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San Diego prepares to add bike lanes to Convoy Asian Cultural District

San Diego is preparing to add bike lanes to Convoy Street, the heart of the city's Convoy Asian Cultural District.

The installation of bike lanes, which was called for in the 2020 update to the Kearny Mesa Community Plan, will require the removal of nearly 300 parking spaces.

That's a price that Tom Nickel says is not worth it. Nickel has owned O'Brien's Pub on Convoy Street since 2003 and fears the loss of parking will hurt local businesses as they continue to recover from the pandemic shutdowns.

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He added that the high traffic volumes on Convoy and the frequency of driveways and uncontrolled intersections will create a precarious situation for cyclists.

"Convoy, I think, presents a real dangerous area to be on a bike, even in a bike lane, given the number of cars and the number of places those cars are going to be turning," Nickel said. "So no, I will not be encouraging people to use the bike lanes in any way, shape or form."

The bike lanes will be added sometime in the next six months as part of a repaving project on Convoy.

Steven Palmer lives less than two miles to the east of Convoy and bikes around the neighborhood several times each week. He said the bike lanes will be a huge improvement over the status quo and that he hopes businesses will come to see them as an opportunity.

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"I haven't seen very many bike racks, if any, in Convoy, and so I usually only would go there for takeout," Palmer said. "If there was bike infrastructure where I could lock my bike up in a public place, then I would be more likely to stay around, maybe sit down at dinner, grab dessert after, things like that."

Palmer, however, does agree with Nickel that biking in Kearny Mesa can be perilous. To get to Convoy on his bike, Palmer must ride over the state Route 163 freeway via Balboa Avenue or Clairemont Mesa Boulevard — two high-traffic streets with no cycling infrastructure at all. He said until Convoy connects to a larger network of bike lanes that reach into the surrounding residential areas, biking there will remain unsafe.

City staff conducted a parking study of the Convoy District in October and found the vast majority of people don't park directly on Convoy but on side streets and in private and public parking lots. The city is planning on increasing the parking supply on side streets by converting them from parallel to angled parking.

Kent Lee, the newly inaugurated San Diego city council member who represents Kearny Mesa, said the Convoy District has to become more walkable and bike-friendly. That will happen over time as more apartments get built around Convoy, he said, but the transition away from the status quo of car dependence won't be easy.

"(Housing and infrastructure) are not always going to happen at the same time," Lee said. "We know we need both. But I also want to be cognizant of the impacts it might have, and whatever the city can do to mitigate those impacts will obviously be important."

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