The City of San Diego Mobility Board voted to approve the Gilman Drive Segment of the Coastal Rail Trail. The Coastal Rail Trail will connect Oceanside to Downtown San Diego, and the Gilman Drive section will more immediately connect UC San Diego to the almost completed Rose Creek Bike Path (which is being built by SANDAG as part of the Early Action program). The project will be implemented as a protected cycletrack (class IV) on both sides of the road from the I-5 interchange to La Jolla Village Drive. A dedicated bike traffic light and signal phase will also be added southbound at the entrance to I-5.  Additionally, the gaps in the sidewalk on the west side of Gilman Drive will be filled in and a sidewalk will be added underneath the interchange with La Jolla Village Drive (where many students who live nearby have already created desire paths and are forced to play frogger with cars).

Cross-section Rendering of one segment of the Gilman Drive Portion of the Coastal Rail Trail

BikeSD is glad to see a protected cycletrack implemented. Not only is the current unprotected bike lane very narrow immediately north of the I-5 freeway interchange, it is made narrower by overgrown shrubbery from the canyon to the east. Combined with the curvature of the road as well as a 50mph speed limit, Gilman Drive as-is is a collision in the making. According to data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), there have been 15 reported bike rider collisions along the portion of Gilman Drive that will be renovated, from 2009 to 2019. Of course, many collisions also go unreported.

 

Map of Bicycle Collisions from 2009-2019 along Gilman Drive

That being said, BikeSD has some reservations about the project. The project’s estimated cost, $22 milion, is astronomical, and is due to the insistence of maintaining 12 foot travel lanes & a 50mph speed limit and adjacent street parking, as well as building retaining walls and working with sensitive lands. A much more affordable tactical project could have been completed with a road diet, particularly considering the lack of congestion on Gilman Drive, little parking demand south of Via Alicante, and the opening of the Mid-Coast Trolley Extension of the MTS Blue Line, which will reduce road demand even further.

 

Despite our reservations, this will be an important connection that will encourage even more San Diegans who are “interested but concerned” about biking to ditch their cars and help San Diego reach its Climate Action Plan goals of getting 18% of commuters to go by bike.  While the project is still only partially funded, construction is anticipated to begin in Fall 2021. You can see the Mobility Board’s discussion of this agenda item and the presentation by city staff via this link: Youtube

 

EDIT: A previous version of this article reported 11 bike rider involved collisions along the relevant section of Gilman Drive.That has been corrected to 15. The generated report can be found here.