Missed Opportunity: San Diego’s Uniquely Incomplete Version of “Complete the Boulevard”

San Diego’s safe streets supporters love when the City of San Diego studies altering the streetscape of dangerous auto centric roads. Unfortunately, even when safety is the stated priority of the study, safety and encouraging bicycle infrastructure are not a priority.  

San Diego’s Uniquely Incomplete Version of “Complete the Boulevard”

The typical roadway conditions of El Cajon Blvd are relics of San Diego’s auto centric past. El Cajon Blvd was the east-west corridor before Interstate 8 was completed in the 1960’s. When the I-8 was completed, the City of San Diego did not retrofit the redundant auto centric nature of the roadway. The result was a high speed, dangerous road through the heart of San Diego’s Mid-City neighborhoods.  

The dangerous conditions of the roadway made it an ideal candidate for safety improvements. In 2015, the city began a study, “Complete the Boulevard,” to identify improvements to “realize the transformative potential of the Rapid Bus and future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along State Route 15 in Mid-City by creating more walkable, bikeable, and transit- friendly locations along the Rapid Bus route.” The area of study was El Cajon Blvd. from Highland Ave. to 50th St. The existing conditions report confirmed what anyone who choose to walk or bicycle on ECB already new, it was unsafe. The corridor had 188 traffic crashes previous 5 years, 36 of those collisions involved a pedestrian or bicyclists. In studying the corridor, city staff observed bicyclists often choose sidewalk rather than the intimidating streets. In fact, city staff analysis determined that only the “strong and fearless” (<1%) demographic of bicyclists would tolerate the streets.  

Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress Results

This data confirms what bicyclists already knew: El Cajon Blvd  is a terrible place to ride a bike. Based on the need identified in the existing conditions, City staff prepared analysis of alternative roadway design.  

El Cajon Blvd. Alternatives

El Cajon Blvd. Alternatives

Most alternatives were dismissed quickly. Staff determined only 2 alternatives viable. Alternative 1 adds a center median to limit the conflict points created by automobile turns. No dedicated bicycle facility for Alternative 1. Alternative 8B includes dedicated bicycle lanes on both sides of the street. Alternative 1 received vocal support at both community planning groups (CPGs), Kensington-Talamadge and City Heights Area Planning Committee (CHAPC). While these group’s opinion is only advisory, it appears that city staff will cave to their demands.  

Why did these CPGs not want dedicated bicycle lanes on unsafe road? (Perceived) Lack of parking!! This contradicts city staff’s analysis of the current parkingshowing that the current parking is underutilized and unmetered. Clearly a more efficient use of the on-street parking would offset any space lost to the addition of bicycle lanes.

Parking by the Numbers

The excess of parking combined with City Heights resident’s low levels of car ownership should have promoted the alternatives that included bicycle lanes. In a city that has both adopted Vision Zero goals and a binding Climate Action Plan, it is troubling that bicyclists concerns are dismissed.  


University Ave in San Diego

Closing the Hillcrest Gap: Councilmember Todd Gloria’s departing gift?

University Ave in San Diego
University Ave between 5th and 6th: 8 lanes devoted to moving and storing cars; none for bikes.

 

“We couldn’t accomplish that at SANDAG but I think we can accomplish that as a city project.”

Todd Gloria, November 14th, City Council Meeting

At a recent marathon City Council meeting, District 3 Councilmember Todd Gloria took action to fill the Hillcrest Gap (aka HBA hole) as part of the update of the Uptown Community Plan. The failure of the Uptown community to create a safe east-west bicycle route through Hillcrest was one of the reasons BikeSD opposed the draft version of the plan. 

Councilmember Gloria addressed the Hillcrest Gap in context with the city’s Climate Action Plan. An analysis of the Uptown Community Plan update showed the city would not reach the city-wide transportation mode share goals in Uptown. In responding to Councilmember Gloria’s question, city staff acknowledged that bike mode share would be higher without the gap.

San Diego Uptown Mode Share Analysis

As the meeting proceeded late into the evening, Todd Gloria made a complex motion to approve the Uptown Community Plan with many additions. For this blog post, we will focus solely on the items related to mobility. First, Councilmember Gloria asked for a process that would allow the community plan to be adjusted if the city is not on target to meet the mode share goals. In addition, Councilmember Gloria asked for staff to “consider developing a plan to fund and implement the University Ave bike lane gap.” Councilmember Gloria’s motion passed with the support of his city council colleagues.   

