North Park Residents: Now is the perfect time to advocate for change

The post below was written by BikeSD volunteer and member, Tyler Bergin.


Today, the North Park Planning Committee will vote on approving the installation of two new bike corrals and the city’s first parklet. While the implementation of these cycling amenities in North Park would be a great start, more needs to be done in order to transform this up-and-coming neighborhood into THE MOST bike and pedestrian friendly neighborhood in San Diego. As many of you are probably aware, North Park was recently named the thirteenth best hipster neighborhood in the U.S. by Forbes. Whether the news made you giddy or nauseous, the fact is that this kind of national attention has brought this wonderful neighborhood into the spotlight locally as well. City and community officials now have their sights focused on North Park in order to decide how to gain more national attention and use this burgeoning hipster destination to the city’s financial advantage.

Now is the perfect time to advocate for change. Recent studies have shown that the installation of bike lanes in New York and Portland have had a positive affect on the local economies. According to an NBC News article, sales at businesses along New York’s Ninth Avenue increased as much as 49 percent after installing bike lanes. As Martha Roskowski of Bikes Belong puts it “When people travel by bike, they tend to eat, shop and play more locally.” With this type of information available and our newly elected mayor’s focus on public safety, arts and culture, jobs, small business, neighborhoods and environment/livability, it would seem that placing dedicated bike facilities along the major thoroughfares in North Park would be a no-brainer. This, however, is not the case.

Plenty of parking for cars at the North Park Parking Garage.

While automobiles are given almost exclusive right-of-way on our city’s streets, the bicycle is left to fend for itself. Two tons of steel versus twenty pounds of aluminum; we all know which is the winner. To add insult to injury, not only are cars given exclusive right-of-way to drive on these streets, they are also given exclusive right to sit motionless on the side of these streets while bicycles are meant to be chained to a few randomly placed bike racks, not in the street, but on the sidewalk where bikes are not permitted to be ridden! One could make the argument that there are far more cars driven into North Park and removing parking from one side of the street in order to make space install bike lanes would create a huge deficiency, but this argument is invalid. At the corner of North Park Way and 30th Street sits a 388-space parking garage that four years after opening was, according to city redevelopment project manager Michael Lengyel, “generally at less than 50 percent capacity.” What better way to put this fourteen million dollar parking garage to good use and recuperate some of this cost than by removing on-street parking!

Green bike lanes with protective barrier
New York City's Protected Bike Lanes

So what exactly should be done in order to improve cycling infrastructure in North Park? There are three streets that could be immediately improved. Bike lanes and/or cycle tracks should be installed on both University Avenue and 30th Street. These can be simple bike lanes such as the ones that currently exist on Utah Street (perfect example of bikes being pushed onto side streets instead of main thoroughfares) or green protected bike lanes such as those that exist in New York, Portland and Chicago. Transforming the two main avenues in North Park into bike-friendly “complete streets” would establish North Park as THE bike friendly destination in San Diego.

The third street that could benefit is Ray Street between University Ave and North Park Way. As the location of the Ray Street Art and Culture District, this segment could be paved and turned into a fully bike and pedestrian street by completely removing access to cars. This would be the first of its kind in San Diego and follow the success of cities such as Barcelona, Spain y Curitiba, Brazil. Additionally, it would make a great location for a new bike corral.

As Councilman David Alvarez stated at BikeSD’s launch party back in September, planning groups and city council have the power to make changes, but they need to know what changes the community desires to implement. There is an old saying “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Let’s make sure that wheel is spoked and attached to a bicycle.

North Park today: Ripe for change.

Foto Friday: Interim Intersection Treatments

The most ideal treatment for an intersection is the Dutch standard. But is there an interim step that can be implemented sooner? We see a paint based solution that can be implemented on some intersections in the city and the region. Below is a photo of how paint is used to guide riders across intersections in Copenhagen - one of the top bike friendly cities in the world. Much thanks to Michael who sent the photo below:


In San Diego, bike lanes often get dropped at intersections which is the one place all road users need direction on how to navigate across. Long Beach began using green paint to highlight specific areas where roads users needed to be especially cautious and we see this as a very low cost solution to implement while working on actually redesigning the intersections to be more in tune with the Dutch standard.

