By John P. Anderson
On Tuesday evening, October 20th, the Bankers Hill Community Group gathered for a meeting featuring a presentation by Brian Genovese on the extension of the 4th and 5th Avenue bike lanes in Uptown that were created earlier this year. Mr. Genovese is a Senior Engineer with the Transportation Department of San Diego. He referred to the City’s 4th & 5th Avenue bike plans as an ‘interim bike plan” since it may be replaced or enhanced in a few years by a SANDAG bicycle corridor project in the Uptown area that is currently in the planning stages.
The 4th and 5th Avenue bike lanes are part of the City’s Master Bicycle Plan that was created in late 2013. This plan calls for San Diego to double the size of its bike system. To make timely progress toward this goal, Mr. Genovese noted the city is focusing on ‘immediate action treatments’ – 4th and 5th Avenues fall into this category. These are projects that can be implemented quickly and with a low amount of cost.
In May the first portion of these bike lanes opened from Cedar (Interstate 5 overpass) to Laurel. To create the lanes the left-most travel lane, the #1 lane in traffic engineering terms, was repainted and converted from a motor vehicle travel lane to a bicycle lane. The bike lane has a painted buffer zone on both sides to give additional safety from parked cars and travelling cars. Before the travel lane was converted traffic counts were conducted and analyzed and it was found there was excess capacity (or ‘reserve capacity’) on 4th and 5th Avenue and that a lane reduction would not have an impact on motor vehicle traffic. Mr. Genovese noted that as the bike lanes are extended these traffic studies will be conducted again to ensure there is not a negative effect on motor vehicle traffic. The conversion or removal of a travel lane in this manner is called a ‘road diet’. The project completed in May was the first road diet in the history of the City of San Diego.
The bike lanes are situated on the left-hand side of 4th and 5th to avoid conflict with bus routes and stops which are on the right side and to coordinate with the future SANDAG project.
A number of times throughout the presentation a couple of items were stressed:
- There has been no parking removed, there is no parking removed in the current extension, and there are no plans to remove parking in the future
- There will not be a negative impact to vehicle traffic flow due to the bicycle lane installations
The City is now looking at extending the bike lanes from Juniper north to Upas. This stretch is being looked at currently because the city is coordinating with underground pipe work and resurfacing to reduce noise, cost, and inconvenience to the neighborhood and road users. I applaud the city’s ongoing efforts to coordinate between departments and use infrastructure dollars responsibly. Currently only 5th Avenue has undergrounding work scheduled, so it is likely that extensions will not occur to both 4th and 5th Avenues at the same time. 5th Avenue will be extended first and 4th Avenue at a later date unless work schedules or other factors change.
Mr. Genovese also noted that in addition to being part of the Bicycle Master Plan increasing the amount of bike lanes in the city also is part of the Climate Action Plan. This plan calls for the city to increase the ‘mode share’ of bicycles to increase from the current roughly 1% to 6% by 2020 and 18% by 2035. In Mr. Genovese’s words we need attractive facilities to make bicycling an option for people that do not currently ride. Our current lanes, “basically riding in the gutter, is not going to accomplish those goals”.
Also noted was that the city is revising the crosswalk policy currently in place and will be moving to a new striping design, continental markings, going forward. When crosswalks are repainted they will use this new pattern. To install crosswalk markings where not currently present requires a request and approval separate from the repainting process.
An attendee to the meeting also distributed a misleading document labelled “Bike Law 101” which appeared to inform those at the meeting about a handful of laws regarding biking. No name or organization was on the document and it was next to the official meeting agenda which to me gave it an air of authority which was also misleading. One of the items noted on this document stated that “when a cyclist is traveling slower than the posted speed limit, and there is a marked bicycle lane, the cyclist must ride in the bike lane”. This is not correct and I was glad this question was asked to Mr. Genovese during the presentation. He noted that the document at the door was not his and answered the question regarding riding in a bicycle lane: If there is a marked bicycle lane it should generally be used by bicyclists if it is not blocked with debris or obstructions. Additionally, when making a turn off of, or onto, a street with a marked lane a bicycle may be outside of the bicycle lane until it is safe to transition. Also, if a bicycle is going at the speed of traffic any traffic lane may be used. Separately noted was that on a one-way street a bicycle rider may ride either to the far left or far right of the street.
I hope that whomever distributed the “Bike Law 101” document at this meeting will refrain from doing so in the future, or consult a traffic engineer or bicycle law expert to review and correct the misleading portions. Misinformation like this can be extremely damaging and increases friction between people with different opinions on bicycling. We don’t need to aggravate what can already be a contentious subject with misinterpretation and incorrect statements.
