Recently, Next City reported on San Diego, California’s $64 million plan to construct a bicycle and pedestrian transit system complete with “protected bike lanes, pedestrian greenways, curb bulb-outs, road diets and more.” The Downtown Mobility Plan, if adopted, will reinvent the way cyclists and pedestrians travel the downtown streets.
“Just getting to this stage is transformative,” says Sam Ollinger, executive director of BikeSD, a cyclist advocacy group. “If they implement the plan, it’ll absolutely be a game changer for San Diego.”
In the two-square-mile area of downtown San Diego, the plan proposes 9.3 miles of protected bikes lanes and 5.5 miles of pedestrian ‘greenways’ – described as expanded sidewalks that “can serve as linear parks” including benches and landscaping. In addition, the plan includes new signage and curb “bulb outs” that shorten street crossings.
The mobility plan includes a refocusing on the importance of creating a whole connected transit network: “Implementing the network as a whole, rather than individual segments, will improve the effectiveness of the cycleways and establish a well-connected grid of north south and east west protected bicycle facilities that can improve the safety and comfort for cyclists in Downtown.”
Due to the city’s wide lanes, planners are optimistic they can complete their plan without compromising capacity. Some streets will see tapered car lanes and on other more narrow roads the plan calls for “road dieting” or removing a car lane altogether.
As of now, there are almost no bike accommodations in downtown San Diego other than “sharrows,” which can be dangerous and do not encourage new cyclists. With almost no infrastructure, cyclists have to be comfortable sharing the road with motorists.
The San Diego local government is suited to support cycling and alternative transportation. The mayor Kevin Faulconer is himself a cyclist and the city council has a history of supporting bike initiatives.
Funding for such projects is rarely an obstacle, as Ollinger explains, “We have funding because local sales tax pays for a lot of active transportation projects and our regional planning agency has set aside funding explicitly to be used to encourage biking and walking.”
The citizens have until March 11 to voice any opinions, and the plan will go before the City Council in May.
If successful, Ollinger believes San Diego could set an example for other moderately sized, semi-suburban metropolises with a history of being dominated by the automobile.
“It’s a major city, but our streets are so wide and the city isn’t very dense,” she says. “We can’t quite borrow from strategies from New York or San Francisco, but we can borrow lots of lessons from, and be an example for, smaller places like Kansas City, Oklahoma City.”