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$61 Million Spent On SANDAG’s Bike Program; Less Than 4 Miles Completed

A bicyclist rides over a bike counter on 5th Avenue in Bankers Hill, July 12,...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: A bicyclist rides over a bike counter on 5th Avenue in Bankers Hill, July 12, 2017.

The San Diego Association of Governments has spent $61 million on a program to accelerate high-priority bike projects, but has delivered less than four miles of those projects so far.

The figures were released in a staff report to two of the agency's committees last week. The bike projects are part of an "Early Action Program" approved in 2013 that aims to build 28 high-priority bikeways spread across the county. SANDAG has opened 3.7 miles of those planned bike facilities to traffic.

SANDAG principal planner Linda Culp said much of the $61 million has been spent on projects that are still in the design phase.

"We're making progress," she said. "It's just in terms of getting projects open, that's going to come over the next few years."

The reports to SANDAG's Regional Planning and Transportation Committees last week said $59 million had been spent on the bike program, and 2.7 miles of bikeways had opened. SANDAG staff clarified those numbers were compiled last summer and have since been updated.

RELATED: New Protected Bikeway Connects Mid-City To Mission Valley

Advocates have long accused SANDAG of dragging its feet on bike projects — and in some cases watering them down. Colin Parent, a La Mesa city councilman who sits as an alternate on SANDAG's Regional Planning Committee, said the numbers were "pretty troubling."

"I think what it reflects is perhaps too much time, money and attention spent on the planning and community engagement, and trying to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the projects they're planning, instead of just biting the bullet and making some improvements for bicycle safety," said Parent, who also heads the nonprofit Circulate San Diego.

None of the bike projects SANDAG has opened to traffic so far is among the top five highest-priority projects in the early action program. The two highest priority projects — networks of bike lanes in Uptown, North Park and Mid-City — have faced multiple delays.

A presentation from February 2014 on the North Park and Mid-City bikeways estimated construction would start in winter 2015. A program budget released the following year pushed the start date to mid-2016. SANDAG now estimates those projects will start construction between October and November this year.

Jeff Kucharski, board president of the nonprofit advocacy group BikeSD, said SANDAG projects were crucial to San Diego's goals of slashing greenhouse gas emissions and eliminating traffic deaths.

"The SANDAG Bicycle EAP is a great opportunity for San Diego to transform the city streets for bicyclists," he said. "However, the slow rate of implementation is very frustrating."

SANDAG has exhausted more than a quarter of the budget for high-priority bike projects, but so far has little to show for it.

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