal impacts on drivers along the corridor — in an effort to win approval from the community board for the project.

Unfortunately, the PCPB did not approve the project, though it also did not make a motion of denial.

San Diego TSW engineer Madeline Saltzman presenting to the Peninsula Community Planning Board, January 17, 2019Speakers in support of the project from BikeSD and San Diego County Bicycle Coalition urged the board to approve the bike facility. There were also others, including local residents on West Point Loma Blvd, that also spoke in favor of better bicycle facilities along this corridor.

There were also a handful of residents that were opposed or had questions. Two audience members took issue with the term "road diet," and insisted that this should be called a "lane removal." Board members' questions focused on issues of traffic delay, the 'back-in/angled parking' configuration, the decline from a Grade B to a Grade C 'Level of Service', and the 'math not working out' when a car lane was removed. These questions were challenging for TSW staff, who gave technical answers that didn't mollify critics on the board.

Many of the PCPB board members shared desire for better bicycle facilities but still wanted to critically discuss specific design elements. Nicole Burgess of BikeSD said, "I think some them truly want to be traffic engineers."

In the end, there was no vote on the project but the board passed a motion calling for the City to return and discuss it further at the PCPB Transportation Subcommittee.

BikeSD's Nicole Burgess speaking in favor of the West Point Loma bike lanesNicole Burgess wrote San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer immediately following the meeting, "I believe the City has done due diligence and provided adequate information as they have presented three times now at the PCPB. Also, as a reminder, the OB Planning Group unanimously supported a road diet to provide safe bicycle facilities."

BikeSD believes that Level of Service (LoS) should not be the focus of presentations about bike infrastructure, just as it has been removed as a valid topic for CEQA studies. LoS leads to a very narrow discussion about the impact on drivers and travel-time rather than safety and the equitable use of public rights-of-way. Instead, the Vision Zero Systematic Solutions for Safety should be the leading guideline for these types of improvements. We can not let Community Planning Groups make final decisions for the safety measures needed for our streets to meet Vision Zero and CAP goals.

The West Point Loma bike facility was originally proposed by the Bicycle Advisory Board back in the spring of 2018, with unanimous support for the project. For the safety of all road users, BikeSD is hopeful that Mayor Faulconer and Councilmember Jennifer Campbell will advocate for this type of improvement in their community. We applaud TSW's proposed striping plans and believe this Class 2 bike lane is an essential piece of the puzzle to fill in the gap along this corridor.

 


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Map of the 2018 Downtown Mobility Plan

The Downtown Mobility Plan hits the ground but much work remains

The first stripes of the Downtown Mobility Plan are laid on J Street, December 2018

Map of the 2018 Downtown Mobility Plan
The Downtown Mobility Plan (DMP) has broken ground in San Diego as of December 19, 2018! Paint crews began striping thermoplastic lanes along J Street and the entire DMP Phase 1 should be complete “in a few months time,” according to Mayor Faulconer. This day has been a long time coming after years of planning, delays and cost overruns, but we’d like to offer our thanks to Mayor Faulconer for pushing this project forward over the last couple of months. We note that in 2016 the mayor pledged to complete all cycletracks during his 2nd term.

The Downtown Mobility Plan’s first phase will create Class VI bike tracks on:

  • Beech Street from Pacific Highway to Sixth Avenue
  • Sixth Avenue from Beech Street to Harbor Drive
  • J Street from 1st Avenue to Park Boulevard

These tracks are two-way cycle tracks (special bike lanes that provide a right-of-way for cyclists and scooter riders within the roadway). Parked cars, flex posts, and or grade variations will separate the tracks from vehicular traffic. When all three phases are fully built-out, the Downtown Mobility Plan will provide 9.3 miles of these two-way cycle tracks around downtown San Diego, connecting points like the Convention Center with Balboa Park.

photo of DMP press conference Dec 21, 2018

R-L: CM Chris Ward, Mayor Faulconer, SDCBC's Andy Harkan, BikeSD's Nicole Burgess, and Randy Torres-Van Vleck at the press conference announcing the start of the Downtown Mobility Plan bikeway. - Dec 21, 2018

 

BikeSD was there at the start of discussions for the Downtown Mobility Plan, we were there in April of this year when the mayor’s office wanted to change the design and delay this project an additional 5 years, and we were there for today’s press conference as well. We applaud the mayor for getting this often-delayed project out of the City’s Streets Division and onto city streets.

While Phase 1 is a great start, Phases 2 and 3 represent the greater share of the Downtown Mobility Plan bikeways and will likely not unfold as quickly or easily as Phase 1. Natalia Torres, Associate Civil Engineer for the City’s Streets Division, explained that the later Downtown phases may not be managed by the City’s Streets Division but instead may be handled by the Department of Public Works (DPW). For those not familiar with the city’s bifurcated engineering divisions, this could be bad news for cyclists and scooter users because DPW is often slower to roll out infrastructure. DPW staff typically handle physical infrastructure like drains, underground wiring, and things like Americans with Disability Compliance elements. DPW often takes longer because they deal less often with things like bikeway design and surface configuration. And given that later phases of the Plan involved difficult pedestrian and bike connections to the notoriously bad Pacific Coast Highway, this challenge will be significant for DPW staff to handle.

BikeSD and other mobility advocates will need to continue to press the city to move forward on the DMP, especially to push the city to use the Streets Division to implement Phase 2 and 3 of the plan so that it doesn’t get slowed down. And we expect continued opposition from groups like the Little Italy Association, which has a history of opposing bike lanes in their district.

Even though today was a day to celebrate a small victory for biking, scooting, and walking safety, there’s a long road ahead to complete the full vision of the Downtown Mobility Plan. The news media will move on from this story. Elected officials may change or depart. Engineering staff may move on to other projects. But BikeSD will be there, making sure that the Downtown Mobility Plan continues to get attention and move towards full completion.

 

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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/