El NACTO Urban Bikeway Guide states this about how intersections should be treated:

Designs for intersections with bicycle facilities should reduce conflict between bicyclists (and other vulnerable road users) and vehicles by heightening the level of visibility, denoting a clear right-of-way, and facilitating eye contact and awareness with competing modes. Intersection treatments can resolve both queuing and merging maneuvers for bicyclists, and are often coordinated with timed or specialized signals.
The configuration of a safe intersection for bicyclists may include elements such as color, signage, medians, signal detection, and pavement markings. Intersection design should take into consideration existing and anticipated bicyclist, pedestrian and motorist movements. In all cases, the degree of mixing or separation between bicyclists and other modes is intended to reduce the risk of crashes and increase bicyclist comfort. The level of treatment required for bicyclists at an intersection will depend on the bicycle facility type used, whether bicycle facilities are intersecting, the adjacent street function and land use


Where do you think would be ideal places to implement this sort of treatment?

Foto Friday - Inexpensive Design Solutions with Big Visual Impact

I often get many emails with specific examples on how other cities and regions around the country and world are designing solutions that ensure that traffic moves efficiently in a system that treats bicycle riders with dignity.I thought Fridays would be a good day to highlight some of these design solutions in order to give you an idea on how we can begin to visualize what San Diego could look like in the future.

One of the big problems in San Diego is the freeway-style ramps that have been designed to allow maximum efficiency to motor vehicles at the cost of bicycle, pedestrian and other vulnerable user's lives. For example, trying to ride on Friars Road with the multiple on-ramps and off-ramps can feel humiliating given how little consideration has been made for the non-motorized populace. But the sort of changes needed to be made in order to transform our transportation network can come in a variety of different ways and the example below is an example of how paint can make a visually arresting difference.

This is what Stevens Creek Boulevard at I-280 in San Jose used to look like from aerial perspective.

Below is a street level view of how this on-ramp section used to look like.

Below is a street level view of how this on-ramp section used to look like.

Stevens Creek Boulevard at I-280. Image from Google Maps

While Hans Wangbichler was up in San Jose, he sent in the photo below of how paint can clearly demarcate where a rider should be expected. The paint also visually indicates to drivers to expect a rider riding across the on-ramp to continue on Stevens Creek Boulevard and the bright green color is arresting enough to alert drivers.

Stevens Creek Boulevard at I-280. Photo: Hans Wangbichler

Design solutions such as the working implementation above are an example of what is presented in the NACTO Urban Bikeway Guide. This treatment could be implemented on Pershing Drive where it crosses the ramp for I-5 and many other places around San Diego. This is the sort of solutions that San Diego should be working to implement in order to ensure that all residents can move around in a manner that is not simply efficient, but respectful of their choice.

SANDAG to host a presentation on the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide

NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide presentation by Joe Gilpin of Alta Planning + Design
When: May 8th at noon (through 2pm)
Where: SANDAG Board Room - 7th Floor, 401 B Street, San Diego
Who: City, County and Caltrans staff have been invited along with bike advocates and other related stakeholders. You are also invited.
What: Joe Gilpin, Alta Planning + Design’s expert on innovative bikeway treatments and primary author of the NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) Urban Bikeway Design Guide, will be at SANDAG to give a 90 minute overview presentation on the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

After the recent deaths of two bicycle riders, there has been a lot of attention highlighting the dangerous design of San Diego's streets - an environment that encourages speeding and is uninviting to anyone both outside a car and inside, given how many drivers die or cause injury or death on a weekly basis.

Joe Gilpin, a planner with the bicycle and pedestrian design firm, Alta Planning & Design, will be in San Diego next Tuesday to give an overview on the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide.

Released in the 2011, the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide  provides the first comprehensive design guidance for the American context on a wide-range of innovative and increasingly popular bicycle treatments (e.g., cycle tracks, bike boxes, bike signals).
As cities across the United States work to expand the appeal and safety of cycling in urban areas, they are successfully using a new toolbox of innovative design and engineering strategies. The NACTO Guide draws on the experiences of these pioneer cities and adapts internationally recognized best practices to the American context.