So what did this all mean? For those of us watching on CityTV, it was uncertain.  Thankfully, Councilmember Gloria helped us understand through social media.   

https://twitter.com/ToddGloria/status/798456681340383233

https://twitter.com/ToddGloria/status/798646291211239426

Councilmember Gloria’s clarification was welcome news.  BikeSD has advocated for a solution to fill the gap in our regional bicycle network since the SANDAG Transportation Committee’s shortsighted decision to abandon a stretch of University Ave in June of 2015. SANDAG met privately with Hillcrest Business Association lobbyists to kill the bike lane, while cancelling public meetings. This was another example of the agency breaking the public’s trust, which helped defeat the agency’s ballot measure last month.   

While a path to close the gap has been identified, we will not be fully satisfied until changes in the street design have been implemented. We suspect the Hillcrest naysayers opposed to positive change will continue their intense effort to weaken and eliminate any bicycle infrastructure in the core of Hillcrest. In a supposedly progressive and tolerant community, why is the safety of residents who bike disregarded for cheap street parking? BikeSD will continue to advocate for a complete bikeway network so commuters and families can ride safely, and help meet the city’s Climate Action Plan mode share goals.  


Why the HBA Hole is a Worrying Precursor to Future Bike Projects

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Full house at SANDAG Transportation Committee meeting on June 5th, 2015

As documented previously, the SANDAG board voted to approve a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for the Uptown project. The SANDAG staff report clearly articulated the reasoning for exemption from CEQA. (Cliff notes version: bicycling is good for the environment!) This was a victory considering the fact that the California Restaurant Association (CRA), hired by the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) lobbied heavily to expand the HBA Hole (my term for the University Avenue gap created last year after heavy lobbying by the HBA) to Fourth and Fifth Avenues north of Robinson St. The basis for lobbying effort? Concerns over the 12-16 curbside parking spots being replaced with a protected bike lane that would result in many more community and economic benefits.

Prior to registering his vote, SANDAG board member, Supervisor Ron Roberts stated that he was “disappointed” that SANDAG staff was “dismissive” of HBA’s parking concerns. He comments demonstrated his disregard for the net parking gain of the project and he expressed eagerness to revisit the design of the bikeways on Fourth and Fifth Avenues—a project that has been in the community outreach process (with a HBA representative present throughout the process) since 2012! While Roberts eventually voted for the CEQA exemption, he only did so after being reassured that the design of Fourth and Fifth Avenues could be revisited. He expressed a desire for a solution that would appease both the HBA and the CRA.

While Roberts expressed concerns over curbside parking, Councilmember Gloria responded with a passionate defense (audio starts @2:16:03) of the Fourth and Fifth Avenue alignments. Gloria addressed the parking concerns directly by reminding the board of the net gain of parking for the entire project as well as his experience as a Hillcrest resident parking in the local garages that are never full. He also echoed BikeSD’s concerns that parking enthusiasts from HBA and CRA would never be satisfied.

While Gloria’s defense caused fist bumps in SANDAG’s boardroom among us bicycling advocates, Supervisor Ron Roberts comments tempered our enthusiasm. (Audio starts 2:13:25)

The Uptown Bikeway’s goals are also to, “[i]mprove travel safety for everyone, and create an exceptional biking experience.” “Everyone” includes children—a demographic that Supervisor Roberts has repeatedly claimed to care about.

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Earlier this year, at the State of the County address, Supervisor Roberts offered a full throated support to reduce childhood obesity, “As a county, our commitment to health covers our youngest, oldest, and everyone in between. Heart health is a primary focus on my health agenda because it is the No. 2 killer in San Diego, and No. 1 in the United States. The fact of the matter is heart disease, including heart attacks, are preventable. Poor nutrition and lack of physical activity are two contributing factors—two habits—hat that we need to change.”

Research has shown that “there are significant connections between having a low obesity rate and a high rate of walking or biking to work. The same is true for diabetes. In statistical terms, about 30 percent of the variation in obesity among states, and more than half of the variation in diabetes, was linked to differences in walking and cycling rates.”

How is continuing to encourage driving (by creating bicycling facilities in a swiss cheese approach) supposed to increase healthy and active living in the current and next generations? How will parking facilities on our public streets reduce obesity when the unequivocal outcome of our elected representatives’ votes continue to encourage driving?

