Are San Diego Bike Lanes Safe?

by on March 15, 2021 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

Leucadia Boulevard pylons contribute to killing cyclist

By Phillip Young / San Diego Reader / March 8, 2021

City planners and some cycling advocates insist that protected bike lanes are the best and safest way to encourage many San Diegans to ditch their cars and join the cycling transportation revolution.

Bordered by raised asphalt barriers and bright plastic pylons, these lanes create a sort of safety bubble that protects cyclists from vehicles moving alongside them, in the same direction. In theory, cyclists of all ages and abilities can enjoy the San Diego sunshine and scenery, while cars and trucks whizz by in the adjacent vehicle lane. Motorists will see the fun-loving bikers not slowed by traffic jams and join them in droves. Soon, we’ll all be pedaling together in cycling bliss.

But those rosy assurances crumble, when we confront the real dangers of protected bike lanes, and the emotional and economic cost of the accidents, injuries, and deaths that plague them.

According to statistics gathered by North County cycling advocates, there were 24 accidents — all at slow speeds — in just eight months on a one-mile flat protected bike lane stretch installed last year on the Cardiff 101 beach route. Fifteen of those crashes were caused by cyclists who collided with the raised asphalt barriers designed to keep vehicles away from the bike traffic. A ten-year-old rider flopped into the traffic lane after colliding with an asphalt barrier — but not run over by a vehicle. Many of these crashes resulted in ambulance rides to a hospital including: 1-knocked unconscious, 1-neck injury, 2-multiple bone fractures, 1-broken pelvis, 2-pedestrian crashes, and 1-hit surfboard.

The protected bike lanes on popular beachfront roads also attract pedestrians, joggers, families with strollers, beach goers carrying umbrellas, coolers, and chairs, and scores of other non-cyclists. Those pedestrians don’t always pay attention to the cyclists, which creates a serious hazard for everyone. Raised barriers are a pedestrian trip hazard. When a protected lane is on a steep grade, the added bike speed makes the situation more hazardous.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris March 15, 2021 at 7:05 pm

Protected bike lanes are a mixed bag and truth is, they are not a one size fits all solution. That being said, neither is not having them. There are too many factors to go into here but the fact is, they work in some areas and not others. The areas up in North County were never a good idea and surprisingly (or not), the advocates to get them installed know this.


Geoff Page March 15, 2021 at 9:29 pm

I’m curious about your last sentence, Chris. It read as if you were saying cycling advocates knew putting in protected lanes was a bad idea but advocated for them? Why? and how do you know this?


Chris March 17, 2021 at 9:32 am

Nearly all avid cyclists I know who live and/or ride up there between Cardiff and Encinitas (one regularly races at the velodrome down here) did not want the protected lanes. The “advocate” part of them want better enforcement for drivers to held accountable when they hit cyclists. They (cyclists) knew that putting in protected lanes along a fast busy stretch of highway along the coast would result in a false sense of security. They had pleaded with city planners not to put them there. The lanes themselves DO not so much attract “cyclists” but rather weekend riders on their beach cruisers along with people walking, pushing strollers, skateboards, e-scooters, etc. From interacting with people who live up there, the city planners were more interested in creating a sort of boardwalk situation that would attract tourists and other weekend beachgoers more than anything else.


Linda Webb March 25, 2021 at 5:11 pm

Many of us spoke to the Encinitas City Council against this plan. On a section of road that sees an average of 700+ cyclists per day, with a very good safety record with cars, the put this facility anyway. So cycling advocates and cyclists are not necessarily one and the same.


sealintheSelkirks March 16, 2021 at 5:57 pm

Not to be cynical or anything but that picture of a line of stalled vehicles spewing toxic cancer-causing half-burned petrochemicals in an invisible cloud that is being sucked deep into the lungs of that hard-breathing cyclist isn’t all that healthy. I remember those days riding bikes anywhere but along the Boardwalk or Bayside in MB was not just the very real fear factor of being smushed by cars but the nasty air I was breathing that gave me headaches… But getting ‘doored’ by a parked car sucked pretty much, too.



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