Hancock Street, San Diego CA

Save the Hancock Street Bike Lane

Hancock Street in Middletown

Given the photo above, you might be asking, "Save what bike lane?  All I see is another poorly-maintained San Diego street."  Well, the City is performing the "Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan Update" for this area, and this wide, auto-oriented stretch of Hancock Street is set to receive a Class II (unbuffered) bike lane as part of the proposed Hancock Transit Corridor:

Hancock Transit Corridor is envisioned as a multiple-use and mixed-use corridor connected to the Washington Street Trolley Station and the historic Mission Brewery, with a diverse mix of residential, office, and retail uses. Residential development, which can include workforce and affordable housing, will activate the area and take advantage of nearby access to trolley service.

Unfortunately, businesses on Hancock have asked the city to remove the planned bike lane, not because any parking will be removed, but in order to *increase* the existing on-street parking. They are proposing a "Hancock Street Safeway" composed of reverse angle parking on both sides of the street, and sharrows, a bike symbol symbolic of token safety gestures.  At this time, we understand the bike lanes have been removed from the Community Plan as it goes to a final City Council vote, as this Planning Department graphic shows  

(Update, 06/05/2018 - City staff provided this correction: The City still supports the proposed Class II bike lane, but has been requested by the Smart Growth & Land Use Committee to do further research on whether it would be possible to accommodate both the Class II bike lane and the additional parking desired by the Hancock Street businesses. Planning staff is continuing to look into this with Transportation & Storm Water Department staff. But we still believe that the proposed Class II bike lane best implements the City’s Climate Action Plan goals and best meets the needs of bicyclists in the area.) 

More on that below. If you don't have time to read further, we're asking you to please email this letter of support for the bike lane to your district council member. Hundreds of emails in opposition have already been sent to the City.

Some background: this segment of Hancock Street runs through a largely industrial zone wedged between two highways (I-5 and Pacific Highway) and two rail lines (the San Diego Trolley and Amtrak/Coaster).  You can see the limited options for pedestrians and bicyclists to traverse this area, despite the nearby Washington Street trolley station (shown below) and Old Town Transit Center:

The Midway Pacific-Highway Community Plan Update is an update to the area's zoning and development plans, and calls for rezoning this area from industrial to very high residential densities, mixed with commercial space:


The Loft2015 apartment building, shown below, is the first example of how this area will be transformed into a mixed-use residential neighborhood adjacent to transit.  This means safely accommodating the pedestrians and bicyclists who will be living here, or using nearby transit, or just trying to get through this extremely bike-unfriendly area of San Diego.  The Community Plan does propose a cycle track and multi-purpose urban trail along nearby Pacific Highway, but the city has consistently failed to build facilities that require anything more than paint - and the usual lack of funding certainly applies here.  Building a cycle track along Pacific Highway would require redesigning high speed on- and off-ramps, and that's extremely costly.

The community plan's "Proposed Policies Related to Land Use", also shown below, explicitly describes why bike lanes are planned for this segment of Hancock: to support connections from housing to nearby transit.

Further, to reduce congestion and parking demand, we need to support travel modes other than just driving.

The Hancock Street Business Association says their Hancock Street Safeway will result in a "safer" Hancock street, and several of the dozens of comments in the community plan preliminary EIR imply that the shared street will be safer for bicyclists than the planned dedicated bike lanes:

Except sharrows aren't safer than dedicated bike lanes.  In fact, the presence of sharrows has been shown to make streets more dangerous to bicyclists than no markings at all, since it provides a false sense of security with symbols largely ignored by drivers.  During evening rush hour, Hancock becomes a dangerous alternate route to I-5 for aggressive drivers barreling down the street to the next on-ramp.  Dodging speeding two-ton vehicles isn't safer for bicyclists than riding in separated bike lanes.  And while the street would be narrowed under their Safeway proposal (with cars), this would also occur with bike lanes.

The Hancock Street Business Association has made significant progress in removing the bike lanes from the Community Plan.  Several HSBA representatives turned out to the April Midway Community Planning Board Meeting, and that board supported the businesses efforts to "explore opportunities to find more parking".  In response to this, City staff reached out to HSBA to discuss options for Traffic Demand Management.  Business owners were not willing to consider methods widely used to optimize existing spaces, such as timed parking and/or meters.

Next, a large number of HSBA representatives appeared at an April 26th City Planning Commission meeting and lobbied for more city-subsidized parking.  Commissioner James Whalen included a motion for removing the bike lane - after waxing on about his many years of partying at Hancock Street establishment Club Montage (now Spin) and explaining his new "healthier lifestyle":

Apparently Whalen's healthier lifestyle doesn't include biking.  The Planning Commission voted to support the HSBA's request to remove the bike lanes from the Community Plan.

