(A Part of) Nimitz Boulevard Gets Buffered Bike Lanes

Thanks to the efforts of our board member, Nicole Burgess, a small part of Nimitz Boulevard is now a bit more pleasant to ride now than before.Over the weekend, new buffered bike lanes were striped along Nimitz Boulevard. The section of Nimitz that now has a buffered zone stretches from  Oliphant Street down to the Evergreen Street. The painted buffer now gives riders a little bit more breathing room while traversing this major corridor in Ocean Beach.

New Buffered Bike Lanes on Nimitz Boulevard. Photo: BikeSD member Kelly Cummings

As the head of the new multi-modal program, Brian Genovese, mentioned last month, the policy of coordinating bike infrastructure improvements with the City’s resurfacing and repaving schedule is finally starting to make some headway in the city.

The discussion about improving Nimitz Boulevard is on our goal list for our first year as it is a key north south corridor in Ocean Beach. One of our strategies for effective advocacy is to initiate a riding tour with the appropriate and relevant elected representatives so that they can experience in a visceral way the conditions that their constituents face on a daily basis. The effort to improve Nimitz for all its users has been spearheaded by Burgess who brought her concerns to Councilmember Faulconer a few months ago by organizing a bicycle ride through Ocean Beach. After organizing the ride with our help, Burgess continued to follow up with  key decision makers including SANDAG bike planners,  the City’s bike coordinator, Tom Landre, Genovese, the new Congressional representative for her district, Scott Peters and her City Council representative, Kevin Faulconer. Burgess was honest about her lack of experience in understanding the processes involved that would ultimately result in a safer corridor along Nimitz Boulevard. In an email sent to all the decision makers on November 9th Burgess urged action,

As key players to people able to make things happen in transportation as well as bike/ped facilities, I would just like to have a good sense of where we are going with Nimitz Blvd.

A few things to note –

I don’t know all the legal processes or all the funding opportunities and I don’t know how well the City of San Diego and Sandag can work together.

But I do think it is important to collaborate with all so that we can have a first class facility completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

My understanding is that there is an I-8 corridor study in the works.   I think the transportation committee should be collaborating with the City, and the bike people on the I-8/Sunset Cliffs area.  Bike People would include District 2 Bike/Ped Advisory Committee and other local advocacy groups.

Nimitz is scheduled for repavement next November.  If we have to wait until next November for the basic improvements, then let’s have a real plan – cycle tracks, road diets, restriping, colored asphalt, whatever it takes to make it safer now rather than 10 years down the road.

How can Sandag and the City of San Diego come together to provide a safe facility for all users within a reasonable time.

If there’s anything I can do to facilitate this process, please let me know.

Thank you for your time on this important corridor treatment.

Despite the email, the city originally repaved Nimitz with no additional improvements for riders in November. Burgess feared that the old sub-par bike lane would either be restriped as before and wanted to influence the restriping and thereby reduce the width of the vehicular travel lane to make it safer for all its users.

On November 28th, Burgess noticed that Nimitz had been repaved and sent out another email:

Subject: Please have the city postpone re-striping on the south end of Nimitz. 

An area of Nimitz has been repaved and before it is done to previous standards, we (all stakeholders) should be able to use paint in a better way to provide safety for all users of the road.
Sandag has visions of providing cycle tracks or safe facilities for cyclists in the next several years.  Let’s work together and begin this gradual process now.   We need to start it here and now – with simple paint.
Please help me do something.
Wishing for the best.

Genovese responded promptly with the following email on November 28th(at 10:05 pm):

We have postponed the striping and developed a plan to add buffered bike lanes. Our plan is being reviewed by the contractor for implementation. I can give you more details tomorrow in between my time conducting interviews.
And followed up further with this email the next morning:
As a follow-up to my email last night, I wanted everyone to know that the proposed changes will occur where the street overlay was recently completed. The remainder of Nimitz will be re-striped in conjunction with upcoming overlay projects but this change will set the tone for what we want along the corridor. As I mentioned before, and which seems very obvious, the idea is to get out in front of the overlay program to see if there are opportunities for improving the bicycling experience. As the newly formed Multi-Modal Section gets situated, we hope to do a lot more for San Diego’s bicycle facilities. Thank you for keeping us alerted to needed improvements.

Over the weekend, BikeSD member, Kelly Cummings carefully documented the new restriping and the buffered bike lanes that were striped for a slightly more pleasant riding experience on Nimitz Boulevard.

Southbound Nimitz with new painted buffer. Photo: BikeSD member Kelly Cummings

Cummings rode out to check out the new painted buffered bike lanes and made meticulous measurements of the area.

The southbound main traffic lane on the right measured 120 inches (10 feet exactly) from inside yellow stripe to inside white lane line. The bike lane measured 78 inches (6’6″) from inside stripe to inside stripe. The right turn lane on the left measured 134 inches (11′ 2″) from inside stripe to edge of concrete gutter. (The concrete gutter adds another 21 inches to the width. The yellow stripes are 4 inches wide, the white dashed lane dividers are 4 inches wide and the sold white lines are 6 inches wide.) As you look up Nimitz, the bike lane along the edge of the sidewalk measured 59-60 inches (5 feet) from edge of gutter to inside white line. The gutter is also 21 inches wide at this point.

Buffered Bike Lane on Nimitz Boulevard. Photo: BikeSD member Kelly Cummings
Buffered Bike Lane on northbound Nimitz Boulevard. Photo: BikeSD member Kelly Cummings

But as Tom Fudge noted last month, “paint is great but paint doesn’t stop cars.” This was evidenced by the two vehicles that were seen driving right over the painted buffer.

Painted Buffers don’t really stop motor vehicles from driving over them. Photo: BikeSD member, Kelly Cummings
Painted Buffers don’t really stop motor vehicles from driving over them. Photo: BikeSD member, Kelly Cummings

The new buffered zones is certainly a vast improvement over what existed before on the pothole filled Nimitz. We’re thankful to all the stakeholders who worked with us and Burgess to ensure that the bike lanes would have some additional breathing room for our riders.

However, this is a nice Christmas present. And we encourage you to send your thank yous and other love notes to the following individuals who have gotten us to this point:

District 2 Councilman Kevin Faulconer, (kevinfaulconer@sandiego.gov)

City Council representative for Councilman Kevin Faulconer, Michael Patton (mpatton@sandiego.gov)

Head of the new Multi-Modal Program, Brian Genovese (BGenovese@sandiego.gov)

City Bike Coordinator, Thomas Landre (TLandre@sandiego.gov)

Jake Aquino with the City Bicycle Program (jaquino@sandiego.gov)

As for the next step, the city needs to step up its game if it is serious about providing safety improvements for her residents. And you can rest assured that this is precisely what we’ll be advocating for.

Have you had a chance to ride on the new buffered bike lanes on Nimitz? What is the experience like? Share them in the comments below.