The Uptown Battle for Safer Bike Routes

by on March 24, 2015 · 1 comment

in Culture, Environment, History, Politics, San Diego

CD4_Uni1By Doug Porter

There’s a special meeting of the Uptown Planners today – Tuesday (March 24) to discuss overriding the SANDAG Regional Bike Plan in Mission Hills and Hillcrest. Cycling advocates are expected to face off against various organizations and people opposed to proposed traffic changes in the area.

This meeting is, I think, symbolic of a larger battle going on over the future of transportation in the city. While all the organizations involved give lip service to the Climate Action Plan’s goal of 18% bike mode share in Uptown by 2035, there are individuals who come across as negative about actually doing anything to achieve the goal.

Despite a growing body of evidence contradicting what some small business people assume about the negative impact of bike lanes, parking spaces and traffic calming measures, when it gets down to an actual plan, all they can say is “no.” (Kinda like the GOP on their alternative to Obamacare, I think.)

Although there is a bewildering array of claims and counterclaims about proposed bike corridors, there been years of community input meetings by SANDAG. That apparently isn’t enough.

From the SD Urban blog:

The problem is that two years in, they still haven’t provided an alternative plan – and “no bike lanes anywhere” isn’t a remotely valid option for a bike corridor after decades of neglecting people on bikes…

…Uptown Planners Chair Leo Wilson also claims that SANDAG has not listened to residents. Yet I’m told Wilson and others with his Metro CDC organization walked out of a SANDAG outreach meeting early on, saying, “we’ll see you in court”. When powerful people don’t get their way, that’s what happens.

The Hillcrest Business Association has provided matching funding with Bread & Cie and Crest Cafe to come up with $20,000 to hire California Strategies, employers of former Faulconer aide James Lawson, to lobby against plans to close the Washington Street off-ramp to University Ave. to automobiles.

More Lanes = Less Pollution?

The Bankers Hill / Park West Community Association (BHPWCA) has filed suit against the city of San Diego for a bike lane-extension project that removed one lane of traffic along Fifth Avenue. They’re playing the CEQA card, saying elimination of one lane creates a “strong possibility” that traffic will be diverted onto adjacent residential streets and creates a “foreseeable adverse traffic and public safety impact.”

Here’s another excerpt from SD Urban, speaking to Facebook conversations about the Fifth Avenue bike lanes:

Uptown Planner Jim Mellos, who’s the attorney suing the city to remove bike lanes on 4th and 5th Avenues (and the only dissenting vote on supporting the city’s Climate Action Plan), responded later in the thread that there will be many lawsuits to prevent bike lanes in Uptown…

…Mellos says, “You have some very powerful people in that area”. And that’s the theme of this post – powerful people have decided that streets can’t be safe for people on bikes and pedestrians, because they’ve declared ownership of the roads. No matter that you pay sales taxes to SANDAG for these projects just as they do. Mellos also told people on bikes in 2013 that if they want to ride a bike, they should move to New York City, because “this is San Diego, we drive here”.

To be fair, some on Facebook claim Mellos was talking about cycling advocates as the very powerful people. I haven’t seen the cyclists coming up with $10,000 chunks of money, so I doubt that’s the case.

What is clear to me–and I am not a cyclist–is that our (or our children’s) future depends on lessening dependence on cars. In order for that to happen, we have to build the kind of infrastructure making other ways of getting around easier.

The one option the opponents of bike routes seem to have settled on is preserving an unsustainable status quo. (That’s what “more study” really means.) It’s a battle we’re likely to see throughout the region in coming years.

Now if we could just get SANDAG to prioritize non-auto transportation in the near future throughout San Diego….


This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at San Diego Free Press, our online media partner.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

john April 3, 2015 at 1:18 pm

I am a supporter of more bike infrastructure however I believe closing the University ave exit from Washington to cars is a bit much. That is a busy exit during rush hour. Better to widen it or improve bicycle access straight through on Washington.
It seems we are trying to force lifestyle changes the majority doesnt want or isnt ready for through legislation. We shouldnt be surprised at opposition.


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