Mayor Faulconer Nixes 2019 Deadline For Downtown Bike Network
A network of protected bike lanes in downtown San Diego will not be built according to the timeline originally promised by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, city and mayoral staff confirmed at a public meeting Wednesday evening.
The City Council unanimously approved the Downtown Mobility Plan in June 2016, laying the groundwork for some nine miles of protected bike lanes stretching from Little Italy to the East Village. Faulconer pledged to complete the bike network within three years of the plan's passage, by June 2019.
Last month KPBS reported the bike network's completion according to that timeline was in jeopardy, as city staffers bundled the bike lane construction together with other downtown infrastructure needs such as curb ramps, street repaving and an underground pipeline replacement.
At Wednesday's meeting of the city's Bike Advisory Board, mayoral staffer Lee Friedman said the bike network would be built in phases, and that the first phase would comprise protected bike lanes on J Street, 6th Avenue and Beech Street. He declined to give a specific timeline for any of the phases but said he expected the first phase to be complete before 2020.
"This is not going to stop with just these three sections of the street," said Friedman, who was hired last month as the mayor's infrastructure policy manager. "We'll do portions of the cycle network continuously, and then come back and, if necessary, we'll add additional treatments as needed."
Bike Advisory Board members thanked the mayor's office for attending the meeting and giving updates but expressed concern about the lack of commitment to timelines and funding strategies. They also said the explosion of "dockless" bike sharing in San Diego was creating hundreds of new cyclists, many of whom were likely inexperienced and in need of safe bike infrastructure.
Board member Kathy Keehan said it was discouraging that the network would not be complete by Faulconer's original timeline, but that she was grateful the mayor's office appeared to be listening to advocates' concerns.
"If this is the way that it takes to move forward, then let's move forward and get those improvements on the ground as quickly as we can," she said. "Particularly downtown we're getting a lot more people on bicycles, and it's so important that we create a safe place for them to be in our city now — not in two years."
The downtown mobility plan is seen as crucial to the success of two of the mayor's initiatives: the Climate Action Plan and Vision Zero. The climate plan requires the city to slash its greenhouse gas emissions, most of which come from transportation, in part by encouraging more car-free commuting through bike, pedestrian and transit infrastructure improvements.
Vision Zero is a campaign to end traffic deaths by 2025 by focusing limited resources on safety improvements to the city's most dangerous streets. Four of the city's eight deadliest corridors run through downtown.
Faulconer is expected next week to release his proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year, which begins in July. Eight of the nine City Council members listed Vision Zero traffic safety improvements in their budget priority memos. All nine council members mentioned the Climate Action Plan, although no single climate plan-related project received majority support.
Advocates for the Climate Action Plan and Vision Zero are rallying support for those campaigns as the City Council approaches a vote on the mayor's budget in June. Faulconer has to close an expected deficit of up to $24 million, caused in part by increased payments to the city's pension fund.