Wide roads are not bicycle friendly: Why One Paseo is bad for bicycling


Wide roads induce high speeds which creates dangerous conditions for all road users. Visual via Transit Miami

One Paseo is described by One Paseo’s website as a “proposed neighborhood village to live, work and play in the heart of Carmel Valley”

One Paseo is a proposed mixed-use development that (if approved as proposed) will be built in Carmel Valley in a currently mostly vacant lot that sits beside Del Mar Heights Road between El Camino Real and High Bluff Drive.

The project’s website states the following (among other things):

“Cycle tracks, the first of its kind in San Diego, will be lined around this gateway road, one of the most utilized streets in Carmel Valley.”

A little over a week ago at the Planning Commission hearing, supporters and consultants for One Paseo showed up to speak in support of the project. Many supporters spoke, in particular, about how great the project would be for bicycling and how the project would make Carmel Valley more walkable. But we didn’t support the project as currently proposed.

First, a correction. The claim that the proposed 0.3 mile cycletrack along Del Mar Heights Road in front of the One Paseo project would be the first of its kind in San Diego is incorrect. Friars Road has had a cycletrack, if a bit ill-maintained, for decades (on the southside between Sea World Drive and Fashion Valley Road). The other cycletrack on Sea World Drive has been in existence for at least one decade, thus the cycletrack along One Paseo will not be the city’s first.

Last year Walt Chambers from Great Streets San Diego wrote:

Fact: Bicycling to One Paseo is also discouraged by the high volume, high speed 6 lane roads that bicycles must navigate. Even though bicycle lanes are provided, only the most experienced cyclists would brave these conditions. Would you let your children ride on these roads?

Del Mar Heights Road is described in the Final Environmental Impact Report as follows:

Del Mar Heights Road is generally an east-west trending roadway within the study area (Mango Drive to Carmel Canyon Road). Between Mango Drive and Portofino Drive, it has a functional classification of a five-lane major roadway. From Portofino Drive to the I-5 northbound (NB) ramps, it has a functional classification of a five-lane prime arterial, and a six-lane major roadway between the I-5 NB ramps to High Bluff Drive. From High Bluff Drive to Carmel Canyon Road, Del Mar Heights is functionally and ultimately classified as a six-lane prime arterial. The roadway width within the traffic study area is 102 feet and the posted speed limit is 40 mph. No parking is allowed along this section of the roadway. Class II bike lanes 1 are located along both sides of the road.

Because the project will have an impact on the surrounding environment and significant and unavoidable impacts will remain even after mitigation efforts, a Statement of Overriding Considerations was prepared. This document calls for the creation of three left turn lanes and the widening of Del Mar Heights Road:

In addition, at the intersection of Del Mar Heights Road and High Bluff Drive, prior to the issuance of the first certificate of occupancy for Phase 2, the applicant must (1) widen Del Mar Heights Road on the north side receiving lanes,re-stripe the northbound, left-turn lane, re-phase the signal to provide northbound triple left-turn lanes, and modify the eastbound and westbound left-turn lanes to dual left-turn lanes; and(2) widen the eastbound approach by 2 feet on the south side to accommodate the eastbound and westbound dual left-turn lanes (MM 5.2-7).

One of the first major efforts we undertook after we launched as an advocacy organization two years ago was to advocate for narrowing the travel lane on Montezuma Road after Chuck Gilbreth was killed. Our reasoning then (as it is now) is that wide roads induce high vehicle speeds which makes bicycling (and walking) conditions dangerous. This is substantiated with research and data from government agencies, transportation researchers and more.

Screenshot from 2014-10-14 13:47:31
Image from Health Resources in Action’s report titled Public Health Impact: Community Speed Reduction

Health Resources in Action published a report making this exact connection in a report titled Public Health Impact: Community Speed Reduction

Motor vehicle crashes, which are the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States each year, killed over 30,000 people in 2010. Vehicle speed is a major factor in many of these collisions, and higher speeds are especially dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists when collisions occur.

Multiple factors contribute to the problem of unsafe traffic speed. Among the most common are road designs that encourage higher speeds, speed limits tha tare set too high, and speeding (people driving faster than the speed limit or too fast for road conditions). Speeding is the most studied of the three factors.

Police reports indicate that speeding played a role in nearly 1 in 3 crash deaths (9,944 people in 2011). In fact,almost 9 out of 10 speeding-related deaths took place on non-Interstate highways, most of which have speed limits of 55 mph or less.

Small traffic speed reductions can lead to fewer motor vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths. Slower speeds may also promote physical activity by making roads safer and more inviting for pedestrians and cyclists —especially when combined with specific road features for those users. Proven measures exist to reduce vehicle speeds to levels that are safer for everyone on the road

But One Paseo calls for widening the already wide road while simultaneous calling the project walkable/transit friendly and bikeable.

Meanwhile the author of Walkable City, Jeff Speck, calls (perhaps in vain) for the reduction of vehicle travel lane widths.

But here in San Diego, city staff recommended the project be approved by the Planning Commission. The One Paseo project was endorsed by the Move Alliance and by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, among others.

If you are horrified at the thought of San Diego widening on our already wide roads while relying on Level of Service as a metric of environmental impact (despite being dead to the state), I’d encourage you to consider emailing the Planning Commission at: planningcommission@sandiego.gov. The Commissioners are scheduled to continue their deliberations this Thursday and will vote on the project. If they support it, it will go on to City Council for the final vote.