The 4th and 5th Avenue bike lanes are a small but extremely important project. For the first time in our city’s history we are reducing the size of a street and implementing what are likely the largest bike lanes in the region. It is also important because there is not a ‘loser’ here. Automobile parking and traffic are not negatively affected and those riding bikes have a much safer option that was previously unavailable. There is less conflict between types of transport as a result of the bike lanes and it represents a small baby step toward a greener transportation future. Big or small, a victory is a victory and this is one for all of us living in San Diego and particularly those in Uptown that can enjoy a safer, quieter, friendlier neighborhood on a daily basis as the result of small forward steps like this project. I look forward to more good work by the City of San Diego in this vein.
I would like to see legislation for capital punishment for cyclists riding against the flow of traffic. Special circumstances for those doing it at night without lights ot whose excuse is “yeah I know but I feel safer doing things MY way. I think I should be able to see cars and dodge them before they hit me.”
I guess its Darwins theory at work that none of tbese cretins ever wears a helmet.
Which way do you veer when youre on your bike and see one of these wrong way cyclists, John? I never know whether to go left or right.
John Anderson says
John – I’m not sure that death threats are warranted, or name calling. There are people that use all modes of transportation that fail to follow every rule, some in more dangerous ways than others. I think the local bike shops do a good job of letting people know lights are a good idea and required by law. I also have seen police letting people know of this requirement, but think it’s generally a warning.
As for veering, if there’s a dangerous situation I think slowing down to avoid an incident is the best idea.
Dude did you think that was a serious proposal by me?
Lighten up. Have a sense of humor.
Besides a call for legislation for the govt to punish people is hardly an invitation to harm anyone.
As for name calling the word used was cretin.
I won’t apologize for such an accurate description for stupid people doing stupid things. Name calling is me saying “John you are a cretin.”
Not a reference to a vague general group of people doing things the nane appropriately describes.
I’ve still got a nice bump on my hip from a wreck with a clown like this on voltaire st earlier this year.
Agree on the whole bike light thing, it’s freaking ridiculous. The same person who would call you a total “dumb***” for walking down Sunset Cliffs 4 feet in the lane of traffic with no lights or safety reflective material on will put their totally “dumb***” on a bike seat and ignore their total lack of visibility to other road traffic. Guess its everyone else’s job to see them cause their on a bike? Name any other vehicle allowed on public roads that you can operate at night without proper lighting. If I tried that crap on a motorcycle or a car it would be considered as a threat and danger to other road users and would be held accountable. I’m all for SDPD issuing fines for bikes with no lights, maybe even a special campaign with the time change approaching and more cyclist riding after dark. We will never integrate cycling into this city at it’s true potential if cyclist can’t understand basic road safety and courtesy.
Just to clarify…I’m not in agreement that a cyclist should be harmed for their lack of safety measures and/or desire to follow the laws. Definitely frustrating though to see a unlighted, no helmet wearing, stop sign running cyclist zip by at night. Sure puts a lot of risk and responsibility in my lap when the cyclist should be doing their part. I don’t see cars just blatantly blow red lights and stop signs that often. If car users drove like San Diego cyclist we would be in serious trouble! Post up at any intersection in San Diego and watch cyclist purposely show a lack of respect for the laws all other road users at least attempt to follow. If cyclist can’t function as law abiding road traffic we need to re-think this whole idea.
John Anderson says
Chuck – definitely didn’t think you intended harm to anyone. I agree that unsafe behavior on roads is a problem. There are a number of groups in San Diego working to teach safe bicycling habits, care of bikes, and educate about safety equipment (required or optional). I think the work of these groups and the raised awareness of biking generally are helping to curb bad behavior that does exist in some cases.
I would add that the relative danger posed by any given transportation choice or infraction should matter. Speeding in a car can be life-threatening to the driver and those around, many San Diegans die each year from vehicle collisions. A bike going through a stop sign is primarily dangerous to that individual. The difference in risk matters in deciding where we should focus our limited amount of police hours, dollars, etc.
Thanks for your reply John, I appreciate your efforts and this article. I’m a cyclist myself so its personal, obviously…ha! Think were on the same page with most of this but you’re better at presenting it as information than a rant. Look forward to future reports and updates on San Diego’s progress.
John Anderson says
Cheers to you as well Chuck. There’s no problem with frustration or talking about issues we encounter and I’m glad that most of us can refrain from resulting to threats to make a point.
Enjoy the weekend and hope to see you around town. In a car, on a bike, or on foot – I use them all myself as well.