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Uptown residents deserve a bikeway without “Bike Lane Ends” signs. Image via BikingBis

Bike San Diego will continue to advocate for a complete uninterrupted bikeway in Hillcrest. Uptown residents deserve a bikeway without “Bike Lane Ends” signs. Todd Gloria will not be in the SANDAG boardroom to defend Uptown Bikeway in 2017. While he moves on to the State Assembly, the successful implementation of the Uptown Bikeway will depend on the leadership of County Supervisor Ron Roberts, District 3 Councilmember-elect Chris Ward and Mayor  Kevin Faulconer. And we hope that Supervisor Roberts shows a willingness to implement the Uptown Bikeway network without supporting any additional gaps, so that the next generation—our children—can integrate active living as a core part of their daily activity and make obesity a relic of the past.


San Diego Downtown Mobility Plan

Cycle tracks are coming to downtown!

Downtown areas in American cities have dramatically redesigned their cities with bicycle infrastructure in recent years. Unfortunately, San Diego was not among the early adopters. Currently, the downtown core of San Diego has no bicycle lanes. In addition to the lack of dedicated infrastructure, many of the roads serve high volume, high speed traffic from the 3 connecting freeways. Clearly, bicyclists have not been a priority for the transportation planning in downtown. However, we are hopeful this significant oversight will be corrected with the implantation of the Downtown Mobility Plan.

On June 21st , the San Diego City Council passed the Downtown Mobility Plan. We have previously expressed our enthusiasm for the plan. We are very grateful that the plan passed without any major revisions requested by opponents. The plan creates an entire network of protected cycle tracks and greenways throughout downtown.

San Diego Downtown Mobility Plan

When opponents from Little Italy pleaded for sharrows instead of cycletracks, Todd Gloria discussed the differences of riding by himself where sharrows may be sufficient but his preference for enhanced facilities when riding with his niece and nephew.  Gloria and Civic San Diego planner, Brad Ricther, emphasized the plans intended outcome of encouraging new riders with protected facilities.

Council member Gloria addressed the plan’s opponents directly when addressing opposition to a lane reduction and protected bikeway on the same street as Washington Elementary, “The net result of that is reduced speed. For an elementary school in particular, the ability to slow down traffic and reduce it a bit and as well as the protected path is a net win for safety, which should be our top concern when we talk about children going to school.”

While City Council approved the plan, the plan requires further political support to ensure implementation. And San Diego bicyclists are very familiar with planning fatigue. Will the downtown mobility plan gather dust with so many other well intentioned studies and plans? We are optimistic that city staff will implement Civic San Diego’s plans. Mayor Kevin Faulconer has committed to building the cycle track network within 3 years as a part of his climate action plan. Bike San Diego will continue to advocate for a better downtown and a full implementation of the downtown mobility plan.


10 Year Old Cyclist Hit by Van in Point Loma and another in El Cerrito

A reader wrote in about a collision that happened yesterday morning at Catalina and Wilcox in Point Loma.

Catalina and Wilcox - Location of the collision
Catalina and Wilcox - Location of the collision

A 10 year old cyclist was hit at Catalina and Wilcox.  According to our reader,

the cyclist was hit when the van turned left across traffic hitting cyclist coming in opposite direction.  Cyclist was hurt but was told she would be ok. That is all I know.  Be careful on Catalina at all times!

Photo of the downed bicycle at Catalina and Wilcox. Photo by BikeSD reader

According to our source, the cyclist that was hit was an aspiring youth cyclist who was just 10 years old. The young cyclist was taken to the hospital. The cyclist's father was also riding with his daughter when the collision happened. He declined help offered by fellow cyclists. I can only imagine that the father must have been terribly shaken by the incident.

The other source reporting this collision states that the "cyclist suffered from fractured leg and collar bone, which police said were not life-threatening."

Our source stated that the Chevy van responsible for the collision was a government issued van driven by a Navy enlisted man. From the looks of van in the above photo, it is a miracle that the young girl is even alive.

A second cyclist was hit near SDSU campus yesterday when a Hyundai driver struck the bicyclist as he tried to pass her,

The 23-year-old woman sustained non-life-threatening facial fractures

If you have any additional information about either of these two collisions, please do leave a comment or email admin@bikesd.org

We send the both cyclists and their families our thoughts and wishes for a speedy recovery.