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San Diego Council OKs Adding 9 Miles Of Bike Lanes Downtown

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Cyclists ride through downtown San Diego in a rally before a City Council vote on the Downtown Mobility Plan, June 21, 2016.

Audio

The City Council unanimously approved the plan for downtown San Diego that adds bike lanes, widens sidewalks and eventually eliminates about 475 parking spaces.

San Diego Council OKs Adding 9 Miles Of Bike Lanes Downtown

GUEST:

Claire Trageser, multimedia enterprise reporter, KPBS

Transcript

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan for downtown San Diego that will add nine miles of new bike lanes and more than five miles of widened sidewalks. In 10 years, it will also begin eliminating parking spaces.

Called the Downtown Mobility Plan, it will add protected bike lanes on Pacific Highway and State Street; Fourth, Fifth and Sixth avenues; Park, J and C streets; and Broadway and Beech Street. It will also extend the bike lane on Harbor Drive and the bike path along the bay.

Photo credit: Civic San Diego

Proposed new bike lanes under the Downtown Mobility Plan appear in this undated map.

Photo credit: Civic San Diego

Roads that would lose car lanes or parking under the proposed Downtown Mobility Plan.

The plan would set up so-called "road diets" — meaning reducing a car lane or parking — on several downtown streets, including portions of Kettner Boulevard, India Street and Second through Ninth avenues.

Brad Richter, an assistant vice president of planning at Civic San Diego, which designed the plan, said that it will increase the number of people who walk and bike downtown from 28 percent to 43 percent by 2035.

Richter said by the time the plan is fully implemented in 30 years, downtown will also have 477 fewer spaces than it does now.

Some residents and business owners opposed the plan. In particular, those in Little Italy asked the plan be changed to put bike lanes on Ash Street instead of Beech Street and on Kettner Boulevard or Pacific Highway instead of on State Street.

Richter said Ash and State streets were chosen because they have less traffic and slower speed limits, which makes them safer for cyclists. He said the other options were considered but wouldn't work.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation, an environmental nonprofit, also opposed the plan because it does not add public transit, said Jana Clark, the group's secretary.

"We cannot let this opportunity pass without addressing transit," she said. "The bike and walk is a great start, but we need the critical missing component."

The plan will help downtown exceed the transportation goals laid out in the city's Climate Action Plan, Richter said. The climate plan calls for increasing the number of people who commute by bike from 1 percent to 18 percent by 2035 for people who live within a half mile of existing or planned transit stops, which includes downtown.

Kris Michell, CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, said she supports the plan over the first 10 years but hopes the City Council will revisit it in a decade to be sure lost parking is mitigated.

Before the City Council vote, Andy Hanshaw, head of the nonprofit San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, led a rally of cyclists who traced the new bike lanes' route.

Evan Burbridge joined in the ride. He lives in North Park and said he bikes to work in downtown every day.

"Cars aren’t necessarily aware you’re going to be riding right next to them in the lane, especially when cars are stopping, turning, waiting for pedestrians to cross. They’re really not aware of you as a cyclist," he said.

The $63 million plan will now go to city staffers, who will design how it will be implemented.

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