Cycle Tracks in Long Beach, CA. Photo:

What is the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide?

NACTO is an association of 15 major U.S. cities formed to exchange transportation ideas, insights, and practices and cooperatively approach national transportation issues.

The NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide is a set of design standards for bikeways and was released with much fanfare last March. Janette Sadik-Khan, the current Commissioner at the New York City Department of Transportation is responsible for much of the positive transformation of New York City - all made with acknowledging the reality that New York City has to accommodate a continually growing population, unveiled the guide last year. Below is a video of the official announcement.

As Mia Birk, from Alta Planning & Design, states "NACTO undertook the project because many of its members found existing design manuals inadequate for their efforts to promote bicycle transportation."

In California, planners and engineers are compelled to follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets (the “Green Book”), the California Highway Design Manual, and other highway-centric design guidelines when designing facilities that are used by all users traveling in a variety of transportation modes besides an automobile.

The NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide allows for additional flexibility when transportation engineers, planners and the like are re-designing our roads to be more inviting to all its users. Giving Gilpin an opportunity to talk about the Urban Bikeway Guide is an excellent first step that SANDAG is taking to acknowledge the glaring deficiencies in our transportation network. I hope the presentation compels all cities in the county to sign on to be member of NACTO and implement the best practices that can have tremendous economic and health impacts on a community.


For more on Alta Planning & Design, read this interview profiling Sam Corbett, the Senior Associate at San Diego's Alta Planning & Design branch.

Remembering David Ortiz and Chuck Gilbreth

David Ortiz (June 25, 1982 - March 22, 2012). via

It's been an entire month since David Ortiz was struck by three different vehicles and killed on Balboa Avenue - a road that is designed to encourage speeding.

Nearly two weeks after Ortiz was killed, friends, family and strangers came together to honor Ortiz's life and ask the City of San Diego for changes to be implemented to ensure such a tragic event wouldn't happen again. Specifically, the community asked for:

1) A public apology from the police department to the victim’s family & the cycling community for jumping to conclusions and immediately blaming the cyclist before fully completing the investigation.
2) A stronger commitment (from City) to safer infrastructure and roadway design.
3) A stronger commitment from PD to enforce traffic laws that have an adverse impact on cyclists/pedestrians (failure to stop/yield, distracted driving, etc.)
4) The City immediately become a NACTO affiliate.

Less than a month later, another rider, Chuck Gilbreth was killed. This time the collision occurred on another high speed road, Montezuma Road.

Montezuma Road with the I-8 (in blue) to the North.

This was the same location where KPBS’ Tom Fudge, was struck five years ago. In the five years since, the City's engineers made zero improvements to reduce drivers' tendencies to treat Montezuma Road as a highway despite running parallel to an actual freeway (the I-8) located less than 4,000 feet to the north - less than a mile away.

Like Balboa Avenue, Montezuma Road serves as a critical link connecting neighborhoods and thus as a feasible route for someone riding their bicycle. But these connector routes are dangerous. To quote Stephan Vance, a senior regional planner for SANDAG,

Our city streets are dangerous because they are built to accommodate high speeds that are lethal. This creates an expectation by drivers that they should be going fast, and leads to frustration when they can't.

In the five years since Fudge was struck, the City's engineers could have reduced a travel lane on Montezuma Road and created a protected bikeway to ensure the safety and comfort for any one who wanted to traverse Montezuma on a bicycle. But instead, Montezuma Road was neglected. Fudge's experience was forgotten. And now we have another needless death on our hands.

Gilbreth worked at Hamilton Sundstrand Power System(HSPS). He was 63 years old when he was killed last Wednesday. According to one of his co-workers and close friends, Phillip Young, Gilbreth was looking forward to retirement and rode his bike to and from work most days. Young goes on to say that Gilbreth was,

a great guy that mentored many folks at HSPS. He will be greatly missed.