San Diego City Council Moves To Shrink Hillcrest Bike Lane 'Gap'

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
By Andrew Bowen
Photo by Andrew Bowen / KPBS
Above: University Avenue in Hillcrest is seen full of cars, Oct. 31, 2017.

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to make room for new bike lanes on University Avenue in Hillcrest, shrinking a controversial gap in the city's future bike network.

City Councilman Chris Ward, whose district includes Hillcrest, said in brief remarks before the vote that the project would support the city's Climate Action Plan, which aims to massively increase the share of commuters who get to work by bike. Transportation is San Diego's biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

"I think it certainly is a win-win for the community," he said. "It's projects like this that are going to help breath new life into Uptown, increasing ways in which residents can get around town."

The council action involved removing 29 metered parking spaces on University Avenue between 6th Avenue and Vermont Street and the re-orientation of parking on several side streets to angled or head-in parking. The end result is a net gain of 19 parking spaces.

The San Diego Association of Governments had plans for a continuous bike lane on University Avenue through the entirety of Hillcrest, but a group of neighborhood business owners lobbied against portions of the plan because they required the removal of a handful of on-street parking spaces.

Under pressure from those business groups, the SANDAG Transportation Committee in June 2015 moved to scrap a roughly half-mile portion of the network, creating a conspicuous gap in the agency's Uptown Bikeways project. Bike and safe streets advocates saw the gap as a symbol of San Diego's unwillingness to make the tough choices they say are necessary to get people out of cars.

The city's solution for starting to close the bike lane gap ultimately won the support of the Hillcrest Business Association. The bike lanes will stretch from Park Boulevard to 5th Avenue, leaving three blocks still with no plans for any dedicated bike lanes.

Andy Hanshaw, executive director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, said the project was overdue.

"University Avenue ... has got a lot of high-volume traffic, higher speeds," he said. "It needs traffic calming. It's got issues with pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Adding a bike lane will improve that situation and get more people a safer space to ride."

City staffers say they will stripe new bike lanes along the section of University Avenue before the year's end, after the completion of a pipeline replacement project. SANDAG's construction of the Uptown Bikeways project is expected to come much later.