Most recently, the City's Smart Growth and Land Use committee (Hancock Street is in committee member Lorie Zapf's district) heard this issue.  New BikeSD Executive Director Judi Tentor and board member Nicole Burgess attended the meeting and spoke in support of your riding safety.  Partly as a result of these efforts, the Smart Growth and Land Use committee did not support the recommendation for degrading the planned bicycle facility.

Update, 06/05/2018 from City staff: The City still supports the proposed Class II bike lane, but has been requested by the Smart Growth & Land Use Committee to do further research on whether it would be possible to accommodate both the Class II bike lane and the additional parking desired by the Hancock Street businesses. Planning staff is continuing to look into this with Transportation & Storm Water Department staff. But we still believe that the proposed Class II bike lane best implements the City’s Climate Action Plan goals and best meets the needs of bicyclists in the area. 

This issue goes to the full City Council on June 26.  BikeSD has written a letter in support of the Hancock Street Bikeway - please consider emailing this to your district council member.

Can we talk about parking? Over the past decade, there have probably been at least a dozen cases in San Diego where preserving or adding street parking has neutered badly-needed bike infrastructure. The Hancock Street Business Association responsible for this most recent example is composed of Vertical Hold Climbing Gym, Culture Shock Dance Center, San Diego Circus Center, Cali-Coast Elite Gymnastics, Bikram Yoga College, and Murphy Construction.  Vertical Hold has led the HSBA effort for the City to provide them with more free parking, so let's compare the off-street parking they provide versus other climbing gyms in San Diego.

Here's the Vertical Hold Climbing Gym parking lot, which they split with the Circus Center:

It appears to contain approximately one dozen parking spaces.  This is the parking lot for Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness near the intersection of I-8 and SR-163:

I would estimate their parking to be at least ten times that of Vertical Hold, with well over 100 spaces. This is the parking lot for Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness in Sorrento Mesa:

This lot is at least 5 times as large as Vertical Hold's, with well over 50 spaces.

If these other indoor climbing businesses in San Diego are paying for the parking required for their customers, why is the City of San Diego required to subsidize Vertical Hold with free parking, simply because they provide inadequate off-street parking?  It's unfair for bicyclists (many of whom also own vehicles and pay gax taxes) to risk their safety when they pay the same City general fund taxes as drivers that maintain our roads.

Further, the City is attempting to reduce vehicle miles travelled, increase bike and public transit use and improve bike/pedestrian safety.  Removing bike lanes to add more free street parking runs counter to these goals.  It also sets a terrible precedent for future Community Plan Updates.  So we ask the City Council to please restore retain the Hancock Street Class II bike lanes to in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan Update.


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, Mprinz@sandiego.gov.  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.

Temporary Realignment of Rose Canyon Bike Path

Rose CanyonHere is an update we just received about the temporary realignment of Rose Canyon Bike Path:.

The new temporary realignment of the Rose Canyon Bike Path is almost complete. Cyclists will be directed to use this new reroute beginning July 25 at approximately noon, but will still be able to access the existing path up to the point when the new path is opened for use. The new reroute will be in use through approximately November 2018. This path will reroute bicyclists from the existing Rose Canyon Bike Path west along the eastern shoulder of the northbound I-5 off-ramp. The protected, temporary two-lane bike path is constructed on the outside shoulder of the northbound I-5 off-ramp. Cyclists are required to use the temporary bike path until utility relocation near the Rose canyon Bike path is complete. Attached is a flyer with more information.

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 ( christopherward@sandiego.gov ) and Mayor Kevin Faulconer ( kevinfaulconer@sandiego.gov ), please thank these elected officials for supporting safe streets in Hillcrest. (Include BikeSD on your communications, talk@bikesd.org). Or if you prefer twitter for communication, @ChrisWardD3  and @Kevin_Faulconer (still, include us @bikesd).

San Diego finally has parking protected bike lanes (on Wabaska Drive)!










The city's first parking protected bike lane is now live and ready for action in Ocean Beach. You can ride this little stretch to your heart's content on Wabaska Drive. See?! We can have parking and safe bike lanes on a single street. There is no need to waste everyone's time and energy by carping on and on (and on) about parking* at the cost of safe riding. If you want to send thanks and love and hugs - all credit for this new facility goes to the very tireless Nicole Burgess!

And while the new facility may have caught at least one local driver off guard:

That driver seems to have figured out how to not park in a bike lane. Yay!

Hooray for new (safe) bikes lanes!
* Yes, parking (especially free parking) on the public right of way is a poor use of land management and not an effective way to address our goals in meeting the Climate Action Plan (among other plans and laws). But, hopefully this facility can demonstrate to our impatient friends at the Hillcrest Business Association that they should probably divert their lobbying funds to some other goals besides preventing the implementation of new bicycle facilities.